Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 January 2022
In 1947 and 1948, UNESCO undertook an innovative survey on human rights that was intended to shape the philosophical content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This short period is interesting for several reasons. First, because the end of the Second World War created liminal conditions in which new institutions, political alignments and moral visions could be forged. Second, because, despite the end of the war, a series of profound conflicts and global challenges remained, including colonialism and global economic inequality. This chapter examines how participants in the UNESCO survey analysed the question of social and economic rights as a response to the challenges of reshaping the post-war world. It focuses on contributions influenced by leftist social and political thought. As will be seen, leftist thinkers were not hostile to the idea of a new declaration of human rights, but the way in which rights were conceptualised in relation to social and economic problems was radically different from the form that socio-economic rights eventually took in the UDHR and in subsequent decades.