Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 May 2007
Caught between pressure from dominant global economic actors (such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and certain states) to implement painful socio-economic reform measures, and pressure from significant numbers of their own peoples to reject these IMF/WB-style prescriptions, formally democratic “third world” governments often yield to the demands of the former to push through such reforms, sometimes at great social cost. This article utilizes a contemporary Nigerian case study to illustrate this point and to show how the curtailment of labour rights and the weakening of labour movements have formed an important part of the economic strategy of many such governments. This anti-labour rights/movements strategy is an attempt by governments to deal with the human rights contradictions that are often generated when third world countries attempt dual political and economic transitions. The article argues that the deployment of an anti-labour strategy is grounded in a new kind of “full belly thesis” that prioritizes a particular IMF/WB-friendly vision of economic development over certain kinds of political (especially labour) rights. The powerful global economic actors, who would otherwise advocate the observance of all human rights, have nevertheless found this thesis more acceptable than its earlier iteration, which was grounded in a far less IMF/WB-friendly economic vision.