The Concrete Utopia conceptualizes the human rights project of the last two and a half centuries as a “backward-looking” endeavor, which, in order to move forward, must return to the utopian roots of its foundational documents.
Human rights advance by judging the ills of the present world from a standpoint in the future where they might no longer exist—a fundamentally utopian gesture. This peculiar character of human rights makes them continually ripe for reinvention and for responding to changing circumstances in the world. With a particular focus on developments from the 1960s until the present, this book addresses the history of human rights movements and how human rights have been reconceived and upheld in various historical moments. Finally, it attempts to sketch out how they may be re-envisioned for the struggles of the 21st century.
At a time when the human rights project has endured criticism for being toothless or even for providing a pretext for military invasions, Kaleck argues that the current global crises, from inequality, to ecological collapse, to the “age of pandemics,” can be countered by reinventing human rights work through feminist, decolonial and ecological interventions.