Liminality in business and human rights

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Business and human rights (BHR) instruments aim to prevent corporate human rights harms. In so doing they recruit corporate actors as both regulation's authors and its subjects. BHR instruments are understood to be drivers (however inadequate) of prevention and redress. Scholars have in this context expressed frustration about corporate 'bluewashing'; power imbalances; or about the abandonment of populations once their utility has been exhausted. Instruments in other words do not seem to live up to their goals.

Without diminishing these understandings, we propose a framework that centres corporate capitalism as the key driver and corporate actors as the key innovators in BHR. Corporate actors as we see it deploy BHR not so much against corporate harms as towards corporate governance of their production spaces.

Drawing on scholarship on conflict minerals and modern slavery, we adopt a 'liminality' framework to situate BHR against the persistently liminal spaces that offer commercial exploitation opportunities but are not part of capitalism's structural forms. BHR invites companies to expand their procedural power into the liminal spaces they exploit.

We focus on the local and intimate spaces within which profitable exploitation practices can often form. BHR is a kind of 'boundary management,' through which such spaces are managed towards corporate domination. BHR does not recruit corporations as law's subjects. It invites them to shape capitalism's liminal spaces in their own image.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted - 10 Nov 2023
EventAnnual Conference of the Irish Association of Law Teachers 2023 - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 10 Nov 202311 Nov 2023


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Irish Association of Law Teachers 2023
Abbreviated titleIALT 2023
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