New Book

New from Pluto: What’s Wrong with Rights?: Social Movements, Law and Liberal Imaginations by Radha D’Souza

18th Feb 2018


What’s Wrong with Rights?: Social Movements, Law and Liberal Imaginations

By Radha D’Souza


‘The book many of us have been waiting for – brilliant, radical, and essential thinking for our times … A major contribution to critical theorising and activist knowledge for struggles against capitalist exploitation, imperialism and fascism today’ – Aziz Choudry, Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production, McGill University

‘A brilliant interrogation of the powerful hold the concept of rights has over social movements … An absolute must read for everybody concerned with rights as a means for realizing justice’ – Sunera Thobani, Asian Studies/Critical Race Feminist Studies, University of British Columbia

‘A renewed analysis of rights, not ‘human’ rights, she insists. It is the engagement, understanding, and the use of rights by the social movements that constitute and contextualize her layered analysis. This persuasively written book helps us, those involved with social movements, to trace the location of rights in capitalism and imperialism. An exploration not be missed anymore’ – Shahrzad Mojab, Professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, University of Toronto, and co-author of Revolutionary Learning


Buy the book (With a free eBook):


About the book:

Through mapping the rights discourse and the transformations in transnational finance capitalism since the world wars, and interrogating the connections between the two, Radha D’Souza examines contemporary rights in theory and practice through the lens of the struggles of the people of the Third World, their experiences of national liberation and socialism and their aspirations for emancipation and freedom.

Social movements demand rights to remedy wrongs and injustices in society. But why do organisations like the World Bank and IMF, the G7 states and the World Economic Forum want to promote rights? Activists and activist scholars are critical of human rights in their diagnosis of problems. But in their prognosis, they reinstate human rights and bring back through the backdoor what they dismiss through the front.

Why are activists and activist scholars unable to ‘let go’ of human rights? Why do indigenous peoples find the need to invoke the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People to make their claims sound reasonable? Are rights in the 20th and 21st centuries the same as rights in the 17th and 18th centuries?

This book examines what is entailed in reducing rights to ‘human’ rights and in the argument ‘our understandings of rights are better than theirs’ that is popular within social movements and in critical scholarship.


Radha D’Souza teaches law at the University of Westminster, London. She practised as a public interest lawyer in Mumbai. She is a social justice activist, a writer, critic and commentator. She is author of Interstate Disputes Over Krishna Waters: Law, Science and Imperialism (Orient Longman, 2006) and works with the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) in the UK.


PAPERBACK: JANUARY 2018 / 272 PAGES / ISBN 9780745335414 / £19.99



Want an inspection copy for your course? Visit

Want a book for review? Email the publisher’s publicity team at

Sign up to the Pluto Press newsletter for new books, news and events:



You Tube: