Right to leisure?

22 October 2012, 1641 EDT

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) includes a right that many grad students and professors probably feel is constantly under attack: the right to leisure.  It’s there, clearly laid out in Article 24: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”  Whenever I introduce the UDHR to a room full of undergrads, I always get some smart aleck in the front row that is quick to associate the document with some sort of lofty, unattainable ideal because of this right.  What exactly is the right to leisure?  And, why is it included among seemingly more important rights, like the right to freedom from torture or political imprisonment?

David Richards (co-director of Cingranelli-Richards Dataset with David Cingranelli and K. Chad Clay) has a new paper with Benjamin C. Carbonetti on this often-ridiculed right.  The paper addresses various critiques to the importance of this right and discusses its history.   The paper ends with the idea that the right to leisure is like any right in the UDHR – it is a social construct and its inclusion is similar to others with respect to the idea that all rights are mutually enforcing and important.

Now, even though the right to leisure hasn’t made it to the CIRI dataset yet (as far as I know – but worker’s rights in general are included), on the larger idea that all human rights are mutually reinforcing, check out this JCR forthcoming paper by Chris Fariss and Keith Schnakenberg – respect for one particular right is dependent on respect for other rights.  So, perhaps new data on the right to leisure could show its connection to torture, political killings, or other rights not often ridiculed in an undergraduate lecture.

And, back to work!  Enough leisure – break time is over.  Just kidding.  :-)