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There is plenty of critical analysis of the integral relationship between rights, deprivation, and development of child labour in the world. From such perspectives, rights, especially human rights, are not stacked hierarchically but are indivisible and cannot be abstracted from the political economy of development. Contra cultural relativists, these approaches draw attention to extensive and progressive rights developed by peoples of the Global South. These conceptions of rights have generally been advanced to protect the most vulnerable from discrimination and deprivation. They gained sustained exposure in the context of struggles against colonialism and the implications of colonial capitalism. Such conceptions of inclusive, non-divisible, and non-possessive human rights work from distinctively premises, practices, and spiritual/intellectual resources. By contrast, mainstream perspectives in the field of ‘children’s rights’ scholarship and practice not only share a commitment to a hierarchical stacking of rights but approach struggles against deprivation first and foremost from the perspective of a ‘rights-based lens’ (whether as ‘violation of rights’ or ‘a right to rights’).

Irrespective of the merits of such approaches, they have some significant limitations, especially in the context of poverty and development-induced deprivation and discrimination. From this critical vantage point, the sources of deprivation and discrimination become the key focus of analyses aimed at understanding struggles against injustices and impoverishment. We develop our analysis through a critical reconstruction of the politics of development and poverty. Our objective is to demonstrate in what ways development has often been constitutive of poverty. In particular, we demonstrate the link between politics of development, poverty, and the increases in the number of children subjected to deprivation and discrimination by revisiting the case of Bolivia. This has been a prominent reference case for advocates in favor of ‘children’s rights to/at work’.

Bolivia lowered the working age for child labor from 14 years to 10 years in 2014, a decision ultimately retracted in December 2018. We show how advocates for the right of children to work to live analytically disarticulate the constitutive relations of development processes through which poverty (in Bolivia and elsewhere) has been produced and maintained. It is by way of such a disarticulation that these approaches construe poverty as inevitable (even if not as simply ‘given’), and a quasi-natural characteristic of societies assumed to be positioned on a lower rung of the development ladder. Such an understanding of development is neither apolitical nor value-free, but in fact highly ideological. It is from such problematic vantage points that proposals are advanced to make children eligible to join unions or to take out microloans in support of their working lives. Our critical analysis brings this context of the politics of development and poverty to bear on perspectives that advocate for the right of children to work to live.


This sets the framework to show how the premises of Modernisation Theory as a theory of international development align with development and how its underlying (problematic) assumptions are shared by those advocating for the right of children to work to live. MT is a theory of capitalist development that explains inequality as a corollary of the international conceived in terms of a logic of stages rather than through a critical historical relational analytic. MT construes individual countries as located discretely at different stages, with those at lower ones compelled to ‘catch up’ with those at the top (measured in terms of GDP). This theoretical framework excludes any consideration that conditions of international inequality may have to do with legacies of historical as well as contemporary relations of domination and exploitation. MT’s conception of development informs arguments of advocates for the right of children to work to survive. These perspectives accept poverty (and impoverishment) as the discrete feature of ‘another culture’ that has yet to develop. Poverty is conceptualized (at least for analytical purposes) as an ‘originating’ condition. With this logic, poverty and inequality are rendered as conceptually dissociated from, and ‘prior to’ development.


Sparrows by morning, live in peaceful nests! Design shouldn’t dominate things, shouldn’t dominate people. It should help people. Don’t spend your time solving your favorite problems, solve problems that need to be solved, generically. A home is a place where you live, and society is a place where your story begins. Honesty shares honesty, as it is honesty’s nature. Stay always in Ablution and get back to the trust you have been, with.

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