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The Contracting Roots of Human Rights


  • Michael Mousseau

    (Department of International Relations, Koç University,

  • Demet Yalcin Mousseau

    (Department of International Relations, Koç University)


There is a broad consensus that democracy and economic development are among the key factors that promote better human rights practices in nations, but there is little agreement on how this happens. This article reports evidence that human rights, democracy, and development may all be at least partially explained by a fourth factor: market-contracting. Studies in economic history and sociology have established that in developing countries many exchanges of goods and services occur within social networks of friends and family. New institutionalist approaches posit that daily habits give rise to corresponding values and world-views. This study integrates these two fields of study to show how economic dependency on friends and family can promote perceived interests in discriminating strangers from out-groups and abiding by the orders of leaders. Dependency on strangers on a market, in contrast, can promote more individualistic identities and perceived interests in a state that enforces law and contracts with impartiality. This may cause the governments of nations with marketplace societies to be less likely than others to imprison political opponents and act contrary to law. On a large sample of nations from 1977 to 2000, robust support is found for this view: a change from weak to high levels of market-contracting is associated with a substantial 49% to 61% reduction in risk of state repression in nations. At least some of the variance in state repression accounted for by democracy and development may be attributed to market-contracting. This article introduces a new and robust variable in the field of human rights research, with direct policy implications: to reduce state repression, a crucial task is the achievement of market-oriented economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Mousseau & Demet Yalcin Mousseau, 2008. "The Contracting Roots of Human Rights," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 45(3), pages 327-344, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:45:y:2008:i:3:p:327-344

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    Cited by:

    1. Phanindra V. Wunnava & Aniruddha Mitra & Robert E. Prasch, 2015. "Globalization and the Ethnic Divide: Recent Longitudinal Evidence," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1475-1492, November.
    2. Tim Krieger & Daniel Meierrieks, 2015. "The rise of capitalism and the roots of anti-American terrorism," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 52(1), pages 46-61, January.
    3. Michael Mousseau, 2012. "The Democratic Peace Unraveled: It’s the Economy," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1207, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.
    4. Michael Mousseau, 2010. "Urban Poverty and Support for Islamist Terror: Survey Results of Muslims in Fourteen Countries," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1015, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.

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