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263.2 sec. 1 - Business, Social Responsibility, and Human Rights (Fall 2013)

Instructor: Jamie O'Connell  (view instructor's teaching evaluations | profile)
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Units: 3
Meeting Time: MW 2:10-3:25
Meeting Location: 115

Course Start: August 21, 2013
Class Number (formerly Course Control Number) (Non-1Ls): 50609

This course addresses the emerging field of corporate social responsibility and human rights. Traditionally, international human rights norms have constrained the behavior only of states, not of private actors. Furthermore, the leaders of most U.S. corporations have viewed profit generation as their most important objective by far. However, a growing number of activists, academics, politicians, and businesspeople themselves believe that private, for-profit enterprises must respect at least some human rights and promote some social objectives, such as ending corruption or protecting the environment. Opinion on the extent and nature of these responsibilities varies widely, however, and some maintain the traditional view that businesses have none beyond the pursuit of profit.

We will explore both overarching questions and issues particular to certain industries or contexts. The former include whether businesses should devote attention to human rights issues, what legal and business considerations should guide them, and how much influence they have on social problems and human rights violations. We will examine the latter through case studies on such topics as:
--collaboration between extractive companies and government security forces;
--problems of operating in war zones (e.g., "conflict diamonds");
--internet companies' role government efforts to control access to controversial online content (such as offensive speech and political dissent); and
--garment industry efforts to police subcontractors' compliance with labor rights.

The class's format will combine seminar-style discussion, lecturing, and occasional role-plays, small group exercises, and debates.

Exam Notes: TH/P
Course Category: International and Comparative Law
This course is cross-listed in the following categories:
Business Law
Social Justice and Public Interest

The following file is available for this course:


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A reader will be used in this class.

Required Books are in blue

  • King Leopold's ghost
    Adam Hochschild
    Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
    ISBN: 9780618001903
    Copyright Date: To Be Determined
    Price: $15.00
    Price Source: blackwell

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