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The privatization of human rights reflects a prevailing ethical orientation that the chapter characterizes as “pernicious optimism.” The fetishism of abstract values facilitates disavowal of the ways in which ordinary law and economic policy condemn many to an untimely death. This is contrasted to the “radical hope” that animates struggles in which rural populations have sought to reclaim land and build alternative ways to sustain and reproduce life. The life toward which these struggles strive is an indistinct, perhaps ever receding, horizon embodied in an ethical and spiritual disposition that implies the transformation of the human. There is nothing programmatic or triumphalist about these initiatives; no expectation that their struggles will prevail. There is, however, a commitment to keep trying to transform the world in the face of devastation, embodied in the refusal of an intolerable reality and reaching toward a sense of the good that remains to be defined.

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