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This chapter analyzes the rise of human rights activism within the context of political terror, working-class setback, and ascendant neoliberalism. It traces the emergence of human rights advocacy from earlier forms of activism and considers how it appeared as a new way of making claims on the institutional state. The chapter argues that while human rights activism opened some room for a new politics of rights to develop in a repressive political environment, it was unable to withstand the power aligned against it. Human rights activism remained a defensive strategy that never moved beyond the condemnation of individual acts of terror, because of what the violence had already destroyed: a way of understanding and acting on the world rooted in class identities and organizations.

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