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Int J Health Serv. 1979;9(1):61-75.

Human rights, health, and capital accumulation in the Third World.


This article examines the relationship between human rights and the pattern of capital accumulation in the Third World. The repressive authoritarian State increasingly constitutes the means for enforcing the intensive exploitation of labor in Third World industrial enclaves and commercial agriculture. While the development of center capitalism has evolved toward "the Welfare State" and a framework of liberal sociodemocracy, the "peripheral State" is generally characterized by nondemocratic forms of government. This bipolarity in the state structure between center and periphery is functionally related to the international division of labor and the unity of production and circulation on a world level. The programs and policies of the center Welfare State (health, education, social security, etc.) constitute an input of "human capital" into the high-technology center labor process. Moreover, welfare programs in center countries activate the process of circulation by sustaining high levels of consumer demand. In underdeveloped countries, the underlying vacuum in the social sectors and the important allocations to military expenditure support the requirements of the peripheral labor process. Programs in health in the center and periphery are related to the bipolarity (qualification/dequalification) in the international division of labor. The social and economic functions of health programs are intimately related to the organic structure of the State and the mechanics whereby the State allocates its financial surplus in support of both capitalist production and circulation.


This is a study of the interrelationships among state violence, human rights, and the pattern of capital accumulation in Third World countries. Center capitalism, welfare statism, and liberal sociodemocracy have evolved in Western capitalist countries. Less developed countries with which they do business have, on the other hand, evolved systems of poverty politics and economic repression. Repressive authoritarian State measures are the means by which intensive exploitation of Third World labor is achieved. Political repression controls the real wages of labor in these countries, thereby maintaining them as good business partners for the Western capitalist countries. The political system in Third World countries concentrates on the use of nonrenewable human labor, as compared with Western labor systems where educational improvement is stressed. Health and educational services are provided in these countries only to maintain the status quo or to maintain the labor force at subsistence levels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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