This chapter sets out the key elements involved in the basic rights debate within the human rights discourse, starting with a general account of basic rights, followed by a detailed review of Vincent's position. The main focus is on the trajectory of Vincent's thinking on the subject and not on the discourse of basic rights itself. Vincent's work on basic rights cannot be detached from the theoretical framework within which he operated: the English school of International Relations. Therefore, this chapter includes a section on this tradition of thought in order to show how his argument agrees, differs or innovates by reference to this wider picture. Finally, the chapter introduces the specific right to food within the basic rights context.
This section highlights the main components of the basic rights discourse in order to understand the background to Vincent's project. The analysis is divided into two parts: first, a brief survey of how the concept emerged in the political arena; second, an account of the debate surrounding the term, with special attention to the contribution of Shue, whose work inspired Vincent's.
This section recounts when the concept of basic rights appeared in the political arena and under what historical circumstances. It does not develop a theory of basic rights or explore its philosophical consistency.
Basic rights are a set of rights, within the wider human rights discourse, whose enjoyment is essential to the enjoyment of other rights. 'When a right is genuinely basic, any attempt to enjoy any other right by sacrificing the basic rights would be literally self-defeating, cutting the ground from beneath itself … basic rights specify the line beneath which no one is to be allowed to sink' (Shue, 1996:19).
The term can be traced back to its origins as a moral idea through a study of the conception of the individual from the Greek Stoics to the