That there is a human right to subsistence is a basic assumption for most moral and political theorists interested in the problem of global poverty, but it is not one exempt from controversy. In this article, I examine four justifications for this right and suggest that it takes the form of a claim, that is, a right which creates correlative duties on others who are then taken to be the main agents in its fulfillment. I point to some criticisms made against this conceptualization and offer an alternative approach that emphasizes the key importance of the moral and political agency of the needy. Two aspects of this approach are that the needy are seen as actors in their own right when it comes to poverty alleviation measures and their demands are no longer seen as demands for mere subsistence but ultimately for putting an end to their political marginalization and exclusion. Towards the end, I point to the complementarity of both views.
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