1st Edition

The Foundations of Vulnerability Theory Feminism, Family, and Fineman

Edited By Jennifer Hickey Copyright 2024
    196 Pages
    by Routledge

    196 Pages
    by Routledge

    This volume is the first collection of Martha Albertson Fineman’s most important and influential work. Feminist legal theorist Martha Albertson Fineman has spent decades pushing the boundaries of law, questioning and reconceptualizing legal and social definitions of family, dependency, vulnerability, and state responsibility. The pieces collected in this book trace the arc of Fineman’s scholarship, from gender equality; to the role of the family as a social institution; to dependency; to autonomy; to the legal subject and vulnerability theory.

    This book reflects a lifetime of radical reimagining of the relationship between the state, individuals, families, and other social institutions that is just as relevant today, if not more so. In this book, Fineman offers a foundation for the achievement of true social justice, through the centering of our shared human vulnerability and dependency, grounded in the recognition of the ontological body and its material needs. Arranged in sections, and introduced by leading scholars in the field, these pieces ask us to re-examine our legally enshrined commitment to formal equality and the “mythological” autonomous independent legal subject; recognizing instead that we must call for an active and responsive state that meaningfully provides resilience through its social institutions. This collection demonstrates an evolution of heretical thought that has always pressed for a deeper understanding of the foundations of law and society, offering a model for other scholars on how to keep pressing through the hard work of thinking and rethinking the conceptual basics of language, law, society, and justice.

    This book will appeal to academics, policymakers, lawyers, activists, and students in law and politics theory with interests in law and society, human dependency and vulnerability, state responsibility, and feminism and the family; as well as others who have applied Fineman’s vulnerability theory to issues in the fields of bioethics, artificial intelligence, and policing, to name just a few.


    Jennifer Hickey   

    Part I. Gender Equality 


    Deborah Dinner 

    1. The Equality Ideal

    2. Challenging Law, Establishing Differences

    3. Equality Discourse and Economic Decisions Made at Divorce

    4. The Individualization of the Family: Child Advocacy

    5. The Illusion of Equality 

    Part II. The Sexual Family 


    Teemu Ruskola 

    6. The End of Family Law? Intimacy in the Twenty-First Century

    7. A Claim for Justice 

    Part III. Dependency 


    Michael Thomson 

    8. A Dystopian Fantasy

    9. Dependency and Social Debt: Cracking the Foundational Myths

    10. The New Tokenism 

    Part IV. Autonomy 


    Martha McCluskey 

    11. Equality and Autonomy

    12. Posing the Philosophy for an Active State

    13. What Place for Family Privacy? 

    Part V. Vulnerability 


    Aziza Ahmed 

    14. Vulnerability and Inevitable Inequality

    15. Equality and Difference – The Restrained State

    16. The “Still Face” of a Compassionately-Challenged Society

    17. Injury in the Unresponsive State

    18. Vulnerability and Social Justice

    19. Conclusion: Resilience is the Watchword 

    Lua Kamál Yuille 


    Atieno Mboya Samandari


    Jennifer Hickey is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative at Emory University School of Law, USA.