1st Edition

Vulnerability Reflections on a New Ethical Foundation for Law and Politics

Edited By Martha Albertson Fineman, Anna Grear Copyright 2013
    236 Pages
    by Routledge

    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    Martha Albertson Fineman’s earlier work developed a theory of inevitable and derivative dependencies as a way of problematizing the core assumptions underlying the ’autonomous’ subject of liberal law and politics in the context of US equality discourse. Her ’vulnerability thesis’ represents the evolution of that earlier work and situates human vulnerability as a critical heuristic for exploring alternative legal and political foundations. This book draws together major British and American scholars who present different perspectives on the concept of vulnerability and Fineman's ’vulnerability thesis’. The contributors include scholars who have thought about vulnerability in different ways and contexts prior to encountering Fineman’s work, as well as those for whom Fineman’s work provided an introduction to thinking through a vulnerability lens. This collection demonstrates the broad and intellectually exciting potential of vulnerability as a theoretical foundation for legal and political engagements with a range of urgent contemporary challenges. Exploring ways in which vulnerability might provide a new ethical foundation for law and politics, the book will be of interest to the general reader, as well as academics and students in fields such as jurisprudence, philosophy, legal theory, political theory, feminist theory, and ethics.


    Martha Albertson Fineman is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law at Emory University. A leading authority on family law and feminist jurisprudence, Fineman is the founding director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project, an interdisciplinary scholarly project she began at the University of Wisconsin in 1984. Since 2007, she also directs Emory’s Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, an interdisciplinary project housed in the Laney Graduate School. Her scholarly work focuses on various aspects of the legal regulation of intimacy and on the social, cultural, and legal implications of human dependency and vulnerability and includes The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies (1995) and The Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency (2004). Anna Grear is Reader in Law at Cardiff Law School and Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. She is a Global Affiliate of the Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative at Emory University in the USA. Anna's work focuses upon the law's construction of the human and of the human relationship with the world, broadly understood, with a particular emphasis upon the environment and globalisation. Anna’s scholarship is best known for its critical deconstruction of corporate human rights claims and related explorations of legal rights subjectivity. Her 2010 monograph, Redirecting Human Rights: Facing the Challenge of Corporate Legal Humanity has been welcomed as constituting 'a new ground of contestation' and marking a fresh start 'towards understanding the ontology of human rights'. Anna is also Director of the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment and founder and Co-editor in Chief of the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment.

    ’Fineman and Grear have assembled a diverse range of original contributions which build upon Martha Fineman's vulnerability theory. Here we see its full potential to challenge the disembodied, atomised liberal subject. International, wide ranging, sophisticated yet grounded, Vulnerability imagines a way of life that questions the assumptions underpinning our neoliberal world order.’ Carl F. Stychin, City University London, UK 'This is an excellent collection and - as vulnerability analysis gains traction across disciplines and jurisdictions - it could not be more timely. The refraction of Martha Fineman’s development of vulnerability as an analytical space through different philosophical, jurisprudential and political lenses, confirms for us that her vulnerability thesis is emerging as a compelling and essential counter-theory.' Michael Thomson, University of Leeds, UK ’Vulnerability is a theoretically and empirically rich exploration into a conceptual framework that has the potential to fundamentally redefine how scholars think about social welfare, gender issues, economic inequality, and human rights. Each essay provides deep insights into how the liberal order has effaced the pervasiveness of vulnerability and suggests bold new reformulations that place responsibility on the state for promoting a more just social order. The collection is animated by a common theme: the ethical implications of an embodied life and how more responsive juridical, economic and political arrangements potentially emerge from a vulnerability approach. This path breaking book will be of enormous value to scholars from a wide range of disciplines but with a common interest in developing conceptual tools to reimagine the role of the state in addressing structural inequality.’ Kristin Bumiller, Amherst College, USA ’Emanating from Martha Fineman’s earlier critical legal theory, these stimulating essays situate the notion of vulnerability and adjacent ideas about harm and re