by Martha Albertson Fineman from “Vulnerability, the Responsive State, and the Role of Religion” by Martha Albertson Fineman and Silas W. Allard
“Recently, while reading an article titled “The Decline of Empathy and the Appeal of Right-Wing Politics,” I was struck by the relevance of the lessons gleaned from an experiment with mothers and infants, to figuring out how to foster a society that valued and practiced policies of social justice. In the experiment, mother and infant interactions were analyzed in two contrasting situations. Continue reading The “Still Face” of a Compassionately-Challenged Society
“To address the annoyances and questions that gender raises and the policy trajectories that this category brings to global public procurement reform, one needs not confine innovation to the margins. This is to say that conversing with the idea of equality in a more substantive way might provide us with better tools for discussing gender in public procurement without limiting the frame to discrimination only or to the traditional equal opportunity analysis. This is an invitation to consider alternative values and policy venues in probing the size and texture of the equality grain as perhaps of better nutritional value than the mere bringing in of discrimination sheaves in the procurement field. Assuming such a consideration is agreed upon, it becomes useful to ask, what is the subject of “gender” that brings a substantive (not just formal, procedural, or opportune) vision to equality in public procurement? This subject is, it is contended, the “vulnerable subject.” Moreover, considerations for a substantive approach to gender equality must argue for valuing states’ self-constitutive (Korsgaard 2009) functions and actions in an age of complex global governance arrangements. Hence the vision of a “vulnerable subject” as the center agent of a reformed vision of gender equality in public procurement is necessarily intertwined with concerns about the future of democratic (Freeman and Minow 2009), responsive and responsible governance (Poh and Stumpf 2005; Chooner and Greenspahn 2008). It therefore follows that “the vision of the state that would emerge in such an engagement would be both more responsive and responsible” (Fineman 2009, 2 My emphasis).
Vulnerability theory challenges the dominant conception of the universal legal subject as an autonomous, independent and fully-functioning adult. Rather than building our systems of law and justice upon this static figment of the liberal imagination, vulnerability theory argues for a socially and materially dynamic vulnerable legal subject, based on a richer account of how actual peoples’ lives are shaped by an inherent and constant state of vulnerability across the life-course. Human beings are embodied creatures who are inexorably embedded in social relationships and institutions. There should be political and legal implications for the fact that we live within a fragile materiality that renders us constantly susceptible to change, both positive and negative, in our bodily and our social circumstances. Sometimes bodily vulnerability is realized in the form of dependency on others for care, cooperation, or assistance. Sometimes it is realized in our dependency on social arrangements, such as the family or the market and economy. But, whether realized or latent, vulnerability is universal and constant – an essential and inexorable aspect of the human condition.