New Book: Law, Vulnerability, and the Responsive State: Beyond Equality and Liberty

Read the description of an upcoming book titled Law, Vulnerability, and the Responsive State: Beyond Equality and Liberty:

This book considers how vulnerability theory provides the basis for a reconceptualization of the liberal ideas of autonomy, equality, and freedom.

Vulnerability theory argues a ‘vulnerable legal subject’ should displace the ‘liberal legal subject’ that currently dominates law and policy. The theory is based on the fundamental empirical realities of the material body and offers an alternative to a social contract or rights-based notion of state responsibility, both of which tend to privilege abstractions such as rationality or dignity. A vulnerability analysis poses law and policy questions based on the “vulnerable legal subject” and requires new thinking about state or governmental responsibility. Importantly, to achieve a truly comprehensive and inclusive notion of what constitutes social justice or a universal or ‘common’ good, vulnerability theory mandates a reassessment of both equality and freedom as these concepts are currently conceived. Presenting the work of scholars from a wide range of doctrinal areas, it is this task that the book takes up. In particular, in recognizing that many social or institutional relationships entail uneven positions of dependence and reliance, it maintains that individualized notions of equality or freedom are inadequate and must be reformulated to include a sense of collective or social justice, incorporating asymmetric or unequal allocations of responsibility and requiring appropriate limitations on the individual.

This book’s reorientation of the subject, as well as the central objectives of law and policy will appeal to scholars and students in law, vulnerability studies, gender studies, critical legal and political theory, politics, philosophy, and sociology.

Martha Albertson Fineman is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and the Founding Director of The Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative at Emory University, Georgia, USA.

Laura Spitz is Vice Provost for Global Engagement and Professor of Law at Seattle University, Washington, USA.

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