'Elderly' as Vulnerable: Rethinking the Nature of Individual and Societal Responsibility
Martha Albertson Fineman
Emory University School of Law
June 20, 2012
Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-224
The vulnerability of our embodied beings and the messy dependency that often comes in the wake of physical or psychological needs cannot be ignored throughout any individual life and must be central to theories about what constitutes a just and responsive state. The concept of vulnerability reflects the fact that we all are born, live, and die within a fragile materiality that renders all of us constantly susceptible to destructive external forces and internal disintegration.
Vulnerability should not be equated with harm any more than age inevitably means loss of capacity. Properly understood, vulnerability is generative and presents opportunities for innovation and growth, as well as creativity and fulfillment. Human beings are vulnerable because as embodied and vulnerable beings, we experience feelings such as love, respect, curiosity, amusement, and desire that make us reach out to others, form relationships, and build institutions. Both the negative and the positive possibilities inherent in vulnerability recognize the inescapable interrelationship and interdependence that mark human existence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43
Keywords: vulnerability, elderly, social welfare, social society, governmental, responsibility, Canadian, social welfare, policy, risk, patrernalismworking papers series
Date posted: June 20, 2012 ; Last revised: September 25, 2012
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