The Vulnerable Subject: Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition

23 Pages Posted: 10 May 2008 Last revised: 19 Jun 2012


This essay develops the concept of vulnerability in order to argue for a more responsive state and a more egalitarian society. Vulnerability is and should be understood to be universal and constant, inherent in the human condition. The vulnerability approach is an alternative to traditional equal protection analysis; it represents a post-identity inquiry in that it is not focused only on discrimination against defined groups, but concerned with privilege and favor conferred on limited segments of the population by the state and broader society through their institutions. As such, vulnerability analysis concentrates on the institutions and structures our society has and will establish to manage our common vulnerabilities. This approach has the potential to move us beyond the stifling confines of current discrimination-based models toward a more substantive vision of equality.

Keywords: equality, constitutional law, critical theory, feminism, gender, race, class, disability, social contract theory, jurisprudence, human capacities, law and society

Suggested Citation

Fineman, Martha Albertson, The Vulnerable Subject: Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition. Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2008, Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 8-40, Available at SSRN:

Martha Albertson Fineman (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-2421 (Phone)

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