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Law, Social Movements, and the Political Economy of Domestic Violence

52 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2012  

Deborah M. Weissman

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: April 9, 2012


This article uses the occasion of the 2012 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to review the circumstances by which legal theory and social movement discourse have acted to circumscribe the scope of VAWA and the dominant approach to domestic violence. It seeks to explore the relationship between domestic violence advocacy and feminist theory of the type that has functioned as “the ideological reflection of one’s own place in society” with insufficient attention to superstructures. It argues for the re-examination of the current domestic violence/criminal justice paradigm and calls for the consideration of economic uncertainty and inequality as a context for gender-based violence. It argues that as an epistemology, domestic violence scholarship has fallen behind other fields of study due to its failure to address the structural context of gender-based violence. The article then proposes a redefinition of the parameters of domestic violence law and presents new (and provocative) ways to think about law-related interventions to ameliorate gender violence.

Keywords: violence against women, crime and criminal law, social movements, political economic theory, economic redistribution

JEL Classification: A13, K4, P16

Suggested Citation

Weissman, Deborah M., Law, Social Movements, and the Political Economy of Domestic Violence (April 9, 2012). Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Forthcoming; UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2037606. Available at SSRN:

Deborah M. Weissman (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-5108 (Phone)
919-962-1277 (Fax)

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