Formative Projects, Formative Influences: Of Martha Albertson Fineman and Feminist, Liberal, and Vulnerable Subjects
32 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018
Date Written: September 10, 2018
This essay, contributed to a symposium on the work of Professor Martha Albertson Fineman, argues that Fineman is a truly generative and transformative scholar, spurring people to think in new ways about key terms like “dependency,” “autonomy,” and “vulnerability” and about basic institutions such as the family and the state. It also recounts Fineman’s role in creating spaces for the generation of scholarship by others. The essay traces critical shifts in Fineman’s scholarly concerns, such as from a theory of dependency to vulnerability theory and from a gender lens to a skepticism about a focus on identities and discrimination. In evaluating Fineman’s call to move beyond identities and antidiscrimination law, the essay explores the rhetoric of vulnerability in the briefs in the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation. This essay also charts my own critical engagement with Fineman’s critique of liberalism and the liberal subject in my constructing a form of liberal feminist legal and political theory. The essay identifies parallel concerns about the role of the state and civil society, comparing a liberal feminist formative project of fostering capacity and vulnerability theory’s project of building resilience.
Keywords: Martha Albertson Fineman, liberal theory, feminism, vulnerability, autonomy, dependency, family, marriage, motherhood, feminist legal theory, feminist jurisprudence, welfare, LGBT rights, public accommodations
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