Populations, Pandemics, and Politics

International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, Forthcoming

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 21-22

10 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2021 Last revised: 17 Dec 2021

Date Written: September 9, 2021


Discussions about social justice and governmental responsibility are often framed in abstract terms, referencing aspirational concepts such as “equality” or “autonomy.” While this is particularly evident in law, grand narratives also shape policies related to public health and welfare, as well as many other areas that overlap with law. Of specific interest in the context of this collection is the idealized rendition of the body that permeates these grand narratives. In law, as well as in political theory, philosophy, economics, and ethics, the body is abstracted to the point that its material realities and their implications for social policy can be conveniently ignored.

The pandemic has disrupted, even discredited, dominant political narratives, which minimized or ridiculed the need for safety nets and other social welfare policies. COVID-19 has forced a consideration of the inescapably and uncomfortably concrete into public consciousness, opening up the possibility for a revisioning of our thinking about both individual and societal requirements and responsibilities. Fortunately, vulnerability theory presents a constructive and needed alternative to the traditional paradigm for thinking about the nature of the state and its social institutions and relationships in this post-pandemic reality.

Suggested Citation

Fineman, Martha Albertson, Populations, Pandemics, and Politics (September 9, 2021). International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, Forthcoming , Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 21-22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3920513 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3920513

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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