Feminist Legal Studies 8 (1):381-382 (2000)

In this article I argue that Part II of the Family LawAct 1996 gives expression to a new form ofresponsibility. I begin by suggesting thatresponsible behaviour has shifted from prohibiting orrequiring particular actions: we now exhibitresponsibility by our attitude towards our actions. I then examine where this new conception ofresponsibility has come from. Through an examinationof the work of post-liberal theorists, principallyMichael Sandel, I argue that a changing view ofpersonhood within post-liberal theory has led to aquestioning of the possibility of choice, and that theabsence of choice necessitates a shift in thedefinition of responsible behaviour. If we are createdby our decisions then we cannot be held to account forour decisions, but only for the care we have takenover them. Responsibility is therefore measured notby our level of self-control but by our level ofself-awareness. Finally I examine the consequences ofthis shift in the meaning of responsibility. Withinthis framework autonomy is illusory thereforedecisions do not need to be respected. This explainswhy the implementation of Part II of the Family LawAct 1996 has been called into question. Within thisframework responsibility is relative therefore itextends indefinitely. This enables the Family Law Actto be uniquely intrusive and judgmental: everydivorcing couple, on being held up to scrutiny, isfound lacking.
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DOI 10.1023/a:1009283815775
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