The Ethics of Relational Jurisprudence

Legal Ethics 17 (2):281-298 (2014)

Abstract
The Ethic of Care was one of the most significant strands of the ferment of revolutionary ideas and practices which emerged during the period from, roughly, the mid 1960s to the early 1990s. The feminist critique of rights based discourse and the social imaginary which it inspired shared many of the features of other critical movements. Further, elements of its utopian vision of a society grounded in connectedness, compassion, reciprocity and particularism, its anti-legalism and call for a relational jurisprudence have either been realised or remain influential. Its critique of law is therefore of more than historical interest. It was, however, flawed by its apparent acceptance of the law's claims to impartiality and neutrality. The main part of the paper will, therefore, be a discussion of the development of the English common law, in which it will be argued that the persistence of archaic discourses, together with law's imbrication in all aspects of social life, necessarily generates reasoning which is not grounded in impartial, abstract principles but is rather routinely contextualised by preexisting power relations. It will further argue that the critique overlooked the extent to which the discourse and structures of community and the practice of 'care' have been sources of oppression, whilst aspects of formal legal discourse are fundamental to improving women's status. This point is highlighted by the role of neo-liberal and neo-conservative discourses and policies in realising some features of 'Difference Feminist' thought, and the paper will conclude by considering how the erosion of rights in England and Wales is impacting particularly severely on women
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DOI 10.5235/1460728X.17.2.281
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The Natural Realm of Social Law.Bairj Donabedian - 2003 - Sociological Theory 21 (2):175-190.

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