Violence against Women: Challenges to the Liberal State and Relational Feminism

Jennifer Nedelsky

in Law's Relations

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195147964
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918133 | DOI:
Violence against Women: Challenges to the Liberal State and Relational Feminism

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Chapter 5 opens with the claim that the liberal state has failed to protect women and children from violence. We must therefore rethink the role of the liberal state and the conception of rights optimal for making good on liberalism's most basic aspirations. The chapter shows how the relational approach provides a better way of understanding the problem of violence and of assessing solutions than the traditional liberal, boundary based conceptions of rights. Violence, however, also powerfully evokes the need for legally protected boundaries. Thus violence against women poses a challenge not only to liberalism, but to my project of replacing boundaries with relationship as the central organizing concept for rights. I take up this challenge to the relational approach in the context of the liberal state's failure on its own terms. This challenge also allows me to further address one of the key anxieties that I think my approach provokes: this sort of relational analysis will lead to a vast expansion of the scope of the state. Juxtaposing Judith Shklar and Robert Cover, I argue that rethinking the role of the state is essential to dismantling hierarchies that are embedded in the culture and sustained by “private” violence.

Keywords: liberalism; violence against women; scope of the state; boundaries; rights; Judith Shklar; Robert Cover; private and public; “private” violence

Chapter.  16727 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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