Contesting the Dominant Paradigm: Feminist Critiques of Liberal Legalism

Authored by: Rosemary Hunter

The Ashgate Research Companion to Feminist Legal Theory

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409418597
eBook ISBN: 9781315612973
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043423


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The concept of ‘liberal legalism’ refers to a set of assumptions found within law in societies and regimes (such as the international legal order) in which liberalism is the dominant political philosophy. These assumptions broadly concern: (a) the nature of the legal person; and (b) the role of law. This chapter will provide an account of both of these aspects of liberal legalism, and the feminist critiques to which they have been subject. Feminist critiques have been mounted from a variety of positions, ranging from liberal feminists challenging law to live up to its promises, to radical and postmodern feminists who, for different reasons, trenchantly reject the validity of the assumptions of liberal legalism. The chapter focuses on feminist critiques of liberal legalism rather than on internal debates within feminism, although these debates are evident in the different diagnoses of and responses to the perceived problems of liberal legalism.

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