Tracing the Roots of Inequalities: Why Scholars Need to Widen their Nets

Janet Halley & Kerry Rittich, Critical Directions in Comparative Family Law: Genealogies and Contemporary Studies of Family Law Exceptionalism, 58 Am. J. Comp. L. 753 (2010). Sonia Lawrence In Critical Directions in Comparative Family Law: Genealogies and Contemporary Studies of Family Law Exceptionalism, authors Janet Halley (Harvard) and Kerry Rittich (Toronto) offer a compelling way to think about the doctrinal areas which for so many of us are handy ways of defining our area of scholarship. The problem is that these "areas" are often less than helpful when trying to define the legal context of equality problems, and they are a positive danger when we move on to consider law reform options. Halley and Rittich take on these problems as they relate to "family law". Let me start by saying that even on its own terms, this article is fundamentally about equality questions. Halley and Rittich are clear that family law is about "distributional outcomes" (P. 755) and that the legally constituted family is closely linked to market distributions, even if those links are often masked. They argue that the family should be recognized as an "economic unit" and not only as an "affective unit". The authors encapsulate this idea in their use of the term, "economic family," signaling that they would put "the family and the market, family law and contract, back into contiguity" (P. 758), resisting the claim that the "economic character of the family" has disappeared in modern and postmodern times. Key to this resistance is accepting that the household is (still) a critical economic unit. Continue reading "Tracing the Roots of Inequalities: Why Scholars Need to Widen their Nets"

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