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The Autonomy Myth


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Martha Albertson Fineman is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law at Emory University and Director and Founder of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project.


Noble and hackneyed, from literature ("no man is an island") to pop music ("he ain't heavy, he's my brother"), the idea of humankind's need for one another has probably been around for as long as humankind itself. With the evolution of small, nuclear families, however, the job of caring for others has largely fallen on the traditional, sexually affiliated couple in the family unit, a perception that has been enforced by public policy decisions. Director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project and Robert Woodruff Professor at Emory Law School, Fineman has taken issue with family law in the past; she previously laid siege to the traditional family unit in The Neutered Mother, the Sexual Family. She now challenges the widely held assumption that these separate family units and our high regard for privacy and self-sufficiency are optimal for anyone involved. Since each of us, she argues, is "inevitably dependent" at some point(s) in our lives, our efforts should be focused not on eliminating dependency but on finding ways to cope with it through public agencies and well-compensated caretaking arrangements. Not everyone will agree with Fineman's ideas, but they are provocative and worth reading. Recommended for all libraries. [For an interview with the author, see "Who Cares for Society's Caretakers?" p. 95.-Ed.]-Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

In this fascinating feminist critique of American economics and politics, Fineman advocates policies that acknowledge dependency and promote equality in meeting social needs.

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