11 December 2015

Feminist Theory and Paternalism

'Legal Feminism and the Post-Racism Fantasy' by Rakhi Ruparelia in (2014) 26 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 81-115 comments
In 1993, the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law published a special issue on racism in an effort to “shift paradigms” in feminist legal scholarship in Canada. This article examines scholarship published in the journal since that time to evaluate to what extent this aspiration has been realized. Although some progress has been made, feminist theorizing around racism and colonialism is not being undertaken as a matter of course. Rather, this theorizing is pursued most often when an issue has obvious significance to racialized women. The author explores why feminists, and white feminists in particular, still do not regularly integrate the impact of racism and colonialism into their writing and the potential consequences of this choice. She argues that ignoring the role of racism and colonialism in legal scholarship perpetuates systems of domination, which feminism should be aggressively dismantling and thus impedes the feminist project. The author ultimately questions whether theorizing without meaningful analysis of the role of racism, colonialism, and other sites of oppression can still be considered feminist.
'The Dark Side of Nudging: The Ethics, Political Economy, and Law of Libertarian Paternalism' by Christopher McCrudden and Jeff King in Alexandra Kemmerer, Christoph Möllers, Maximilian Steinbeis, Gerhard Wagner (eds.)  Choice Architecture in Democracies, Exploring the Legitimacy of Nudging  (Hart and Nomos, 2015) argues
Libertarian paternalism, as advanced by Cass Sunstein, is seriously flawed, but not primarily for the reasons that most commentators suggest. Libertarian paternalism and its attendant regulatory implications are too libertarian, not too paternalistic, and as a result are in considerable tension with ‘thick’ conceptions of human dignity.
We make four arguments. The first is that there is no justification for a presumption in favor of nudging as a default regulatory strategy, as Sunstein asserts. It is ordinarily less effective than mandates; such mandates rarely offend personal autonomy; and the central reliance on cognitive failures in the nudging program is more likely to offend human dignity than the mandates it seeks to replace. Secondly, we argue that nudging as a regulatory strategy fits both overtly and covertly, often insidiously, into a more general libertarian program of political economy. Thirdly, while we are on the whole more concerned to reject the libertarian than the paternalistic elements of this philosophy, Sunstein’s work, both in Why Nudge?, and earlier, fails to appreciate how nudging may be manipulative if not designed with more care than he acknowledges. Lastly, because of these characteristics, nudging might even be subject to legal challenges that would give us the worst of all possible regulatory worlds: a weak regulatory intervention that is liable to be challenged in the courts by well-resourced interest groups. In such a scenario, and contrary to the ‘common sense’ ethos contended for in Why Nudge?, nudges might not even clear the excessively low bar of doing something rather than nothing.
Those seeking to pursue progressive politics, under law, should reject nudging in favor of regulation that is more congruent with principles of legality, more transparent, more effective, more democratic, and allows us more fully to act as moral agents. Such a system may have a place for (some) nudging, but not one that departs significantly from how labeling, warnings and the like already function, and nothing that compares with Sunstein’s apparent ambitions for his new movement.