Selves, persons, individuals : a feminist critique of the law of obligations
This thesis examines some of the contested meanings of what it is to be a self, person and individual. The law of obligations sets the context for this examination. One of the important aspects of contemporary feminist philosophy has been its move beyond highlighting inconsistencies in political and legal theory, in which theoretical frameworks can be shown to rely upon an ambiguous treatment of women. The feminist theorists whose work is considered use these theoretical weaknesses as a point of departure to propose different conceptual frameworks. I start by analysing contemporary work on the self from within both philosophy of science and feminist metaphysics to draw out common approaches from these diverse positions. These themes are then discussed in the context of the law. I then critically examine the concept of legal personhood in the work of Drucilla Cornell and her proposals for the amendment of tort law. This is juxtaposed with an analysis of the practical operation of tort law by adapting François Ewald's work on risk and insurance to English law. I concentrate on women's ambiguous position with regard to both risk and to the image of the individual that is the subject of Ewald's critique. This is followed by an examination of the changing position of women with regard to 'possessive individualism', 'self-ownership' or 'property in the person' in relation to contract law and social contract theory. There are a number of different social contracts discussed in the thesis: Cornell's reworking of John Rawls and the stories of Thomas Hobbes and of Carole Pateman. The final 'social contract' to be discussed is that of 'new contractualism', the employment of contract as a technique of government. I argue that Pateman's critique of possessive individualism continues to be relevant at a time when the breadwinner/housewife model has broken down.