Article: Countering Neoliberalism and Aligning Solidarities: Rethinking Domestic Violence Advocacy

Article: Deborah M. Weissman, Countering Neoliberalism and Aligning Solidarities: Rethinking Domestic Violence Advocacy, Southwestern University L. Rev. (forthcoming).

This article seeks to situate domestic violence in a larger analytical frame of the political economic, to extend institutional responsibility for violence beyond the criminal justice system, and to form common bonds with other social justice initiatives. It argues that improved remedies for domestic violence victims lie within the reform of the political economy. It examines the efficacy of integrating anti-domestic violence initiatives into realms of work and labor and issues pertaining to the financialization of everyday life, as a way to engage larger questions bearing on economic justice and structural social change. The relationship between domestic violence and political economy is under-theorized and constrained by prevailing neoliberal paradigms. Moreover, deepening wealth inequality in capitalist societies has produced new forms of suffering within families, which underscores the need for diverse constituencies to act in concert and in common political cause. Shifting domestic violence strategies so that they operate within the frame of the political economy may generate greater opportunities for coalition building for and with domestic violence advocates.

The relevance of economic security has loomed large in domestic violence advocacy, to be sure. It has been properly identified as a critical factor that determines whether a victim can escape domestic violence. However, advocacy in this area has been often circumscribed by a narrow focus on individual circumstances, reliance on a residualist welfare state that perceives dependency on public assistance as moral deficiency. Too often economic justice initiatives designed to mitigate domestic violence have been fitted neatly within neoliberal economics that fail to provide meaningful social change. These responses have failed to challenge such policies while discounting the full impact of the neoliberal model on one’s ability to escape domestic violence.

This article relies on the scholarship that considers the impact of neoliberalism on law and social justice claims to provide a contextual examination of the ways in which the constraints of neoliberalism hinder efforts to address laws gender-based violence. It describes and then critiques current economic-related strategies offered by the state and the market designed to improve outcomes for victims of domestic violence and questions the “sources of submission” by domestic violence advocates to a neoliberal pragmatic. It offers proposals to advance economic security in ways that join domestic violence advocacy with other forms of socio-economic advocacy that provide additional progressive promise, but does so cautiously as “[n]eoliberalism is everywhere and nowhere; its custodians are largely invisible.” It suggests that transforming the ways in which attention is paid to economic concerns provides a complementary if not alternative way of understanding and addressing the phenomenon of domestic violence through the broad perspective of socio-economic justice.

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