Honors Projects


Phillip RichFollow


Martha Albertson Fineman frames philosophies of justice, freedom, equality, and human nature alongside original insights about the role of vulnerability and institutions in people’s lives to argue for increased government intervention. The conglomeration of these ideas form vulnerability theory, an emerging legal theory providing a loose framework for evaluating and creating public policy. The following article can be broken down into two parts. The first part defines vulnerability theory by identifying, evaluating, and discussing the interaction among the five major components of vulnerability theory: the rejection of the liberal subject in favor of a vulnerable subject, the universality and constancy of vulnerability, the role institutions play in mitigating vulnerability, the movement from formal equality to substantive equality, and the call for increased government intervention. The second part evaluates Nina Kohn’s criticism of vulnerability theory to help determine three important insights, or features, of the theory. First, with some slight adjusting, it helps establish a new, more desirable “post-identity approach” as a goal for public policy; second, it provides a compelling narrative for expanding the role of government; and third, it directs policymakers’ attention toward a potentially promising new method for achieving a more substantive equality.


Honors Program



First Advisor

M Neil Browne

First Advisor Department

Honors Program

Second Advisor

Michael Weber

Second Advisor Department


Publication Date

Spring 4-30-2018