I saw this fantastic talk the other day at the UVA law school. Mary Lyndon Shanley, a political scientist from Vassar, workshop’d a paper she called “the right to a parent-child relationship.”
She said most people regard childrearing as a private matter, and that this was a mistake, that parents deserve public support to raise kids. But they don’t deserve public support just for the reasons we have heard before: because individual children have a right to be educated or to health care and the like; or because children are “the future,” a “public good” from whom we all benefit, and whose unremunerated care perpetuates inequality.
Rather Shanley contends that both parents and children deserve public support simply because they are in a parent-child relationship, and that this creates what she calls a “relational right.” “The meaning of their relationship to both the parent and the child and the good that comes to each of them gives rise to a right to have their relationship continue over time.” This is not simply a negative right, which protects them from undue interference, but a positive, “social right” that leads to claims for support to sustain their relationship.
This is profound work, elegant in its simplicity, but radical in its implications. I can’t wait to hear more. Contact Shanley at Vassar to get a copy of her work.