relational rights

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.

make way

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.

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One Comment on “relational rights”


  1. To love and to be love by someone. I guess that is my right he he he.


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