New in Print: Chunn and Gavigan, The Legal Tender of Gender

Chunn and Gavigan:  The Legal Tender of Gender: Law, Welfare and the Legal Regulation of Women’s Poverty

The title of this collection has a lovely roll (say it out loud!).

Dorothy Chunn of SFU  and my colleague at Osgoode Shelley Gavigan have gathered a selection of articles under three headings:

Part I: Historicizing Social Reproduction, Welfare and Neo liberalism;

Part II: Women’s Agency and Activism in the Welfare State: Comparative and Historical Perspectives;  and

Part III: The Precarious Citizenship and Legal Construction of Poor Women)

The authors are a group of feminists working in a variety of disciplines.  The editors are a powerful writing team with long publication records in this area of research – separately and jointly.    The papers come from a 2007 workshop held at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, located in Oñati, Spain (cool things happen at the IISL all the time – I am plotting to get myself there, one day).  The papers are mainly written by Canadian scholars, but Israel and the U.S. are also represented.


Extensive welfare, law and policy reforms characterized the making and unmaking of Keynesian states in the twentieth century. This collection highlights the gendered nature of these regulatory shifts and, specifically, the roles played by women as reformers, welfare workers and welfare recipients, in the development of welfare states historically. The contributors are leading feminist socio-legal scholars from a range of disciplines in Canada, the United States and Israel. Collectively, their analyses of women, law and poverty speak to long-standing and ongoing feminist concerns: the importance of historically informed research, the relevance of women’s agency and resistance to the experience of inequality and injustice, the specificity of the experience of poor women and poor mothers, the implications of changes to social policy, and the possibilities for social change. Such analyses are particularly timely as the devastation of neo-liberalism becomes increasingly obvious. The current world crisis of capitalism is a defining moment for liberal states – a global catastrophe that concomitantly creates a window of opportunity for critical scholars and activists to reframe debates about social welfare, work, and equality, and to reinsert the discourse of social justice into the public consciousness and political agendae of liberal democracies.