The Personal is Political - and Economic: Rethinking Domestic Violence

80 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2006

See all articles by Deborah M. Weissman

Deborah M. Weissman

University of North Carolina School of Law


This Article seeks to expand the scope of the domestic violence discourse within the context of the theory and practice of legal strategies. The intent is to shift the analytical parameters beyond the criminal justice system to include the political economy of everyday experiences of households. Such a paradigm shift examines the conditions of the private sphere as a function of the circumstances of public realms. It considers domestic violence by linking it to the structural transformations of the U.S. economy during recent years. It assesses domestic violence from the perspective of the daily life of men and women who have experienced an erosion of a subjective sense of economic well-being in an environment of diminishing prospects.

The Article identifies the gains to be had from a paradigm shift that examines the structural causes of domestic violence within a larger context of economic instabilities. It sets forth expanded analytical tools with which to understand the challenges facing battered women as well as new legal and programmatic strategies to ameliorate domestic violence. It suggests criminal justice policies must incorporate an understanding of the political economic determinants of crime and seek to mitigate the conditions that contribute to domestic violence in the first place. It concludes by noting the possibilities for developing new alliances as the shared agendas and common concerns between labor organizations, critical globalization activists and feminists are set in relief by this paradigm shift.

The article suggests that patriarchy, as one system of power by which battered women are harmed, is often both mediated by and a function of economic forces. It also suggests that without a deeper understanding of the determinants of domestic violence, a criminal justice response can do little to end the cycle of violence.

Keywords: domestic violence, feminism, women, gender, crime, criminology, gender-roles, political economy, economic uncertainty, work, labor, trade adjustment assistance

JEL Classification: J00, J2, J6, N30, N31

Suggested Citation

Weissman, Deborah M., The Personal is Political - and Economic: Rethinking Domestic Violence. Brigham Young University Law Review, Forthcoming, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 937110, Available at SSRN:

Deborah M. Weissman (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

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