During the discussions at Professor Fineman’s recent feminist legal theory workshops, several participants argued that feminists should use the “tools” of mainstream economics to build a more rigorous foundation for their analyses. Feminist legal theorists, it was argued, had their hearts in the right place, but their arguments lacked sufficient intellectual (“hard-headed”) rigor to carry the day. Based on this view, the best strategy would be to use economic tools (which, these participants argued, are value neutral) to build a rigorous, logical foundation on which legal feminists could confidently stand. The problem – which applies to all areas of legal analysis, not just feminist legal theory – is that the use of so-called economic tools is almost certain to lead to the unintentional importation of hidden assumptions that permeate mainstream economics.
Neil H. Buchanan, Playing with Fire: Feminist Legal Theorists and the Tools of Economics in FEMINISM CONFRONTS HOMO ECONOMICUS (Martha A. Fineman & Terence Dougherty, eds., Cornell University Press, 2005).