This introductory chapter briefly discusses the notion of vulnerability and explores how current law responds to it. It examines how the law is built around the ideal of legal personhood. A person who is autonomous, self-sufficient, in control, capacitous, and independent can use the law to maintain their status through the different legal tools: the rights of autonomy, privacy, liberty, and freedom from state interference. For him, legal rights are designed to keep him free from intrusion. Rights are designed to keep people apart and to give people their space. The chapter outlines the dangers that this might bring due to the fact that people are profoundly dependent on others and on social provision in order to meet bodily, emotional, and cultural needs. It emphasizes the need for a legal system that acknowledges a person’s responsibilities with regard to relationships and to society, built upon mutuality, interdependence, and relational responsibilities.
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