The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion in celebration of the recent publication of Butterfly Politics by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Belknap Press 2017). Professor MacKinnon is the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and is the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
Copies of Butterfly Politics will be available for sale courtesy of the Harvard Law School COOP and Professor MacKinnon will be available for signing books at the end of the talk.
About Butterfly Politics
“The minuscule motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away, according to chaos theory. Under the right conditions, small simple actions can produce large complex effects. In this timely and provocative book, Catharine A. MacKinnon argues that the right seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect that generates major social and cultural transformations.
Butterfly Politics brings this incisive understanding of social causality to a wide-ranging exploration of gender relations. The pieces collected here—many published for the first time—provide a new perspective on MacKinnon’s career as a pioneer of legal theory and practice and an activist for women’s rights. Its central concerns of gender inequality, sexual harassment, rape, pornography, and prostitution have defined MacKinnon’s intellectual, legal, and political pursuits for over forty years. Though differing in style and approach, the selections all share the same motivation: to end inequality, including abuse, in women’s lives. Several mark the first time ideas that are now staples of legal and political discourse appeared in public—for example, the analysis of substantive equality. Others urge changes that have yet to be realized.
The butterfly effect can animate political activism and advance equality socially and legally. Seemingly insignificant actions, through collective recursion, can intervene in unstable systems to produce systemic change. A powerful critique of the legal and institutional denial of reality that perpetuates practices of gender inequality, Butterfly Politics provides a model of what principled, effective, socially conscious engagement with law looks like.” — Harvard University Press
More About Butterfly Politics
“MacKinnon [is] radical, passionate, incorruptible and a beautiful literary stylist… Butterfly Politics…is a devastating salvo fired in the gender wars. A fierce and lucid anthology of essays on subjects ranging from torture to pornography, this book has a single overriding aim: to effect global change in the pursuit of equality… Butterfly Politics is her call for humanity to rise to its feet.” — Antonella Gambotto-Burke, The Australian
“What comes together here—and what is fascinating about all of MacKinnon’s work—is a deep respect for aspects of the conventional world (the law, the value of scholarship) and an equally profound fury at the way in which these aspects also uphold many of the assumptions about the world that she takes to task. In this, it could be said, she is not unlike many of us. All respect to her for trying to find a way through this maze.” — Mary Evans, Times Higher Education
“Small actions can have highly complex and large impacts, and Catharine MacKinnon uses this concept, the ‘butterfly effect,’ to explain how critical interventions can produce radical transformation in the gender system. She exposes through 40 years of her legal battles an emerging global normative system confronting sexual inequality… MacKinnon is a 21st-century thinker, one of the few proposing global software that could run on the old national hardware. She is encouraging multidimensional political thinking, precise engagement, principled creativity, imagination, instinct and adaptability: small actions in a collective context producing systemic changes.” — Luis Moreno Ocampo, Lawfare
“[MacKinnon’s] theoretical understanding of concepts of power, privilege and intellectual freedom isn’t just universal, but also prophetic in the ways it holds weight in 2018… The book offers a comprehensive understanding of MacKinnon’s legal scholarship through over four decades. Her work asks tough questions, and clearly set some theoretical precedents in our modern-day, Tumblr and ‘social justice warrior’ era understanding of sexism, power dynamics and inequality.” — Sabah Azaad, The Print
“This excellent collection of MacKinnon’s speeches and other writings covers a roughly 40-year period and shows the process of attempting to hammer law into a tool that could be used for social change to address the inequality of women. This was something of a tall order, given, as MacKinnon says, ‘The legal system that we have was not designed by women or so that women could make it work for women.’ Yet here she is, doing it, and the book provides a rare and quite intimate window on how it is done, in both theory and practice.” — Michele Dauber, Stanford Law School
“MacKinnon adapts a concept from chaos theory in which the tiny motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away. Under the right conditions, she posits, small actions can produce major social transformations.” — The New York Times