Between Charity, Welfare, and Warfare: A Disability Legal Studies Analysis of Privilege and Neglect in Israeli Disability Policy

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This article introduces a critical perspective, which I term Disability Legal Studies, a field of critical legal theory that employs disability critique, as developed by Disability Studies. I argue that contemporary writing on disability and the law tends to utilize disability critique in a mere instrumental fashion, mainly to support doctrinal analysis or reform proposals. What is needed, I suggest, is substantial research regarding the constitutive role of law in the production of disability. The article investigates the construction of disability in the field of social welfare, claiming that although welfare has indeed provided some relief to people with disabilities, welfare laws and policies have also had a significant role in developing, furthering and reinforcing the power hierarchies to which people with disabilities are subjected and which render disabled people inferior and powerless. The article's major aim is to show how differences in disability benefits are translated into social hierarchies with implications that extend beyond material aspects. Through an investigation of Israeli disability policy, it shows how disparities in benefits reflect national values and collective imageries, while at the same time reinforce and re-constitute those values and modes of imagination. Although the particularities of these hierarchies may differ from one country to another, the result, I argue, is the same: those at the top - usually disabled veterans and disabled workers - may enjoy better compensation or social insurance schemes, but in fact suffer from similar patterns of ableism and exclusion as other disabled persons, since underneath the distinction between the productive and the non-productive, the worthy and the unworthy, all programs share a deep rejection and negation of disability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-136
JournalYale Journal of Law and the Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2006


  • Disability Studies
  • Disability Legal Studies
  • Welfare Law
  • Disability Law
  • Law and Society


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