Abstract: This article discusses three main orientations in recent works of legal and political theory about the family—contracubased, community-based, and rights-based—and argues that none of these takes adequate account of two paradoxical features of family life and of the family's relationship to the state. A coherent political and legal theory of the family in the contemporary United States requires recognition of the relational rights and responsibilities intrinsic to family life. Reprinted as Chapter 5 in: Reconstructing Political Theory: Feminist Perspectives (Mary Lyndon Shanley & Uma Narayan eds., Pa. State Univ. Press 1997), pp. 84.