Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man

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When feminists argued for political rights in the context of liberal democracy they faced an impossible choice. On the one hand, they insisted that the differences between men and women were irrelevant for citizenship. On the other hand, by the fact that they acted on behalf of women, they introduced the very idea of difference they sought to eliminate. This paradox - the need both to accept and to refuse sexual difference in politics - was the constitutive condition of the long struggle by women to gain the ...
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Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man

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Overview

When feminists argued for political rights in the context of liberal democracy they faced an impossible choice. On the one hand, they insisted that the differences between men and women were irrelevant for citizenship. On the other hand, by the fact that they acted on behalf of women, they introduced the very idea of difference they sought to eliminate. This paradox - the need both to accept and to refuse sexual difference in politics - was the constitutive condition of the long struggle by women to gain the right of citizenship. In this new book, remarkable in both its findings and its methodology, award-winning historian Joan Wallach Scott reads feminist history in terms of this paradox of sexual difference.
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Editorial Reviews

Village Voice Literary Supplement

In her subtle and provocative new book, Joan Scott convincingly argues that the exclusion of women was central to the logic of French republicanism in the 19th century, and she traces the workings of this logic through the eyes of its most persistent feminist critics.
— Joshua Cole

American Political Science Review

Readers of this book will enjoy discovering (or rediscovering) four compelling women, while marveling at how the terms of earlier feminism are at once familiar and strange. Rather than taking the category of women for granted as the subject of feminist discourse and politics, Scott argues that feminist agency is itself profoundly paradoxical...[T]his book contributes a probing intellectual history of the central questions in modern feminist thought which will also add much to contemporary feminist inquiry.
— Joan B. Landes

Canadian Philosophical Reviews

Those interested in feminism, postmodernism, historiography, and/or the fundamental assumptions that sustain contemporary political debates will find this book richly rewarding. Philosophers of science concerned with the methodological production of facticity will find this work exemplary of the contributions of postmodernism to the construction of the past.
— Mary Hawkesworth

Women's Philosophy Review [UK]

Only Paradoxes to Offer is a valuable and stimulating book which synthesises a number of theoretical issues and applies them in original ways to specific historical contexts. It will be of great value to scholars engaged in feminist critical theory, women's studies and French history.
— Felicia Gordon

Modern and Contemporary France [UK]

The four feminists examined in this book all had differing ideas about [the]
problem of women's 'equality' or 'difference', ideas that Scott clearly shows to be a product of the dominant political discourses of their time...[Only Paradoxes to Offer] is successful and important in its exposure of the internal contradictions, dilemmas and 'obsessive repetitions' of the feminist experience.
— Jane Freedman

Village Voice Literary Supplement - Joshua Cole
In her subtle and provocative new book, Joan Scott convincingly argues that the exclusion of women was central to the logic of French republicanism in the 19th century, and she traces the workings of this logic through the eyes of its most persistent feminist critics.
American Political Science Review - Joan B. Landes
Readers of this book will enjoy discovering (or rediscovering) four compelling women, while marveling at how the terms of earlier feminism are at once familiar and strange. Rather than taking the category of women for granted as the subject of feminist discourse and politics, Scott argues that feminist agency is itself profoundly paradoxical...[T]his book contributes a probing intellectual history of the central questions in modern feminist thought which will also add much to contemporary feminist inquiry.
Judith Butler
Joan Scott's tour de force is written with clarity, grace, humor, trenchant knowledge, imagination, and a sense of the politically extravagant...After Scott's brilliant book, none of us will be able to read French feminism in the same way again.
Laura Englestein
It is the sense of feminism as dynamic, searching, inventive, historically specific, and often divided against itself, rather than abstract, timeless, or doctrinaire, that gives this story its spin.
Mark Poster
A feminist's history of feminist history, one that is likely to shape the debate not simply over the history of gender but over the larger questions of political and cultural history.
Canadian Philosophical Reviews - Mary Hawkesworth
Those interested in feminism, postmodernism, historiography, and/or the fundamental assumptions that sustain contemporary political debates will find this book richly rewarding. Philosophers of science concerned with the methodological production of facticity will find this work exemplary of the contributions of postmodernism to the construction of the past.
Women's Philosophy Review [UK] - Felicia Gordon
Only Paradoxes to Offer is a valuable and stimulating book which synthesises a number of theoretical issues and applies them in original ways to specific historical contexts. It will be of great value to scholars engaged in feminist critical theory, women's studies and French history.
Modern and Contemporary France [UK] - Jane Freedman
The four feminists examined in this book all had differing ideas about [the]
problem of women's 'equality' or 'difference', ideas that Scott clearly shows to be a product of the dominant political discourses of their time...[Only Paradoxes to Offer] is successful and important in its exposure of the internal contradictions, dilemmas and 'obsessive repetitions' of the feminist experience.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674639300
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Wallach Scott is Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J. and winner of the Herbert Baxter Adams and the Joan Kelly prizes of the American Historical Association.
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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Rereading the History of Feminism 1
2 The Uses of Imagination: Olympe de Gouges in the French Revolution 19
3 The Duties of the Citizen: Jeanne Deroin in the Revolution of 1848 57
4 The Rights of "the Social": Hubertine Auclert and the Politics of the Third Republic 90
5 The Radical Individualism of Madeleine Pelletier 125
6 Citizens but Not Individuals: The Vote and After 161
Notes 177
Index 225
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