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Universal Difference: Feminism and the Liberal Undecidability of "Women"

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This book deals with the relationship between feminism and liberalism in theory and practice. The author argues that rather than seeing liberalism as exclusionary of women's specificity, as many contemporary feminists do, we should look at variations in liberalism, and in particular at its democratization in the nineteenth century and how feminists have used liberalism as a resource. Liberalism is analyzed using a post-structuralist theory of hegemony: texts of liberal political philosophy are deconstructed to ...
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Overview

This book deals with the relationship between feminism and liberalism in theory and practice. The author argues that rather than seeing liberalism as exclusionary of women's specificity, as many contemporary feminists do, we should look at variations in liberalism, and in particular at its democratization in the nineteenth century and how feminists have used liberalism as a resource. Liberalism is analyzed using a post-structuralist theory of hegemony: texts of liberal political philosophy are deconstructed to show how the term "women" is used as an "undecidable" in the Derridean sense to produce the opposition between feminine private and masculine public spheres; these texts are then linked to liberal-democratic social and political practices, including feminism as a social movement.
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Editorial Reviews

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Against those who see liberalism as exclusionary of women's specificity, the author argues that the ambivalent relationship between liberalism and feminism has been productive. She discusses variations in liberalism and its use as a resource for feminists. Although the study looks at texts, the aim is to examine liberalism in practice rather than as a set of ideas. Topics include the critique of liberalism as masculinist, ambivalent anti-patriarchalism, the democratization of liberalism, post-war liberal-democracy and the undecidability of women, and feminist decisions. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312210045
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1997
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
1 Introduction 1
Democratic considerations of liberalism 1
Liberalism as philosophy in practice 8
Outline of chapters 17
2 The Critique of Liberalism as Masculinist 20
Postmodern and difference feminism 20
The masculine individual 29
The public/private opposition 32
3 Ambivalent Anti-patriarchalism 36
Pateman's reading of Locke's Two Treatises 38
Locke's Two Treatises and the undecidability of women 40
Feminism and the undecidability of 'women' in the Two Treatises 50
4 The Democratisation of Liberalism 66
J.S. Mill, The Subjection (and the undecidability) of Women 66
The democratisation of liberalism and the liberalisation of democracy 81
First-wave feminism: counter-hegemonic liberalism 90
5 Post-war Liberal-democracy and the Undecidability of Women 103
Welfare liberalism and the undecidability of women 104
Second-wave feminism and liberal-democracy 122
Thatcherism: neo-liberalism 'rolling back the frontiers of the state' 133
6 Conclusion: Feminist Decisions 139
Notes 152
References 159
Index 169
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