This essay explores the possibility for twenty-first-century feminism to retrieve the insurrectionary spirit of women's liberation. It begins by charting the shift from a feminist imaginary focused on egalitarian redistribution to a feminist imaginary founded on recognition of cultural difference. I attribute this shift to the inherent ambivalence of feminism, its ability to articulate as easily with liberal individualism as with solidary egalitarianism. I argue that this ambivalence accounts for a subterranean electoral affinity that has enabled the recuperation of feminist ideas as a source of energy and legitimation for the deregulatory, promarket reforms of neoliberal capitalism, with its valorization of market mechanisms (such as wage labor and micro-credit) that have harnessed the dream of women's emancipation to the engine of capitalist accumulation. I conclude by asking how twenty-first-century feminism might revive the political-economic concerns of its most radical period, together with its insights into the dynamics of recognition, to join forces with and radicalize the analyses of critics of neoliberalism who tend—despite the rich history of feminist critique—to overlook the centrality of women's labor in neoliberal productivity.
Nancy Fraser; Feminism's Two Legacies: A Tale of Ambivalence. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2015; 114 (4): 699–712. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3157089
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