Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why feminists might be attracted to neoliberalism

From Nancy Fraser in this month's New Left Review:
Are we the victims of an unfortunate coincidence, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and so fell prey to that most opportunistic of seducers, a capitalism so indiscriminate that it would instrumentalize any perspective whatever, even one inherently foreign to it? Or is there, as I suggested earlier, some subterranean elective affinity between feminism and neoliberalism? If any such affinity does exist, it lies in the critique of traditional authority. [13] Such authority is a longstanding target of feminist activism, which has sought at least since Mary Wollstonecraft to emancipate women from personalized subjection to men, be they fathers, brothers, priests, elders or husbands. But traditional authority also appears in some periods as an obstacle to capitalist expansion, part of the surrounding social substance in which markets have historically been embedded and which has served to confine economic rationality within a limited sphere. [14] In the current moment, these two critiques of traditional authority, the one feminist, the other neoliberal, appear to converge.
There's so much more in this piece, and I'm not sure why I zeroed in on this in particular...but doesn't it make sense? Think of the defensiveness "successful" feminist writers in the blogosphere express when their social position is challenged. They always hit back with some explanation of their relative wealth that includes attributing this capitalist triumph to a triumph of womanhood as well. There's that same attraction to the notion that one is beating the big authority by making money, and avoiding apologizing for not engaging with critiques of capitalism seriously. Fraser thinks neoliberalism co-opted feminism's emancipatory goal and made feminism an accomplice in the embedding of late capitalism into our ideologies.

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