By Seyla Benhabib, Drucilla Cornell
At the politics of gender
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Extra info for Feminism As Critique: On the Politics of Gender (Exxon Lecture Series)
Thus one can conclude that Marxism as social theory is very much a product of its time, insightful as an exposition of that which was becoming true, and false to the extent that the limited historical applicability of its claims was not recognized. As noted, Polanyi claims that a defining condition of a market economy is a separation of the economic and political. Not noted by him, but also essential, is the separation of the economic from the domestic and familial. Indeed, when we think of what is pivotal about industrialization it is that the production of goods ceases being organized by kinship relations and an activity of the household.
So the role of consumer linking official economy and family is a feminine role. Pace Habermas, it forges the link in the medium of feminine gender identity as much as in the apparently gender-neutral medium of money. Moreover, Habermas's account of the roles linking family and (official) economy contains a significant omission. There is no mention in his schema of any childrearer role, although the material clearly requires one. For who else is performing the unpaid work of overseeing the production of the "appropriately socialized labor power" which the family exchanges for wages?
A critical social theory frames its research programme and its conceptual framework with an eye to the aims and activities of those oppositional social movements with which it has a partisan though not uncritical identification. The questions it asks and the models it designs are informed by that identification and interest. Thus, for example, if struggles contesting the subordination of women figured among the most significant of a given age, then a critical social theory for that time would aim, among other things, to shed light on the character and bases of such subordination.