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This chapter examines John Stuart Mill's treatise The Subjection of Women, a manifesto of liberal feminism that advocates ‘perfect equality’ between the sexes. Written in 1861 and published in 1869, The Subjection of Women has been criticised by contemporary feminist theorists, who find Mill's theory lacking because of its political shortcomings and contradictions. The chapter analyses the political and intellectual context in which The Subjection of Women was written as well as its significance from the standpoint of contemporary feminist theory. It considers Mill's relationship with his father, James Mill, and with his wife, Harriet Taylor, along with the emergence of the women's rights movement in the United States and England. It also assesses the political import and methodological perspective of the work and concludes with a discussion of Mill's utilitarianism.

Chapter

David Boucher

This chapter examines Jean-Jacques Rousseau's political thought. It first provides a short biography of Rousseau before discussing varying interpretations of his ideas, suggesting that, because of his emphasis upon civic virtues and freedom as lack of an insidious form of dependence, the republican tradition best reflects Rousseau's concerns. It then considers Rousseau's distinctive contribution to the idea of the state of nature, noting that the springs of action in his state of nature are not reason are self-preservation and sympathy. It also explores Rousseau's views on private property, social contract, inequality, natural law and natural rights, democracy, religion, and censorship. The chapter concludes with an analysis of Rousseau's concern with freedom and dependence, and how the related issues of slavery and women were relevant for him.

Chapter

This chapter examines various strands of feminist theory, with particular emphasis on three feminist criticisms of the way mainstream political theories attend, or fail to attend, to the interests and concerns of women. The first argument focuses on the ‘gender-neutral’ account of sex discrimination, the second is concerned with the public–private distinction, and the third claims that the very emphasis on justice is itself reflective of a male bias. These arguments represent three of the most sustained points of contact between feminism and mainstream political philosophy. The chapter also considers two different conceptions of the public–private distinction in liberalism: the first deals with the relationship between civil society and the state, or between the social sphere and the political sphere; the second emphasizes the right to privacy. It concludes with an analysis of the ethic of care as opposed to the ‘ethic of justice’.