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Book

Cover Issues in Political Theory

Catriona McKinnon, Robert Jubb, and Patrick Tomlin

Issues in Political Theory provides an introduction to political theory and how it is applied to address the most important issues confronting the world today. It has a focus on real-world issues and includes case studies. The text examines important and influential areas of political theory. The text includes chapters on liberty, global poverty, sovereignty and borders, and the environment provide readers with fresh insight on important debates in political theory. Case studies in this text look at contemporary issues including same-sex marriage, racial inequality, sweatshop labour, and Brexit.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

8. Mary Astell  

Allauren Forbes

This chapter investigates how English philosopher, feminist, and political theorist Mary Astell offered a thoroughgoing and sustained critique of social contract theory in Some Reflections Upon Marriage (1700) and A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694). Like many other philosophers and political theorists marginalized on the basis of their identities, Astell was keenly attuned to the views, institutions, and systems of power that were used to perpetuate oppression. The chapter then looks at Astell’s criticisms of central features of social contract theory, particularly in the context of the socio-political institution of marriage as an analogue for the social contract. It assesses whether the analogue holds or whether it was simply a rhetorical device and what this means for how Astell understands marriage. Finally, the chapter suggests that Astell’s critique of social contract theory, especially its application to marriage, was an attempt to reshape the socio-political terrain of her time.