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Cover Issues in Political Theory

9. Gender  

Clare Chambers

This chapter discusses gender. Mainstream political theorists have often ignored the issue of gender difference, and so feminists have had to argue for its significance and importance. There are many varieties of feminism, just as there are many varieties of liberalism or egalitarianism. However, it is possible to identify three theses that all feminists support, in one form or another. These theses are the entrenchment of gender; the existence of patriarchy; and the need for change. A key theme of feminist theory has been the idea that it is vital to distinguish the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. According to the distinction, ‘sex’ refers to biological differences and ‘gender’ refers to social differences. Feminists use philosophical and political methods that are common to other theories or campaigns, but there are some distinctively feminist methods, such as the Woman Question and consciousness raising.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

3. Aristotle and bell hooks  

Manjeet Ramgotra

This chapter compares Aristotle’s and bell hooks’ conceptions of politics. Even though he was a foreigner in Athens and therefore not a citizen, Aristotle writes from the position of the ruling classes; whereas bell hooks writes from the position of a Black American woman. The chapter examines Aristotle’s theory of teleology in relation to knowing and being, which it then contrasts with hooks’ conception of knowledge as constructed through experience and positionality in relation to marginalized groups. It further compares Aristotle’s understanding of human nature comprised of reason, appetite, and spirit to hooks’ view that human beings are political subjects constituted by systems of power that situate them in hierarchical categories, but who can reclaim agency and create their own subjectivities. Finally, the chapter focuses on the home as the first social institution in which individuals learn about authority, gender, and social relations. It contrasts Aristotle’s defence of patriarchy with hooks’ conception of homeplace as a site of resistance that Black women created to nurture and restore human dignity.