Marxist and Socialist Feminism
ALTHOUGH IT IS POSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN Marxist and socialist feminist thought, it is quite difficult to do so. Over the years I have become convinced that the differences between these two schools of thought are more a matter of emphasis than of substance. Marxist feminists tend to pay their respects directly to Marx, Engels, and other nineteenth-century thinkers; they also tend to identify classism rather than sexism as the ultimate cause of women's oppression. In contrast, socialist feminists seem more influenced by twentieth-century thinkers such as Louis Althusser and Jürgen Habermas. Moreover, they insist the fundamental cause of women's oppression is neither "classism" nor "sexism" but an intricate interplay between capitalism and patriarchy. In the final analysis, however, the differences between Marxist and socialist feminists are not nearly as important as their common conviction. Marxist and socialist feminists alike believe women's oppression is not the result of individuals' intentional actions but is the product of the political, social, and economic structures within which individuals live.
Just as the liberal concept of human nature is present in liberal feminist thought, the Marxist concept of human nature is present in Marxist feminist thought. As noted in Chapter One, liberals believe what distinguishes human beings from other animals includes: a specified set of abilities, such as the capacity for rationality and the use of language; a specified set of practices, such as religion, art, and science; and a specified set of attitude