Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation

Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation

Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation

Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation

Synopsis

Feminist Amnesia is an important challenge to contemporary academic feminism. Jean Curthoys argues that the intellectual decline of university arts education and the loss of a deep moral commitment in feminism are related phenomena. The contradiction set up by the radical ideas of the 1960s, and institutionalised life of many of its protagonists in the academy has produced a special kind of intellectual distortion.This book criticises current trends in feminist theory from the perspective of forgotten and allegedly outdated feminist ideas. Jean Curthroys show that much contemporary feminist theory, like much of today's radical thought, is muddled. The 'forgotten' theory of Women's Liberation was, she argues, deeply oppositional and moral. The repression of this theory has led to distortions, most notabley in the preoccupation with binary oppositions.Jean Curthoys argues that where Women's Liberation was once radical, much of contemporary feminist thought hides behind obscurantism, and has become conservative and orthodox. These controversial ideas will be keenly debated by all those involved in womens's studies, feminist theory and moral philosophy.

Excerpt

It is unfortunate that I did not come across Russell Jacoby ’s The Last Intellectuals (Jacoby 1987) until after I had completed the manuscript for this book. For when I did read it, I realised that Jacoby had posed the question (although he put it more generally) to which, in effect, the argument inside is an answer. The question is this: why has the generation of student radicals of the 1960s and 1970s failed to produce any genuine intellectuals? I think it was an achievement of Jacoby ’s just to have articulated this question. It brings into focus one of those features of a situation which, once seen, appear to be so obvious that it is difficult to believe they were ever missed—the kind of feature which is immediately explanatory at the same time as it calls out, itself, for explanation.

Jacoby tackles this question differently than I do and so a comparison of our respective approaches will help to situate what I have done here. First, we have some things in common. We are both rather more interested in the ‘why’ than the ‘that’ of the intellectual degeneration of university faculties of the Humanities over recent decades and we are both also specifically concerned about the substantial contribution made to this by the ‘radicals’. Moreover, for both of us, the reason for the latter focus is a commitment, although I suspect of different kinds, to broadly left wing opposition and an enormous disappointment, in this respect also, with the gap between the promise and the actual achievements of what is our own generation. While we both concede the truth of conservative criticisms of contemporary academic ‘political correctness’, neither of us would regard the intellectual and political failure of the present radical intelligentsia as an argument for conservatism. Rather, I think we would both see this failure as pointing to the fact that there is an indissoluble connection between a disciplined and authentic life of the mind (at whatever educational level) and the realisation of egalitarian and libertarian social values. It is the angles from which Jacoby and I argue for this connection which are different.

Jacoby tackles his question sociologically, producing an analysis of intellectual mediocrity very much in the vein of Max Weber’s. The key to the unexpected conformism and lack-lustre intellectual performance of the exstudent radicals, he suggests, is to be found in the fact that so many of them

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.