Feminism and the Mastery of Nature

Feminism and the Mastery of Nature

Feminism and the Mastery of Nature

Feminism and the Mastery of Nature

Synopsis

Two of the most important political movements of the late twentieth century are those of environmentalism and feminism. In this book, Val Plumwood argues that feminist theory has an important opportunity to make a major contribution to the debates in political ecology and environmental philosophy. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature explains the relation between ecofeminism, or ecological feminism, and other feminist theories including radical green theories such as deep ecology. Val Plumwood provides a philosophically informed account of the relation of women and nature, and shows how relating male domination to the domination of nature is important and yet remains a dilemma for women.

Excerpt

Feminist theory is the most innovative and truly living theory in today’s academies, but the struggle between the living and the dead extends beyond feminism and far beyond institutions. Opening Out will apply the living insights of feminist critical theory in current social and political contexts. It will also use feminist theory to analyse the historical and cultural genealogies that shaped those contexts.

While feminist insights on modernity and postmodernity have become increasingly sophisticated, they have also become more distant from the realpolitik that made feminism a force in the first instance. This distance is apparent in three growing divisions. One is an evident division between feminist theory and feminist popular culture and politics. Another division is that between feminism and other social movements. Of course this second division is not new, but it has been exacerbated by the issue of whether the theoretical insights of feminism can be used to analyse current conflicts that extend beyond feminism’s ‘proper’ field. In the postmodern theory he has helped build, the white male middle-class universal subject has had to relinquish his right to speak for all. By the same theoretical logic, he has also taken out a philosophical insurance policy against any voice uniting the different movements that oppose him, which means his power persists de facto, if not de jure. Currently, there are no theoretical means, except for fine sentiments and good will, that enable feminism to ally itself with other social movements that oppose the power networks that sustain the white, masculine universal subject. Opening Out aims at finding those means.

Of course, the analysis of the division between feminist and other social movements is a theoretical question in itself. It cannot be considered outside of the process whereby feminist theory and women’s studies have become institutionalised, which returns us to the first division, between feminist practice and feminism in the academy. Is it simply the case that as women’s studies becomes more institutionalised, feminist scholars are defining their concerns in relation to . . .

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