Meditations on Modern Political Thought: Masculine/Feminine Themes from Luther to Arendt

Meditations on Modern Political Thought: Masculine/Feminine Themes from Luther to Arendt

Meditations on Modern Political Thought: Masculine/Feminine Themes from Luther to Arendt

Meditations on Modern Political Thought: Masculine/Feminine Themes from Luther to Arendt

Excerpt

When Ruth Mandel, director of the Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University, and Rita Mae Kelly, Center for Public Affairs, Arizona State University, the co-editors of the Praeger Series on Women and Politics, first suggested this volume to me in early winter, 1982, I balked. My book, Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought had just been published by Princeton. I feared repeating myself or giving the impression that I was repeating myself by offering what might, at first glance, appear to be a trimmed down version of the earlier book. Perhaps, I thought, I've said all I can say at the moment.

As I resisted the idea of a book consciously, I was already at work writing it on a preconscious level. When I found myself one afternoon running through points of interpretation 'in my head,' I realized that the question had been decided for me. A fresh rethinking created opportunities to return to the received canon, to rescrutinize feminist thinkers and themes and, additionally, to treat at length thinkers I incorporated selectively or inadequately earlier: I had in mind Freud and Arendt. And so the die was cast.

Having decided to write, a second cluster of considerations beckoned for my explicit attention. These revolved around the tension inherent in my position as a feminist political theorist who routinely challenges both feminism and political theory, forms of discourse indispensable to my work, lying at the core of my public and private, personal and political understandings and commitments. To constitute one's project in this manner is to be vexed in interesting ways. One example will suffice. Perhaps it is best couched as a query: how is a thinker to defend her viewpoint, to urge her way of seeing as a compelling possibility for others, without launching her interpretive project from a standpoint of epistemological privilege--whether as a 'woman' or a 'feminist' or a 'critical theorist'? There are feminist political theorists, cultural anthropologists, and literary critics who make strong claims to 'speaker's privilege,' insisting on a 'standpoint of women.'

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