Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

[Women, Politics & Reproduction: The Liberal Legacy]

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

[Women, Politics & Reproduction: The Liberal Legacy]

Article excerpt

Any comprehensive theory of the social order must advocate a form of reproduction compatible with it, meaning the social arrangements for childbirth and child raising. What Ingrid Makus shows is that the three great liberal thinkers, Hobbes, Locke and Mill, propose arrangements for children that are incompatible with their principles of liberal equality for women.

In Hobbes' State of Nature, where all are free and equal, a woman chooses on the basis of self-interest between raising and abandoning a newborn. Her decision will normally turn on whether the benefit of having the child as an ally offsets the cost of raising her or him. Although in Civil Society, the Law of Gratitude makes the child's repayment a certainty, a woman is offered no other incentive to raise a child. Hobbes also believes that patriarchal marriages come about when a man provides protection for the woman and her child in exchange for her gift to him of both. But what, Makus asks, would motivate a woman to marry and have children in either the State of Nature or Civil Society if she is equal to a man in strength (a woman has sufficient strength to kill a man) and in rights to govern her own body (which includes a right not to bring forth and care for new life)?

Locke's views are even more conflicted, according to Makus. He too claims that freedom and equality prevail in the state of nature and in civil society. Locke maintains, however, that it is God's will that women raise and educate their children to become good citizens. But following this precept, even if it is God's own, compromises a woman's right of self governance in matters concerning her body and she is not man's equal in this important respect.

Mill proposed many social changes to end the subjection of women, including equal opportunities in politics and in the work force. However, he assumes that most women would choose their role in the family instead of these new opportunities. …

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