Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation

By Jean Curthoys | Go to book overview

2

The getting of wisdom

I find myself suddenly in the world and I recognise that I have one right alone: That of demanding human behaviour from the other.

(Fanon)

Liberation theory is a form of humanism. So far, though, this humanism has been apparent only in the thesis which asserts a common human need for non-comparative recognition as human (equality) and in the anticipation of the moral conclusion that this is how we should relate to each other. One of the most central humanist ideas is that of human autonomy, the idea, traditionally presented as both factual and moral, that human beings can determine their own destinies, and that they also should do so. 1 Liberation theory, too, understands human autonomy as an idea with both factual and moral dimensions although it does so rather differently from this traditional form. The difference is that autonomy is not thought to be a given fact about humans but rather something which we can attain. Nor is it regarded as fundamental, either as a value or as a fact, but in both respects it is deduced from other more basic considerations. Counter-intuitive as it might initially seem, individual autonomy becomes an objective prerequisite for the meeting of the need for recognition and is thought to be developed only in the pursuit of the satisfaction of this need. Both as a value and as a human capacity it is said to be dependent on the drive for recognition. This is counter-intuitive, because the theory therefore derives the necessity of autonomy from the necessity for love, when in everyday life we are used to opposing these to each other. But this is another dimension to the fact that the argument unconsciously recapitulates Christian themes which place the search for love at the centre of human life. (It also means that in this case there is a quick reply to those many contemporary feminists who maintain that humanism’s notion of autonomy as subordination to a transhistorical, disembodied reason is part of an obsolete and oppressive Enlightenment thinking. (For one example see Flax 1990:41.) The reply here is simply that the kind of reason which liberation theory maintains is necessary for autonomy is not transhistorical, non-embodied or whatever, since it is an aspect of the human capacity for love. It is therefore that deeply rooted kind of understanding

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Feminist Amnesia: The Wake of Women's Liberation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Liberation Theory 13
  • 1 - The Psychology of Power 15
  • 2 - The Getting of Wisdom 30
  • Postscript to Part I 56
  • Part II - Dualisms and Confusions 59
  • Flashback 61
  • 3 - Feminist Theory as ‘power/Knowledge’ 68
  • 4 - Radical Pretensions 100
  • 5 - The Mystery of Speculative Feminist Deconstruction 109
  • Part III - Feminism, Deconstruction and the Divided Self 119
  • 6 - Deconstruction 121
  • 7 - A Different Divided Subject 138
  • Conclusion 157
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 188
  • Index 195
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