Modern Feminism and Marx

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Marx has been seriously criticized by modern feminists for his views on women, their liberation, and the role that socialism will play in this liberation. I would like to try, as much as is possible, to break down the opposition and hostility between Marx and feminism. I think that if we understand Marx correctly his thought can evoke far more sympathy from feminists than has hitherto been the case. This is certainly not to suggest, however, that Marx, back in the 19th century, developed a full and adequate feminist theory, or that he said everything, or even very much, of what it is important to say about the condition of women and their liberation, nor even that he established the foundation from which one could derive all, or even very much, of what should be said in this area. In fact, it would be bizarre to make such assumptions about a theorist who wrote toward the very beginning of the historical process that we call the modern feminist movement, and who himself held that consciousness can emerge only out of a long historical process involving a dialectical interaction between theory and practice. Yet such bizarre assumptions are often made about Marx by modern feminists, not seriously, of course, but in order to dismiss him. I would like to try to argue something very modest here, merely that Marx has more to say, has fewer shortcomings, and could be of more use to modern feminist theory than is often thought to be the case.


Reprinted in Karl Marx’s Social and Political Thought: Critical Assessments — Second Series. Ed. B. Jessop and R. Weatley. London: Routledge, 1999, Vol. VII, 485-512.