Department of Sociology
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0327Published in , 101 (May/June 2000): 18-19, and posted here with permission from the publishers.Introduction It was possible, in the heady days of the Women's Liberation Movement, to identify four main currents within feminist thought;Liberal (concerned with attaining economic and political equalitywithin the context of capitalism); Radical (focused on men andpatriarchy as the main causes of the oppression of women);Socialist (critical of capitalism and Marxism, so much so thatavoidance of Marxism's alleged reductionisms resulted in dualsystems theories postulating various forms of interaction betweencapitalism and patriarchy); and Marxist Feminism (a theoreticalposition held by relatively few feminists in the U.
And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.
Theoretical conflicts, they point out,do not occur in isolation from class conflicts and the latteraffect the divisions among professional feminists and their classallegiances.
Émigrés from the Soviet Union have been reporting for at least the last generation now that virtually nobody in that country truly believed in Marxism-Leninism any longer, and that this was nowhere more true than in the Soviet elite, which continued to mouth Marxist slogans out of sheer cynicism. The corruption and decadence of the late Brezhnev-era Soviet state seemed to matter little, however, for as long as the state itself refused to throw into question any of the fundamental principles underlying Soviet society, the system was capable of functioning adequately out of sheer inertia and could even muster some dynamism in the realm of foreign and defense policy. Marxism-Leninism was like a magical incantation which, however absurd and devoid of meaning, was the only common basis on which the elite could agree to rule Soviet society.
• Routinization and control affect health through the psychological consequences of the immediate work experience it engenders (for example, self-esteem and stress).
. The internal politics of the Byzantine Empire at the time of Justinian revolved around a conflict between the so-called monophysites and monothelites, who believed that the unity of the Holy Trinity was alternatively one of nature or of will. This conflict corresponded to some extent to one between proponents of different racing teams in the Hippodrome in Byzantium and led to a not insignificant level of political violence. Modern historians would tend to seek the roots of such conflicts in antagonisms between social classes or some other modern economic category, being unwilling to believe that men would kill each other over the nature of the Trinity. ()
MatFem, on the other hand, remains a nebulous thing, a place forfeminists who are clear about their rejection of Marx and Marxism'salleged flaws, but seem to be less certain about what they standfor.
As Ebert unerringly points out, Marx's critiqueof "Feuerbachian materialism" aptly describes today's MatFem'smaterialism: "As far as Feuerbach is a materialist he does not dealwith history, and as far as he considers history he is not amaterialist." There is another reason why I believe MarxFem should "de-link"from MatFem: Marxist Feminists are, theoretically speaking, clearerabout what MarxFem is all about, politically and theoretically.
Essentially, this wouldentail a return to Marx whose method and analysis of capitalism,despite its ambiguities, ommissions, complexities and 19th centurylimitations, has far more to offer feminists and all oppressedpeople than contemporary theories which, having severed theinternal relationship between existence and consciousness or,between discourse and its material conditions of possibility, postulate the materiality of the discursive and whatever theremight be "outside" discourse (Nature?
It is time, therefore, for Marxist feminists to separatethemselves from materialist feminism and assert the legitimacy andpolitical urgency of their approach.
Marx and Marxism have already been marginalized in academia; the inclusion of MarxFem under the Matfem umbrella would onlyintensify already widespread misunderstandings among the youngergenerations of feminists because, as it would call attention to the"material" in historical materialism, it would strengthen dominantstereotypes about the "vulgar materialism" presumably inherent in Marxism.
. In this respect Kojève stands in sharp contrast to contemporary German interpreters of Hegel like Herbert Marcuse who, being more sympathetic to Marx, regarded Hegel ultimately as an historically bound and incomplete philosopher. ()
That two anthologies of Marxist feministwritings have been published under the aegis of materialistfeminism attest to the greater market value of "materialism" andpublishers' power to decide what sells, rather than the existenceof a theoretical convergence between MarxFem and MatFem.
The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. Such nostalgia, in fact, will continue to fuel competition and conflict even in the post-historical world for some time to come. Even though I recognize its inevitability, I have the most ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945, with its north Atlantic and Asian offshoots. Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.