Feminism and liberalism: a not-so-unhappy marriag

Carla Saen


It seems that political liberalism and feminism constitute an “unhappy marriage.” I shall argue that it should be a happy one.  Liberalism does more feminist work than feminist theorists acknowledge. Feminist theorists raise both internal and external critiques.  Some of the internal critiques are ungrounded and based on misinterpretation of key liberal concepts, while others can be accommodated by revisingthe liberal framework.  In contrast, the external criticisms, which are presented as a definitive challenge to liberalism, are unsuccessful.  They themselves implicitly rely on some key liberal assumptions, which shows that they are ultimately internal critiques. My primary aim in this paper is to show that the feminist critiques remain within a liberal framework.  Feminists also claim that liberal theory is incompatible with current facts about gender.  I shall call these “inefficacy critiques.”  As my secondary aim I shall show that this  critique of liberalism relies on a misunderstanding of the distinction between normative and descriptive claims


Liberalism; Feminism; Rawls; Justice; Public/privat

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5007/%25x






ethic@. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, SC, Brasil, eISSN 1677-2954

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