Politics and Feminism: An Introduction

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This book addresses the question of gender and feminism in western political theory and practise. It provides students with both the theoretical and historical underpinnings of women's exclusion from politics, and the feminist response to this exclusion. This book begins with preliminary definitions of the terms 'politics' and 'feminism', exploring how each term intersects with, responds to and grows out of the other. The first chapter provides an overview of the development of the basic dualities in the history of western political thought: the identification of men with the world of reason, order, culture and public life, and women with the world of nature, emotion, desires and private life. The next two chapters explore how these dualities have defined politics and the feminist critique of that construction. The second half of the book is a history of feminism seen from the perspective of its own evolution. Arneil describes this evolution from a first wave completely subsumed within another framework, namely liberalism, to a marriage with other theoretical frameworks, followed by a period of separation and renegotiation of the marital contract (second wave feminism) and finally to an independent position or rather set of positions, in which feminists are beginning to define politics in their own terms. Thus, in the penultimate chapter, Arneil argues, through a survey of current feminist debates, that second wave feminism is now giving way to what she terms 'third wave feminism(s)' characterized by differences in perspective, both in terms of women from men and amongst women. This book provides an accessible and fresh introduction to feminism and the question of gender in western political thought.