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Gender, Class, and Freedom in Modern Political Theory Paperback – Dec 2 2007


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"Hirschmann argues persuasively concerning the need for another discussion of the 'greats' of modern European political thought. She rereads Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Mill and argues that rather than embracing positive or negative liberty, they use both simultaneously. She further argues that discussions of 'human nature' and the 'state of nature' in each are already rife with social constructivism. . . . Hirschmann profitably combines traditional interests . . . with newer scholarly interpretive methods and interests. Her discussion of Locke on positive liberty is a particularly valuable contribution. Clarity, readability, and helpful references to the secondary literature make this a useful volume for students grappling with these texts for the first time."--D. J. Lorenzo, Virginia Wesleyan College, for Choice



"This text will be of interest primarily to students, scholars, and teachers of political theory and philosophy, who will appreciate Hirschmann's close, deep, and nuanced interpretations of canonical texts. . . . [H]er newest work will inspire and enable scholars who read it to participate effectively in contemporary discourses of freedom, especially on behalf of those who have been ignored and harmed in the name of freedom, even as they aspire to its enduring allure."--Christine Di Stefano, Politics and Gender



"Gender, Class, and Freedom in Modern Political Theory is an impressive piece of scholarship. At its heart are the five chapters devoted to each philosopher, each of which is rich in detail and nuanced argument. The book covers a great deal of ground. . . . [T]his book is written for those who already understand, or think they understand, the Western canon. It promises to change how this canon is conventionally understood. And it delivers on this promise."--Avigail Eisenberg, Perspectives on Politics

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"This book is bound to have a wide audience among both political theorists and feminists. One of its strengths is its analysis of the way in which the theories of freedom of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Mill are gendered. Hirschmann argues pointedly with other feminist interpretations of these theories and she provides an unusually sophisticated feminist analysis of the canon."--Marion Smiley, Brandeis University

"This is a great book. Hirschmann's thorough discussion of freedom--though based on a close reading of only five theorists--will, in my opinion, change how we think about freedom. Hirschmann also demonstrates why all good political theory needs to be feminist--not ideologically, but methodologically feminist. Historians of political thought and theorists of freedom and feminism will find much to challenge and provoke their thinking."--Brooke Ackerly, Vanderbilt University

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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I am deeply grateful to Nancy Hirschmann for both writing ... Dec 17 2014
By Irami Osei-Frimpong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am deeply grateful to Nancy Hirschmann for both writing this book on freedom and for showing the need for feminist methodology in studying modern political theory. Gender figures into conceptions of freedom promulgated by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill. These theorists arrive at markedly different conceptions of freedom and the varieties of political citizenship that support freedom, but each conception relies on the theorist's presumptions concerning human understanding, human relationships, society, and the family. These presumptions issue from each theorist's different historical context in a way that legitimizes subordinating women, rendering each construction of freedom a construction of masculine power.

This book would not be necessary if we could simply expand the differing conceptions of freedom to include women, or the poor/working classes, or stigmatized minorities, but to do so would elide substantive gender and class differences embedded in the theories. For example, if your theory of freedom requires a certain amount of leisure time(Locke) or a variety of economic independence(Kant), you can't simply amend it to include factory workers doing wage work in 18 hour shifts. To expand this notion of freedom to include those factory workers, you would have to radically restructure the work day and the purchasing power of hourly wages in order to call these factory workers free.

Gender operates similarly for the theorists Hircshmann treats. Each theorist is aware that there are meaningful differences between men and women and the relationships between genders, and each theorist has a way to mediate these differences for the health and viability of a state of free citizens, but Hirschmann shows how each theorist's notion of freedom finds a way to mediate these differences in a way that prefers upper-class men. She is extraordinarily generous in trying to rescue the virtues of each theorist's work on freedom, but the result is the same: each of the theorist's varied conception of freedom entails in a different order of domination of some men over most women.

So if we are going to talk about freedom, and since I'm writing this in 21st century America, not only are we going to talk about it, we are in the business of violently exporting it, we should be clear about how operant conceptions of freedom bequeathed to us by these thinkers reproduces all manners of gender and class oppression and confusion. Hirschmann's is primarily a study freedom, and the trouble traditional modern conceptions of freedom have when they are applied to the moving bodies of a modern state.


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