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Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Paperback – Aug 29 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 146 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Edition edition (Aug. 29 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691004323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691004327
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 15.3 x 23 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #279,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting book that raises good points. However, the number of collaborators leads to a lack of depth and some of the pieces end up being more polemical than enlightening. Moreover, the Reply in the end that Okin makes to all the pieces ends up being rather awkward, somewhat offensive, and has borderline personal attacks that lack academic polish. Furthermore, a number of the pieces have rather un-academic way of arguing points, drawing on newspaper articles to make broad statements, etc. Overall, I do recommend it for a start in looking at some of the issues that arise between feminism and multiculturalism because it is one of the first works to talk about this but more recent works do a better job.
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Format: Paperback
In this slim volume of essays collected from the pages of the Boston Review, a cross-section of contemporary intellectual life is represented in debate over Okin's central thesis that the values of multiculturalism and feminism are at odds (at some level). The hinge of Okin's argument is that feminism is universalist in intent, arguing that all women, by virtue of their being women (or being human), are entitled to certain rights and freedoms; multiculturalism, on the other hand, is often used to support cultural difference, and is local in scope. Conflict emerges when we encounter cultures in which women are regarded as lower in social standing than men, and thus denied rights and freedoms that feminists have (traditionally) held in esteem -- the right to vote, assemble peacefully, earn income, etc. (see Martha Nussbaum's work in "Sex and Social Justice" and "Women and Human Development" for a fuller exposition of a feminist conception of rights). In Okin's estimation, multiculturalists back off from criticism, arguing instead that different cultures must be respected, and indeed cannot be judged because they do not share the same cultural foundation as we (i.e., Westerners) do. Hence, for Okin, a committed feminist, multiculturalism is often bad for women.
This is a contentious and controversial argument, but essential (I believe) in that it forces Western liberal intellectuals to confront the simple fact that certain ways of thinking and being cannot easily coexist. The papers included in this book reflect the divisiveness of Okin's argument, with some coming down squarely on her side, and others arguing that this represents only another attempt at Western intellectual imperialism. Enough diversity in opinions is presented to give readers much to think about and debate.
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Format: Paperback
This book is designed around the first essay, "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" The premise of the essay is that liberalism has long advocated both multiculturalism and feminism as philosophies not in conflict with one another. However, what is the obligation of a liberal democracy to cultural minorities that oppress women within their culture? Can the needs of women and minorities be met or are their respective agendas mutually exclusive to one another? Does the sovereignty of a larger state supercede that of a smaller state and to which group does the majority owe its protection- minority cultures or individuals (women)?
These are some of the questions addressed by this book. The first essay asserts that the goals of multiculturalism and feminism are not compatible and that by protecting one, the other is sacrificed. It is a provocative idea and one not addressed enough by political theorists, feminists, or policy specialists. From it, one discovers that there is an inherent tension to these two schools of liberal philosophy (although there are some very good critics of Okin's ideas). See writers like Kymlicka, Nussbaum, or Habermas (to name a few).
If the intricacies and contradictions of liberal philosophy and feminism interest you, then you should try this book. It is very short and can be read in one sitting. It's essentially a collection of essays from a number of theorists reflecting a variety of perspectives on this specific topic. Thought-provoking and worth the effort to take a gander.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
clash of values Nov. 7 2001
By John H. Teeple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this slim volume of essays collected from the pages of the Boston Review, a cross-section of contemporary intellectual life is represented in debate over Okin's central thesis that the values of multiculturalism and feminism are at odds (at some level). The hinge of Okin's argument is that feminism is universalist in intent, arguing that all women, by virtue of their being women (or being human), are entitled to certain rights and freedoms; multiculturalism, on the other hand, is often used to support cultural difference, and is local in scope. Conflict emerges when we encounter cultures in which women are regarded as lower in social standing than men, and thus denied rights and freedoms that feminists have (traditionally) held in esteem -- the right to vote, assemble peacefully, earn income, etc. (see Martha Nussbaum's work in "Sex and Social Justice" and "Women and Human Development" for a fuller exposition of a feminist conception of rights). In Okin's estimation, multiculturalists back off from criticism, arguing instead that different cultures must be respected, and indeed cannot be judged because they do not share the same cultural foundation as we (i.e., Westerners) do. Hence, for Okin, a committed feminist, multiculturalism is often bad for women.
This is a contentious and controversial argument, but essential (I believe) in that it forces Western liberal intellectuals to confront the simple fact that certain ways of thinking and being cannot easily coexist. The papers included in this book reflect the divisiveness of Okin's argument, with some coming down squarely on her side, and others arguing that this represents only another attempt at Western intellectual imperialism. Enough diversity in opinions is presented to give readers much to think about and debate.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Multiculturalism, Feminism and Liberalism May 19 2000
By hermione31 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is designed around the first essay, "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" The premise of the essay is that liberalism has long advocated both multiculturalism and feminism as philosophies not in conflict with one another. However, what is the obligation of a liberal democracy to cultural minorities that oppress women within their culture? Can the needs of women and minorities be met or are their respective agendas mutually exclusive to one another? Does the sovereignty of a larger state supercede that of a smaller state and to which group does the majority owe its protection- minority cultures or individuals (women)?
These are some of the questions addressed by this book. The first essay asserts that the goals of multiculturalism and feminism are not compatible and that by protecting one, the other is sacrificed. It is a provocative idea and one not addressed enough by political theorists, feminists, or policy specialists. From it, one discovers that there is an inherent tension to these two schools of liberal philosophy (although there are some very good critics of Okin's ideas). See writers like Kymlicka, Nussbaum, or Habermas (to name a few).
If the intricacies and contradictions of liberal philosophy and feminism interest you, then you should try this book. It is very short and can be read in one sitting. It's essentially a collection of essays from a number of theorists reflecting a variety of perspectives on this specific topic. Thought-provoking and worth the effort to take a gander.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Excellent survey of an important debate May 7 2006
By F - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" consists of Okin's initial essay addressing that question, followed by a collection of essays commenting on her thoughts, followed by another essay by Okin in defense of her thesis. I admittedly was slightly disappointed the first time I read Okin's initial essay. Although her thesis is clear enough (that the liberal values of feminism and multiculturalism must necessarily come into conflict considering that a large number of cultures encourage the oppression of women), she fails to rigorously define her terms or to support her thesis with more than a few anecdotes. She also tends to conflate culture with religion at times when it is not appropriate, a tendency on which a number of respondents comment.

Although I was initially disappointed by Okin's essay, I came to appreciate it more as I continued reading the book. Although her refusal to define her argument rigorously or to specify at what point multiculturalism should give way to feminism leads some authors to talk past one another, it also allows a number of bright minds to express a variety of viewpoints on different aspects of Okin's essay. The comments range from absurd to brilliant, from obvious to unique and insightful. Fortunately, more of the essays fall into the brilliant and insightful categories than in the obvious or absurd categories. The contributing authors' comments address a number of issues, including: support for specific cultural practices; the empirical validity of some of Okin's claims; the importance of group rights versus individual rights; the practical political and legal problems involved in placing women's rights above certain group rights; and many others.

The final essay in the book, Okin's last word on the topic, is well-reasoned and spelled out. She adequately addresses most of the criticisms provided by the contributing authors, and, perhaps more importantly, she clarifies her position and provides more concrete guidance regarding when she would advocate the rights of women and when she would defer to cultural practices.

The whole book is an excellent (and quick) read, beneficial not for the answers that it provides but for the debate it encourages. In a world that is growing smaller and more connected by the day, and especially in a country to which many oppressed women from around the globe look for a better life, few debates could be of more importance.
Very good read if you're into feminism and it's relationship to multiculturalism May 29 2014
By M Cicitta - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fabulous book if you're interested in multiculturalism and feminism and the inter relational between them. Susan Moller Okin explains that in order for women's rights to be upheld in all cultures, multiculturalistic attempts must maintain those respects and dignities for women in spite of a culture's specific beliefs. For instance, Olin talks about genital cutting and how it violates women's rights. She feels that if adult women want to make this decision to undergo genital cutting for their own cultural or religious reasons, that's fine but when you submit an infant who can't make their own choices to genital cutting this is wrong and that's where feminism is violated. Those cultures, according to Olin, should become extinct and not allowed to flourish. I agree with her philosophy. It's a rather sociological book with a lot of feminist and sociology-based theories from well know people but it's more suited to an academic reading if you need to write a paper or for a course at the college level. (Which is what I read the book for).
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I loved it :) Feb. 14 2010
By Arna Þórdís Árnadóttir - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For me I liked that it seemed brand new, it hadn't been read thouroghly anyway. However there was a little friendly star drawn on one page which was only to please me :) I don't know how others would like it but I loved it :)

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