Saturday, 16 December, 2017.

ABSTRACT: In the course of the last two decades feminist theories have related to all the tendencies of contemporary philosophy. Within that context these theories have tried to make up for the fact that women have been missing from the constitutive process of modern political subject, and at the same time, to answer to the challenges of postmodern philosophy where this subject is being questioned; here, as opposed to the story of the One, a question of the Other is being raised. Therefore, parallel to establishing of an identity, differences are being taken into account. However, this space allowing differences would jeopardize the agency of the feminine political subject.

This introductory text and even more the translations that follow attempt to answer the question whether these two theoretical options of identity and difference in constituting of the feminine political subject are the only possibilities.

Key words: feminine subject, identity, differences, and agency.

Introduction to the problems that are being raised in the texts of this selection proceeds from the following generally accepted points of departure:

Subject is a concept of modern philosophy. It is grounded in the metaphysical systems of the 17th century; the concept grew and reached its apogee by the beginning of the 19th century. It appears that the process of investing and endowing the subject with power continued as if by inertia, ignoring the queries and warnings of the 19th century and despite the sobering realities brought about by the 20th century. Needless to add that even the philosophy not benevolent to metaphysics has actually contributed to rise of subject in modern era. It served the process through the discussion about the power of knowledge, the power of art and creation and last but not the least, the power of political action - which is to be the topic here.

Theories of social contract have recognized the coming of age of the political subject and have thus acknowledged the political maturity of the said subject. Modern political philosophy for the most part stems from the assumptions of equality (and freedom). Hence, the theories of social contract, regardless of the differences between, for example Hobbes and Locke, oppose, first of all, all the concepts that question these assumptions, as does the patriarchalism (of Robert Filmer).

Moving away from these general points, we are diverting from what is doubtless, mainstream philosophy, in order to ask ourselves along with Mary Astell (of 17th century) and on occasion of recognizing the maturity of the political subject: "If Absolute Sovereignty be not necessary in a State, how comes it to be so in a Family? (...) If all Men are born free, how is it that all Women are born slaves?"

The issue of political subjectivity of women and the theoretical grounding of her citizenship status was raised. Those theoretical foundations had their historical parallel primarily in demands for the education of women, occasional demands for their economic independence, culminating finally in the demand for the right to suffrage. Therefore, theoretical arguments were parallel to what was designated as the 'first wave' in the history of feminist movement (19th and beginning of 20th century). Although the second half of the 20th century was characterized by recognizing women’s right to vote in most countries in the world, the political movements at the end of the sixties introduced the beginning of the 'second wave' of feminism.

Theoretical grounding of women's citizenship was advanced by Mary Wollstonecraft at the end of the 18th century; but Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill were the ones to once again place the issue on the agenda and to fully and unequivocally articulate the theoretical argument by mid 19th century. The second line of reasoning stemming from another tradition, but geared towards the same goals, appeared in the history of feminist theory also by the end of the 18th century, the representatives being Fourier, later Engels (19th century) and the others.

The need for the second wave of the feminist movement was theoretically announced by Simone de Beauvoir in her Le Deuxiemme Sexe in 1949; the significance of this work for feminist theory is defined by the fact that it was yet another beginning.

During the second wave of the feminist movement, theoretical foundation of woman's political subjectivity re-emerged, both parallel to, and, as a result of, all of the aforementioned political demands. The selection of texts in this issue should mark some pivotal points and dilemmas of the process.

Some of the critical issues follow from the fact that the most recent feminist theory is a contemporary of philosophy's postmodern; and, returning to the mainstream again, the subject as the fundamental concept of modern philosophy is threatened. This is probably why some feminist theorists suspiciously raise the question: "Why is it that just at the moment when so many of us who have been silenced, began to demand the right to name ourselves and to act as a subject rather than objects of history, that just then the concept of subjecthood becomes problematic?"

Theorizing political subjectivity is part and parcel of discussions on the issue of subjectivity where there appears to be no emphasis on the 'political'; at the same time the question of the political subject -as is political theory- is more manifestly connected with demands of the real. Bearing in mind that differences between these planes do exist, the texts referred to here mark philosophy of political subjectivity. It may be argued that the text of Luce Irigaray does not fall under that rubric, but, translated into our language for the first time, it has been included here above all because of its importance, but also to make a claim as to its political relevance.

The radical questioning of philosophical tradition in the works of Luce Irigaray evolves into a revaluation of all values. In this sense Irigaray's text, cannot be perceived as interpretative, but as the text that has itself been the subject of numerous interpretations. The title, the first sentence as well as the major claim of the text - now distinguished by it - all testify to the same: "Any Theory of the Subject Has Always Been Appropriated by the Masculine." Here, Luce Irigaray, moving within the critical dichotomy of modern philosophy, the subject/object relation, is primarily focused, on the re/presentation of a woman as an object always already opposing a subject. It is exactly at this point that she is the most convincing: " Woman, having been misinterpreted, forgotten, variously frozen in show cases, rolled up in metaphors, buried...raised...would now become the 'object' to be investigated, ... and thereby by the deed of this title included in the theory " The woman has no possession over her imaginary, nor does she master any comprehensible speech, she has no form and she is therefore a void in any system of representation. "She resists every adequate definition. She has no 'proper' name." Using psychoanalyses and all that is the most thought provoking in contemporary philosophy, L. Irigaray has built suppositions for better to understand 'the sex which is not one'.

However, political consequences of such an understanding of the woman could be compared with consequences of radical feminism, which had its most prominent women's representatives in US, as for example, Mary Daly. At the beginning of '70s radical feminism, declaring itself to be irreconcilable with way the world was set up, orientated itself toward changing the society, whereas when Mary Daily defined it, it had already designated a metaphysical approach; after one and a half decade this "high priestess of the lesbian separatism...came to conclusion that structures of man's power were unchangeable... and that woman's salvation lied only in the creation of another private realm". Similar conclusions can be reached through the work of Luce Iregaray. Moreover, since she had understood neither specific manifestation of (patriarchal) powers nor differences among them, she precisely slipped into "metaphysical definition of woman, which she, declaredly, wanted to avoid".

Rummaging through the philosophical tradition is significant for contemporary feminist theory; these are not only processes of waking up to reality and highlighting positions of misogyny throughout the history of philosophy but they are also precious stimuli, and finally, a search for support and allies, inadvertent as they may be; throughout the process we may discover not only cleavages, but also streaks of continuity.

One of the most important contributions to the contemporary feminist political theory represents Carole Pateman's Sexual Contract. This debate is the most serious examination of social contract theories from a feminist perspective. She proceeds to explain that postulate of the social contract survives still in its patriarchal form, though in a reconstructed modern version, falsely presenting itself as if it had defeated its patriarchal presuppositions. Carole Pateman distinguishes traditional, classic and modern patriarchy. However, the main difference is between the first two on the one side and the third one, on the other. The first two forms of patriarchy rely on the paternity law and since it is being suspended by the modern state formation the claim is that patriarchy is no more. However according to C. Pateman, not only has patriarchy not been abandoned in modernity, but it is alive and well, transformed into a brotherhood. The social contract was a necessity of modernity but in order for the father to lose his power, the sole beneficiaries being the brothers - in other words, the men who will continue to share the power. Carole Pateman, drawing on the 'fiction of theory' that does offer persuasive explanations, points to Freud: "He finished Totem and Taboo by words, 'in the beginning was the deed.' But, which deed? Before a father can be murdered by his sons a woman has to become a mother: was that deed connected to a 'horrible crime'?" Consequently, the social contract does not deny the original right of patriarchy: 'man's right to approach a woman sexually'. In other words, a father must first become a husband in order to acquire paternal right on this basis.

Thomas Hobbes differs from other representatives of social contract theory by his opinion that the marriage right, the man's right to a woman and over a woman is not natural but political and therefore it is covered by contract and convention. To Carole Pateman's opinion, feminist political theory has not made the most of this possibility. However, Carole Pateman does not realize further implications of Hobbes's explanation of the contract: women who had been equal by nature, stopped being equal by introduction of the contract which was valid although reached by force. Should we conclude that a new construction of social contract would include the same, similar or actually any and all means for achieving a goal?

This is precisely the question that brings us to the standpoint put forward by Nancy Hartsock, among others. She explicitly articulates the need to ground a strong subject stating that as a priority of feminist theory. In the process of naming that subject it has been subsumed under a 'we' category and is to be constituted by the experience in "the struggle for colonial independence, and struggle for racial and sexual freedoms etc." It is interesting that, although stemming from Foucault's analyses, the text itself makes little use of experiences and fears that breed nuanced caution on Foucault's part as well as for the fact that "it is a task less important for intellectuals to become a part of movements for fundamental change and more to struggle against the forms of power, that can transform these movements into instruments of domination." Questioning the power sounds more as an aspiration to attain it than a need to deconstruct it, which is undoubtedly legitimate but it should not be blurred. It appears that the critique of hierarchical structures and the order of things represented are less important and that establishing a 'new order' is of more significance. Nancy Hartsock insists that 'nationalism and separatism are important features’ in the course of the formation of the said subject. Theory should warn about dangers that lurk in the explanations of 'separatism and nationalism' or in the 'new order' that is wished for. Namely, what is at stake is that through creating a nurturing place for your 'wounded identity' "you try to bar the door and check all the people who come in."

In the text of Rosi Braidotti - who studied feminist philosophy with Luce Irigaray - Foucault's warnings as to the role of intellectuals have been taken into account despite the demand for establishing the subject remains: "...a feminist woman theoretician…cannot afford not to be essentialist". This double negation should be a warning "to resist temptation of reaching an essential synthesis".

Rosi Braidotti's work also illustrates the influence of psychoanalytic connections in feminist theories (of subjectivity). In addition to linguistic analysis, psychoanalysis - in its classical form, and also through Lacan’s perceptions - is undoubtedly forceful for feminist philosophy. The significance of some fundamental assumptions of psychoanalysis is generally acknowledged; which is probably why one oftentimes loses sight of them: psychoanalysis has established the fact that "thinking has something to do not only with the light of reason but also with shadowy reasons of the mind," Moreover, it has made possible a re/construction of subject as an intersection where the body is in the center. R. Braidotti claims that psychoanalysis has opened the way for reexamining our relationships with others and through the work of Luce Irigaray, even for possibilities of new genealogies such as those that could be established by a relationship between mother and daughter.

This text however refers to propositions appearing on the horizon of the feminist philosophy:"I do not have to define the signifier woman in order to assert it as the speaking subject of my discourse", because "[t]he affirmation of my subjectivity need not give a prepositional content to my sense of identity"

The fact that this content need not and does not have to be defined is claimed not only by Rosi Braidotti, but also many other theorists who claim that identity need not and should not be either defined or definite.

Prominent place among them holds Judith Butler, the author of Gender Trouble; this book has set the course of philosophical discussions in contemporary feminist theories of subjectivity which is why its concluding chapter is included in this selection. Gender trouble arises exactly through the definitions and the restrictive forces they imply. The attempt to construct a subject that will maintain an acute awareness of differences and (political) representation that will not propound exclusionary practices - that attempt proves to be self contradictory, i.e. definition of the subject built on the critique of the modern subject does not exist. "Theories of feminist identity that elaborate predicates of color, sexuality, ethnicity, class and able-bodiedness, invariably close with an embarrassed "etc"…these positions strive to encompass a suitable object, but invariably fail to be incomplete. The failure, however, is instructive: ...this illimitable et cetera offers itself as a new departure of feminist political theorizing."

Consequently, in the conclusion chapter of her analysis, she claims, " is not absolutely necessary for a "doer to be behind the deed", but the "doer" is variably constructed in and through the deed." According to her, this is the only way to avoid, that the subject who yearns for freedom, is restrict, in other words imprisoned.

Process of different reproduction or different cultural inscription that J. Butler speaks of, could be linked with the process which Chantal Mouffe calls articulation in her political theory. This term appears in the famous book Hegemony and Social Structure, in which E. Laclau and Chantal Mouffe defined the term prescriptively. Articulation is a type of link, and most assuredly an unpredictable relation, which sets the parameters for all the subjects' positions. In a true sense of their approach, it would be maybe more appropriate to add that this is the relation through which the subject posits itself. Or, the articulation is "...the set of subject's positions which matches versatility of social relationships it belongs to." 25

A woman is not denied the possibility to articulate her identity by the absence of an a priori definition of this identity, quite the opposite; what is being suspended are precisely the restrictions that would present themselves in view of the fact that she, belonging to other entities, class, race, (the 'embarrassing') etc., were to act.

Moreover, it is this configuration of political subjectivity that enables us to retain the advantages of liberalism but also to restore the republican tradition, which is, contrary to liberalism, more familiar with, as Chantal Mouffe says"...Ideas for taking care of general welfare, civil actions and political participation in the community of equals."

This tension in political philosophy may here, or within modern political theory, be designated as the tension between liberalism and republicanism, but in a broader classification this tension presents itself as an apparent, and recurring imperative: to always be forced to make a choice of a political construct, between (individual) freedom and (social) justice; this may apply to the political philosophy of many, from Plato, and Marx up to and including Hannah Arendt.

Feminism albeit in this, its complex version, is therefore, still a political (option); however, following H.Arendt's parlance, it can be, even if metaphorically speaking, looked upon as 'an art'; in other words, vita activa defined by taking care of public welfare, of res publica.

Hannah Arendt surely does not belong to feminist theory, but as Kathleen Jones says about Hannah Arendt: "Following my understanding of authority and authorship…strong misreading reading of an author's work are exactly what a reader of texts is invited to do. If meanings are not controlled by the information of an author/speaker then texts permit the creation of democratic dialogue, the kind of public speech in public space that H. Arendt so admired".

These texts show that being constantly aware about differences in the construction of political subjectivity develops into a source of theoretical controversies within feminist philosophy: if a woman is to have the power to act as a political subject, if she is to have agency, if she is to be an agent, she must be a (strong ) subject, she must have an identity. But, establishing her identity, and defining what a woman really is, would come back full circle and overturn the critical point of the whole constitutive process of this 'subjectivity', and that is an embrace of differences.

Texts by Chantal Mouffe, Judith Butler and other authors of similar reasoning, the feminist political theory, or, the feminist movement - all these endeavors have a potential to take part in an utopia, and it still can grow into its ugly negative form. It is maybe more appropriate to refer to "Republic of Gilead" and to associate it with the classical text of a feminist negative utopia, Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, instead of mainstream metaphors as warnings against negative utopia.

Therefore, the question of modern feminist political theory runs as follows: how to secure legitimacy and autonomy of the proposed woman’s subject in her political action. This political subject is constituted by recognition of its own difference towards an always already well grounded strong subject, which is in possession of political power; at the same time, a woman ' because we are talking about women' is directed to that venue only so that she can articulate her own identity, that is to be, although differing/deferring, the Other, a source of legitimacy and power in the public and political arena.

An awareness of the difference remains. And, this is probably, the most serious contribution of the feminist theory to modern philosophy. However, wherever postmodern philosophy was telling a story, however convincing, about differences, feminism was living it; and it was also reviving to life the so called mainstream philosophy, which is constantly threatened to become self-satisfied and dried up, if it is not regularly refreshed from the margins.

But, mainstream philosophy is not our problem. Feminist philosophy has been forced to experience further complexity of its own position. In other words, constantly reminded by, and, of differences, it has no choice but to be regenerated by them, or to endanger its essential assumptions and walk into a dead end.

Those who think that introducing the debates in the following texts are here ill timed, we would like to remind not only of the fact that women are agents who you may chose to count on, and can also chose to ignore - and both approaches have equally serious consequences- but also that here we are talking about relevant mechanisms and models, which function and materialize regardless of whether we understand them or not. This is especially important because tectonic movements of our ground demand of us to become aware that all will take part in them, and such movements being very strong, give us choices we will be held responsible for.

If we look upon the circumstances, which at this point we cannot chose any more, from a different angle, is it possible that these may be a very high price for starting anew?

Daša Duhaček
July 1995

Women's Studies Journal

Selected Papers
Anniversary Issue 1992/2002

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