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Feminism and Liberal Theory

Author(s): Richard C. Sinopoli and Nancy J. Hirschmann

Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 221-233
Published by: American Political Science Association
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The American Political Science Review.

In herarticleon "Freedom,Recognition,and Obligation:A FeministApproachto

Political Theory,"publishedin the December1989issueof this Review,NancyI. Hirsch-
mannarguedthat a feministmethodologycould breathenew and usefullife into liberal
political theory, relieving it of its structuralsexism. In this Controversy,RichardC.
Sinopoli takes issue with key claimsmade by Hirschmann.In turn, Hirschmannelabo-
rates her case.

In her recent article, "Freedom, This genderbis argumentis, of course,

Recognition,and Obligation:A Feminist only as good as the psychologicaltheory
Approach to Political Theory," (1989a) on which it rests. And thereis not a con-
Nancy J. Hirschmannhas offered a cri- sensus in the psychological literature
tique of liberalism and its voluntarist either on whether females and males
theory of obligationfrom a feministper- reason differentlyregardingmorals and,
spective. The gist of her argumentis that by extension,politics, or on why they do
there is a structuralgenderbias in liberal so when gender differences in moral
political thought (at least in the social reasoning have been observed.' More-
contracttradition)derivingfrom a liberal over, if thereis a differencebetweenboys
conception of the self as an abstract, and girls in terms of separationfrom the
atomistic individual choosing principles motherin formingthe self, it can only be
of justice.This conceptionin turnleads to a differencein degree. Hirschmannpro-
an overly voluntaristictheory of political vides no evidence as to how far apart
obligation and of social relations as a women and men are on what must be a
whole. continuum, nor does she establish that
Hirschmannholds that there is some such differencesin a sense of self give rise
relationbetweenthis liberalconceptionof to fundamentallydifferentpolitical per-
the self and the formation of male iden- spectivesbetweengenders.2
tity, althoughshe is not clear about what Nonetheless, I do not intend to chal-
this relation is. Nonetheless, under her lenge Hirschmann's psychoanalytic
quasi-Freudianassumptions,this relation assumptions-with one notable excep-
results from an inevitable gender differ- tion: she pushes her psychologicaltheory
ence in childrearing.Male babies must to the breaking point in claiming not
separate themselves from their mothers merely that boys must go to greater
moreradicallythanfemalebabiesin order meansto forgea separateidentitybut that
to forge their own identity. An aspect of this "escapefrom the body female"entails
the boy's strugglefor identityis a devalu- a quest for "absolutefreedom from [his
ation of his relationwith his mother,even motherland from all 'others'" (p. 1235).
a "belittling"of "all relationship"[sic], It is hard to imaginewhat "absolutefree-
and a glorification of separateness (p. dom"could mean to an infant or how he
1235, emphasis mine). Such a glorifica- might effect his wishes. Hirschmann
tion is reflected in the "state-of-nature" seems intent to draw the gender differ-
vantage point for choosing principlesof ences in the formationof the self as stark-
justicein liberaltheory. ly as possible even at the cost of plausi-


VOLUME 85 NO. 1 MARCH 1991
American Political Science Review Vol. 85

bility. As one criticof Gilligannoted after "resonance,"between male childrearing

observing the considerable overlap be- and the liberal theory of obligation or
tween men's and women's responses to whetherthereis a causalrelation.Hirsch-
Kohlbergianmoral dilemmas, "We are mann'smore interestingclaimis the latter
not two species:we are two sexes"(Luria and I will treat this as her considered
1986). view.
In any case, there are importantprob- Second, I am not sure whether I am
lems in Hirschmann'scritique of liberal- meant to be persuaded by her case or to
ism even if her psychologicaltheory is ac- treat it merely as an expressionof a femi-
ceptedin full. First,Hirschmann'scritique nist standpoint.Hirschmannclaims to be
fails to account satisfactorilyfor the his- adopting a "feminist standpoint episte-
toricalrecordof the emergenceof liberal- mology" that "rejectsthe idea that episte-
ism. Second, she misrepresentsliberal mology is objective or universal" and
thoughtand politics, in part by confusing holds that it is insteadthe "productof par-
its motivationalappealwith its theoretical ticularsocial relations"(p. 1229). Such a
justification. Finally, she engages in a view calls into question the validity of
most literalversion of the geneticfallacy. any generaltruthclaim. She furtherholds
Liberalinstitutionsare criticizedin terms that "the standpointof oppressedgroups
of the psychologicaldispositionsthat give enables them to see more aspects of the
rise to them and not in terms of their social relations that oppress them" (p.
strengths and weaknesses compared to 1230). Elsewhereshe contends that the
other fundamental conceptions of the psychic development of the self "will
standardsby which politicalcommunities shade one's perceptionand interpretation
should be organized. of truth, or reality" (p. 1232). All this
I must admit,however, to two points of amounts to a kind of weak-kneedNietz-
confusion at the outset regarding the scheanism. Her general position of epis-
nature of the claim Hirschmannis mak- temic relativismis denied as she seems to
ing. First,at times she describesthe theo- recognizeat least two generaltruths:that
retical importanceof her argumentin a there is such a thing as oppressionout of
rather weak way. Thus, she claims that which a privileged standpoint emerges
the liberal conception of liberty (and its and that there are objective features of
voluntarist notion of obligation) "seems social relations to be observed. She then
to coherewith"the "boy'sinfantiledilem- admitstruthand even realityclaims(even
ma" or that there is a "resonance"be- if interpreteddifferently)into the picture
tween them (pp. 1232, 1235, 1238). Else- in a mannerher standpointepistemology
where, she claims to be offering reasons denies as a possibility. Nonetheless,I will
for a structural gender bias of liberal assume that the author intends to per-
theory. Unlike other critics of consent suade those who do not share her stand-
theory (e.g., Pateman1979) she seeks to point intuitively.
presenta treatmentnot of symptomsbut
of the causes of the oft-discussedprob-
lems in a liberaltheoryof politicalobliga- Hirschmann's Critique
tion. These causes are the presumptionin of Liberalism
consent theory of an abstractindividual-
ism that is a peculiarly male standpoint If we take Hirschmannto be arguingfor
and that thereforegives rise to a structural a necessary relation between maleness
genderbias in liberaltheory. It would be and the liberal "disembedded"self, we
helpful to know whether there is -merely face an immediate political theoretical
an interesting seeming coherence, or puzzle. This is that the predominantpre-

Feminismand LiberalTheory

liberal political theories in the Western relies that would preventthis effort.3But
tradition,those taughtin standardpoliti- her notion of the forging of the self is so
cal theory curricula,have two things in deeplybiologicalthat it would be hardto
common. First, they have been pro- admit of much historicalvariation in it.
pounded by males from Plato and Aris- Its one fundamentally sociological
totle through Augustine and Aquinas; assumption, that of the mother as
second, they have tended to conceive of primarycaregiver,would not help us dif-
society as an organic,functionallydiffer- ferentiateour cases. Moreover,even if we
entiatedwhole. Hirschmann'sdistinction found fundamentaldifferencesin child-
betweenmale separationand femalecon- rearing practices, it would seem more
nectednessruns up againstthis fact. plausible to treat these as caused by,
What strongernotion of connectedness ratherthan causes of, changesin society
in politics could we ask for than Aris- at large. Forinstance,insofaras therehas
totle'sassertionthat a manwithouta polis been a move away from the mother as
must be eithera beast or a god? (1981, 6) primary caregiver over the last twenty
Not only is the Aristotelian self fully years (a very limited move to be sure),
embeddedin a set of social relations of this is likelybest explainedby suchfactors
family, friendship, and community, but as the need for two incomesto maintaina
he could not conceiveof a worthwhilelife middle-classliving standardand a chang-
outside of these relationships.Much the ing perception,broughtabout in part by
same can be said, with suitable adapta- the women's movement, about the fair-
tion, of the ChristianAristoteliansin the ness of dividingup childrearingand wage-
middle ages. Aquinas, too, adhered to earningtasksin traditionalways. One can
some notion of a "greatchain of being" surmise, absent compelling evidence to
linking humans in light of a common, the contrary, that the changedchildrear-
teleologicalend. ing practices, reflect, rather than.cause,
Hirschmannmust not only explainlib- broaderideologicaland economicshiftsin
eralismin light of malenessbut must also the society.
explain why so many preliberal male Thereis an equallyperplexingdifficulty
political theorists emphasize connected- in Hirschmann'sunderstandingof liberal
ness over separation. I am not denying thought itself. Any student of liberalism
that the political thought of Aristotle or must strugglein identifyingthe common
Aquinas is patriarchical.The case could threadsholding togethersuch a complex
be made that they expound merely a dif- and durable fabric of belief. Several
ferent form of gender bias than Hirsch- points Hirschmannmakes, however, do
mannwants to describein liberalism.But not fit well with any reasonablerecon-
this is a very differentline of argument structionof liberaltheory. First,I suggest
from the one Hirschmannpursues. It is that she conflatesthe motivationalappeal
still a problemthat her describedverities and the theoreticaljustificationof liberal
of male childrearingdo so little work in political institutions.
explainingthe genesisor fundamentalpre- Implicitin Hirschmann'sargumentis a
sumptions of the two thousand or so sense that men will be more attractedto
yearsof Westernpoliticalthoughtpreced- liberal thought because there is some co-
ing liberalism. herencebetween the male standpointand
Could she explainthe emergenceof lib- the liberaltendencyto view politicalobli-
eralism from these preliberal modes of gations as voluntary commitmentsjusti-
thoughtin termsof changesin patternsof fied in terms of their acceptability to
childrearing?Perhaps.Thereis nothingin asocial individuals. Men have had the
the psychological theory on which she power to enact, and have enacted, these

AmericanPolitical Science Review Vol. 85

preferencesinto law. The liberaltheoryof much less atomistic theory than Hirsch-
obligation-and, presumably, liberal mann implies. She tends to treatwhat is a
societies-are oppressivebecausethey en- political theory in a rather metaphysical
dorse the male standpointand deny the way. The state of natureis treatedless as
female standpoint. a device for choosing principlesof politi-
Yet if I reconstructHirschmannfairly, cal justicethanas a sort of masculinestate
this is a poor explanationfor the appeal of bliss. Hirschmannwrites, "If no rela-
liberal principlesof justice either had at tions among people are considerednatu-
this philosophy'soutset or (I would sug- ral, they can only be consideredproducts
gest) have at present. It is widely recog- of agreements"(p. 1234). I think she
nized that liberalismemergedlargely out means that liberalsconceive of no social
of the religiouswars plaguingGreatBrit- relationsas natural.Sucha view, she sug-
ain in the seventeenthcentury (e.g., Ash- gests, is requiredby a conceptof libertyas
craft 1984). Liberalvalues of tolerance, absenceof restraintand the "extremelyin-
limited government, and inalienable dividualist view of consent and choice
rightsall emergefroman attemptto deter- endemic to consent theory" (pp.
mine the justifiablelimits of state power. 1234-35).
A most salient question for Locke and Ignoring for the moment Locke's dis-
later liberals was when and under what tinction between liberty and license, it is
circumstancesthe state could compel per- certainlynot the case that he or many (or
sons to conform to some dominant con- any?) of his successorstreatall social rela-
ceptionof the good life, religiousor other- tions as productsof consent (Locke1960,
wise, that they did not share. Social con- 311). Indeed, Locke recognizesa number
tract reasoning is useful in justifying a of natural duties-not the least being
liberalpolity as it asks what form of polit- those of parents toward children and a
ical communityis acceptableto free and universal duty of charity-that do not
equal rational agents with their own emergefrom consent at all (1960, 205-6,
(usually shared)conceptionsof the good 347). They reside, rather,in Locke'scon-
life and certainfundamentalintereststhat ception of natural law and in his work-
cannot be tradedoff against the vital in- manship model, which delimit the treat-
terestsof others. ment that one of God's creaturesowes to
It is not evident and, I suspect, not the others (Dunn 1969). Later liberals-not
case at all that early liberal males were the least being John Rawls-have mir-
liberalbecauseof some inarticulatedper- rored Locke in this distinction, though
ception of a coherence between a male without its theologicalbacking,by distin-
standpoint,an atomisticself, and a liberal guishing natural duties from the obliga-
theory of obligation. Rather,liberalism's tions undertakenby membersof a politi-
appeal derivedin large measurefrom the cal community (Rawls 1971, 114-17).5
capacityof the theoryto justifythe politi- Clearly, there are wide variations in the
cal acceptance of a wide range of rela- conceptions of either natural duties or
tively autonomous religious and other obligationsamong liberal thinkers.None
communities. Early liberals, as well as I can think of, however, holds as extreme
their successors,recognize that the most a view of social relationsas Hirschmann
connectedpolitical communitiescan also attributesto liberalismgenerally.
be the most oppressiveand that justifica- A last word needs to be said regarding
tion of politicalpower requiresa disinter- Hirschmann's conception of rights.
ested, if not necessarilyneutral, vantage Rights, she tells us, serve to divide indi-
point.4 viduals by drawing boundariesbetween
Moreover, Lockean liberalism is a "variousindividuals'needs, desires, and

Feminismand LiberalTheory

wants" (p. 1238). I would suggest that Essentialism

rights do not divide but recognizean un-
deniable division that exists among per- We may most easily dispense with
sons. Rights-basedtheoriesrecognizethat Sinopoli'scharge that the notion of self-
we are distinctpersonswith needs, wants, identity and genderthat I adopt is "inevi-
and desiresand that thereare limits to the table" and "deeply biological." Sinopoli
sacrificesof any of these that a commu- does not indicate where he gets this im-
nity can ask, whether to advance some pression,offeringno textualsupportfrom
commongoal or to benefitsome personor my article; but it is a fundamentalas-
persons more deservingby some perfec- sumption that guides his essay.6 In fact,
tionist criteria. his claim is overtly contradictedby my
Womenand men can reasonablydebate text. I attributea largepartof the problem
what kind of boundaries are necessary of the male model of identity to the fact
and justified,given what we know about that "gender is culturally an exclusive
human experienceand given contrasting category" (p. 1230, emphasis added). I
conceptions of liberty, community, and identify "individual development as in
public good. What we cannot do is wish part the product of created institutions,
away the problem liberal theory has namely, the social relations of childrear-
always attemptedto address-how to dis- ing" (pp. 1231-32). Object relations
agree agreeably in pluralistic communi- theory provides "not . . . an essentialist
ties-in the name of a vague notion of statement about how men and women
connectedness.If Hirschmannhas other think"but rather"a theory of power"(p.
political principlesto defend, she should 1231). Sinopoli's confusion may stem
defendthem. And this requiresmore than from the fact that this observation is
claimingthat her standpointissues in and followed by an account of women'srela-
from superiorclaims to truth. It certainly tive powerlessnessvia-A-vismen and why
requiresmore than attributinga dubious it may be that women'spowerlessnessin
patrimonyto the principlesshe rejects. particularis manifestedin a voice of care
and connection. I attributethis voice not
only to powerlessness per se, but to
Universityof California,Davis women's responsesto that powerlessness
in theirvery humanattemptsto strivefor
meaning and integrity in the "activities
. .. to which they have been assigned
child care, nurturance, affection" (p.
1231). This recognition of the historical
The apparentbewildermentabout my constructionof the gendereddimensions
"Freedom,Recognition and Obligation" of care contradictsan essentialistaccount
(1989a) that Sinopoli's remarks convey of what women are inevitablylike.
can be tracedto threefundamentalerrors If I took a biological view of gender,
he makes in his readingof my work. He what could be the purpose of using the
claimsthat I adopt an essentialistview of highly materialiststandpointapproachto
gender. He dichotomizesmy conceptual read object relations theory? Standpoint
categoriesand oversimplifiesmy reading epistemologyis basedon experience;if ex-
of liberal obligation theory by utilizing periences change, so will the resulting
the very structuralbias that I critique. standpoint. It is true that some feminist
Finally,he disregardsthe point that struc- theorists have developed what could be
turalgenderbias is structuralbecauseit is called a feministstandpointbased on bio-
epistemological. logical experience (e.g., O'Brien 1981);

AmericanPolitical ScienceReview Vol. 85

but particularlywhen viewed in the con- complexways in which our categoriesof

text of objectrelationstheory, even these analysis are socially constructed.It helps
need to be understoodas culturallymedi- reveal the social and historicalforcesthat
ated (if not constructed)by patriarchy. go into political theory and into the self-
Sinopoli'schargewould make nonsensical understandingand epistemology of the
the entire point of calling a standpoint people who createit.
"feminist,"ratherthan "female"or "femi- The point, then, is not to provide a
nine"; men can achieve feminist stand- simplisticcausalaccountof liberaltheory
points (p. 1230; see also Hartsock1984). but ratherto understandhow the voice of
But of course,in orderfor this to happen, care is a voice of powerlessnessand to
men would have to attendto women'sex- look at some of its specificallygendered
perienceandtheorizefromthatexperience. dimensions.The rathercartoonlikeimage
Indeed, these argumentscould be seen of "cause"that informs Sinopoli's com-
as "deeplybiological"only if one viewed plaints distorts the goals of theoretical
mother-only childrearingitself as inevi- enterpriseand prevents interestingques-
table. Perhaps Sinopoli believes that tions from being asked;more ominously,
women are "natural"childrearersand it obliteratesentireclassesof people from
should be restrictedto this activity; but I askingthemand frombringingin theirex-
clearlydo not sharethis view. And at this periencesto effectchangein the questions
point in the late twentieth century, such we deem central to philosophy. A femi-
beliefs need to be argued and defended nist standpointapproachallows women's
ratherthan merely assertedor assumed. experiencesto be broughtto bear on our
Perhapsit is this assumptionthatblinds understandingof political theory and can
Sinopoli to my use of terms such as the help us see how liberalobligationtheory
boy or the girl as "abstractionsthat ideal- is premisedon women'sexclusion.
ize and representrelationshipsof power" The reductive tendencies of his criti-
as I expressedit (p. 1231); he thus ob- cisms perhapsexplain Sinopoli'smistake
scuresthe significanceof my use of object in treating psychoanalytic theory and
relationstheory. Thismay accountfor his moral psychology-which, particularly
erroneousconclusion that I am attempt- as I use them, are interpretivetheories
ing to establisha reductivecausal expla- (see Chodorow 1989, chap. 9, esp.
nation for patriarchy,blaming men, or p. 179, and Gilligan 1982, esp. 2)-as
engaging in theoretical "male-bashing." empirical "sciences."He thus reads into
Feminist standpoint theory does not my work an empirical framework that
maintain that men are the problem and does not exist and then criticizesme for
women are the solutionbut ratherthat the not succeedingat the tasks requiredby
problem is patriarchy and that we all such a framework. For instance, in
shareit. Phraseslike malepsychicdepen- response to my discussion of reactive
dence do not necessarilyrefer to the par- autonomy, Sinopoli says, "It is hard to
ticularpathologiesof individualtheorists imagine what 'absolute freedom' could
but ratherto a much more generalepiste- mean to an infant or how he might effect
mologicaland ontologicalenvironment his wishes." On the most basic level, the
a "socialpathology"if you will-consti- whole point of reactiveautonomy is that
tutedby the cultural,social, political,sex- it is formedas the male child leavesinfan-
ual, economic, and interpersonalstruc- cy behind; it is with the developmentof
tures of the modem liberal era (see also motor skills that the definitionof self as
Flax1983). Methodologically,then, read- not-motheris made possible. Freedomin
ing object relationsin light of standpoint this context is thus defined by the prob-
epistemologyhelps us work through the lematic conceptionof the emergingadult

Feminismand LiberalTheory

male self as not-motherand not-female. tract theory is one such culturalembodi-

Thisreactiveidentityin turnsets the stage ment of the reactionagainst the mother.
for receptivity to later socializationpat- Sinopolibasicallydismissesthe entirehis-
terns that encode this false freedom, tory of psychoanalytictheory,whichpro-
which boys can "effect" quite readily vides many detailed and highly complex
throughgenderdivisions in schools, play answers to his question. Certainly, the
patterns,social roles, and even language. wish to challenge,and even ultimatelyre-
These social patternsboth assist and fur- ject, psychoanalytictheory is legitimate;
ther encouragehim to see himself as de- but if Sinopoliwishes to do this, he needs
fined in opposition to the mother. So to accomplishit by strongermeans.
these differencesare neither natural nor
simpleproductsof socializationbut rather
attest to the deep effects of socially con- Sinopoli's StructuralGenderBias
structed childrearingrelations on basic
self-conceptions. Sinopoli'sapparentconfusion in twist-
Because of Sinopoli's reductive treat- ing so many aspectsof my argumentmay
ment of these issues, he indefensibly be attributableto the fact that he takes
denies that psychology and socialization almost everything out of context: he
develop in synergistic fashion. In the doesn'tunderstandmy use of genderpsy-
(highly unlikely) event that mother-only chology becausehe readsit out of the con-
childrearingwere the only patriarchalin- text of standpoint epistemology; he
stitutionthat existed in an otherwisesex- doesn'tunderstandmy criticismsof liber-
ually egalitariansociety, it is very likely alism because he reads them out of the
that boys and girls could learn to view context of consent theory; he doesn't
themselvesas more (though not totally) understandthe idea of connectionbecause
equal, just as shared parenting in an he reads it out of the context of political
otherwise sexist world will have limited obligation and feminism. Yet he adopts
success in the face of social messagesto his own, unrecognized context in the
childrenthat contradicttheir initial self- process: a context of structuralgender
conceptions. This does not mean that bias.
sharedparentingwill not make important This bias is revealed in his claim that
inroads against gender inequality; nor connectionhas played an importantrole
does it reducethe significanceof mother- in ancient theory. As Young has pointed
only childrearing.If humans are socially out, the idea of "unity" that ancient
constructed,it would be silly to assume Greece required as a precondition for
that the constructionstops at age three; political stabilityreliedon the "expulsion
but it would be even sillierto assumethat of persons from the civic public in order
it does not start until that age. to maintainits unity" (Young 1987, 63).
On a deeper level, Sinopoli's puzzle- So women, metics, and slaves were all'ex-
ment overlooksa very basic point of psy- cluded from political participationin the
choanalytictheory, namely, that much of name of order and stability. Other theo
this goes on at the unconsciouslevel. In- rists (Elshtain1981; Hartsock1984; Okin
deed, as I arguein "Freedom,Recognition 1979) have similarlyargued that the so-
and Obligation,"this is why I find psy- called communityin these theoriescomes
choanalytictheory to provide such value at women's expense; it can be called
as a symbolic language;the unconscious community only from a patriarchal
gainsits most importantexpressionat the perspectives
culturallevel, in the symbols and struc- The identification of connection in
tures that a culture adopts. Social con- Locke is similarly problematic. Aside

American Political Science Review Vol. 85

from the fact that I acknowledge the throughoutmodem historyis throughthe

potential in Locke for a more social public-private dichotomy. Consent
theory (p. 1233), I revealthis to be a con- theory requires,for successfulimplemen-
flicted and contradictoryfilm covering a tation, a specificframework(i.e., a public
radical individualism.(And contra Sino- realm totally separate from the private)
poli, Locke describesparentingrelation- within which all actions are conformable
ships as contractualfor fathers, as chil- to the model of consent. All things that
drenprovide"atacit and scarceavoidable cannot fit this framework,that is to say,
consent to make way for the Father's nonconsensualobligations,are consigned
Authority and Government" [Second to the private realm. Since that is defined
Treatisep. 360, emphasis original]; that as the realm of the inessential, consent
he does not describechildren'srelationto theoristsdo not have to worry about, or
mothers as contractual is precisely my even include, such activitiesor considera-
point.) WhileLockewishes to situateindi- tions when thinking about and defining
viduals within a social context, namely, obligation.
civil society, individuals are social only Consent theory's conceptual inability
becauseof a patriarchalGod: community to allow nonconsensualobligationsis thus
consistsin relationsimposedon men (and really a fear and refusalto do so; for the
women) by the laws of God the Father. only way it can effectivelydeny suchobli-
Not only does this notion of community gations is to segregatethem in the private
fit object relation's interpretive frame- sphere, assign them to a particulargroup
work of male development,8but it also of people (i.e., women, workers, slaves)
provides a convenient justification for and then shut those people off from the
women's subservienceto men and their light of publicday, denyingthempolitical
exclusionfrom politics. While Lockewas voice and hence silencingthem and their
clearlyambivalentaboutwomen, tornbe- experiencesaltogether.WhileI fully agree
tween a desire to recognizethem as "free that the rejection of patriarchy Locke
and equal" and the Bible's decree that seeks to achieveis an importanthistorical
their lot was subservience, the depen- move, it is disingenuous to ignore that
dence of community on God makes this rejection of patriarchy is in turn
severely problematic any claim that premisedon patriarchy,on the subjection
Locke'stheory embracesconnection. For of women to men (see also Pateman
these connectionsare not only contrived 1988).
but sexually oppressive. Without recognizing the role of God
This is carried even further when we and the public-private dichotomy in
rememberthat my focus is political obli- transforming,ratherthan rejecting,patri-
gation. For these connections are, of archy, it appearsthat Lockegives impor-
course, private. It is Locke'sdetermina- tance to communityand connection;but
tion to establish consent at the heart of (to paraphrase MacIntyre 1988) whose
society-and particularlyof politicalobli- community?which connection?The his-
gation-in spite of his patriarchalconnec- tory of thought is full of theorists who
tion that leads to the public-privatesplit. claim to give priority to community,and
This split ensures a political community some of these are more egalitarianand
of men at the expense of the political woman-inclusivethan others.9But to the
power of women and creates a private degreethat theoriesand communitiesare
community in the patriarchal nuclear themselves premised on exclusion, they
family at the expenseof the social power can only sustain the definition of com-
of women. Indeed,the only way that con- munity from the perspective of the op-
sent theory has been able to operate pressor.

Feminismand LiberalTheory

A feminist notion of connection seeks sees the world in termsof separation,one

to be more inclusiveand democratic.It is does not have to figure out ways to dis-
not "vague" at all-nor is a feminist empower those who view the world in
standpoint "intuitive"-unless one ig- termsof connection;one justplows ahead
nores women's historical experience or with one'svision of realityand constructs
refusesto listen to the voices of powerless- political conceptsfrom there, as Sinopoli
ness. As I arguein "Freedom,Recognition illustrates.
and Obligation," it requires mutuality, Indeed, Sinopoli proves, rather than
recognition,reciprocity,attentionto con- challenges my central point: he is so
text and substance,and prioritygiven to enmeshed in the assumptions of liberal
relationshipand connection, all of which theory that he cannot lodge any sort of
involve a democraticcommunitysuch as I criticismoutside of that framework,and
describeelsewhere.10That project is ad- dismissesout of hand any views that do
mittedly well beyond the scope of this not share those assumptions. He thus
response, but Sinopoli's objection again faults me for not adoptingthe very cate-
misses the point of my original article, gories of analysis I contest. For example,
which was not to detail a fully blown Sinopoli claims that I confuseliberalism's
feministpolitical society but to highlight motivational appeal with its theoretical
women'ssystematicexclusionfrom politi- justification. The point is precisely that
cal obligationtheory, to identify that ex- these two are intimately linked. In his
clusion as a function of structuralgender closing sentences,he rejectsmy criticism
bias, to ask why this bias exists, and to ex- of rights on the grounds that "rightsdo
plore how it can be addressed. not divide, but recognizean undeniable
division that exists among, persons.
Rights-basedtheories recognize that we
The Epistemological Nature are distinct persons with needs, wants,
of Gender Bias and desires"(emphasismine). HereSinop-
oli quiteobviously combinesthe two very
Sinopoli is forced into these misread- entities he claims he can keep separate.
ings, I believe, becausehe entirelymisses Simultaneously,he displayshow his epis-
my most important argument, namely, temological bias causes him to miss the
that structuralgenderbias is epistemolog- point of my argument,which is precisely
ical in character.I make a much more in- to challenge such universalisticviews as
volved argumentthan the assertion that claims by the powerful to subvert the
because men have written political excluded.The acceptanceof humansepa-
theory, it ignores women.11 Rather, I ratenessas a naturalfact that rights dis-
build an account of women's exclusion course does not createbut merely recog-
that goes beyond individual intent to nizes fits the male model of psychological
understand how those individuals are development as well as any examples I
socially constructedand hence operatein provided in my originalarticle.
a world of meaningthat allows only cer- But again, thesepoints areepistemolog-
tain ideas and views to emerge. It is im- ical. The observation that rights further
portantto recognizethat my articletreats divide individuals from one another-
feminismnot just as a political position that they are defined in opposition to
but as a methodthat mainstreampolitical community-does not mean that the idea
theory needs to utilize. In failing to grasp of rightas historicallyconstructedis com-
this, Sinopoli makes structural gender pletely useless or that feminists should
bias sound much more conscious-even chuck it out. Rather,the point is to high-
conspiratorial-than I argue it is. If one light how we do defineit, that this is a cul-

American Political Science Review Vol. 85

turally constructed definition, and that and variety of women's epistemological

we can preservesome of the qualitiesin- and political oppression within patriar-
herentin this definitionof right-such as chy. Feminism, as I use the term, is
individual desire and choice-without not a universalideology. Rather,it is con-
embracingall of it. Thereare many ways stituted by historicallysituatedpositions
to conceptualizechoice, as a standpoint and perspectivesthat are influenced by
approachsuggests. Why has it been de- temporal, material dynamics. These
fined in thisway, and only this way-that dynamics in turn shape individuals'
is to say, as a function of universal, assessmentsand understandingsof their
natural rights-with other sorts of in- positions. Presumably-indeed, hope-
sights obliteratedfrom public institutions fully-feminist standpointswill changeas
and discoursessuch as politicaltheory A society becomes less patriarchal.For we
feminist standpoint approach suggests cannot forget that in the late twentieth
that we can relocate choice in its social century, any feminist standpointis itself
context to develop a new concept: one partiallyinformedby patriarchy;we can-
that is neitheropposed to communitynor not achieve a "pure"feminist society or
wholly subsumedin it but works from an theory directly from patriarchybecause
understandingof self in relationship,from women have been partly constructedby
defining our individualityin the context patriarchy.The standpointof careshould
of communities.What this requiresis a thereforebe seen as a less partialand per-
critical understandingof how we have verseepistemologicalframeworkthat will
conceptualizedright; how this concept lead, through its critical, theoretical
containsa genderbias; and how, in order development,to even less partialand per-
to addressthe humanimbalancethat this verse feministstandpointsin the future.
genderbias reveals, we need to decenter Thus, feministstandpointmethodology
rights and bring in a notion of responsi- is not comprehensiblein the simplistic
bility. manner that Sinopoli suggests. In con-
It also requiresa nondualisticapproach trast, my pluralizationof the term femi-
to political theory. Sinopoli is obviously nist standpoints (p. 1230) encouragesus
confusedabout standpointepistemology; to recognizenot only the complexitybut
he doesn'tknow whetherhe is "meantto also the variety in women's experiences
be persuaded"by it-which he connects and that this variety is itself empowering:
to its being "true"-or whether it simply there can be many feminist standpoints.
advocatesindiscriminatelyallowingmore The fact that these standpointsare femi-
voices in, which he deemsrelativist.Here nist and derivefrom the historicalexperi-
again, we have a clear illustration of ences of women, limits abstract relativ-
masculinist epistemology, for he draws ism; but this does not mean thereis some
this distinctionin a dualist,all-or-nothing universal conception of feminism any
fashion. Becauseit must be eithertrue or more than it means there is no way to
relative,a feministstandpointappearsin- determine greater and lesser degrees of
comprehensible. genderbias.
But the methodological strength of a It is clearlymy hope that theoristslike
standpointapproachis preciselyits ability Sinopoli will be persuadedby a stand-
to eschew both the false certaintyof uni- point argument;but his responseprovides
versal truth and the moral vacuity of a perfectexampleof preciselywhy it is so
atomistic relativism. Sinopoli's implicit importantto theorizefromfeministstand-
demand that there must be one single points. According to standpoint episte-
feminist standpoint before he will be mology, the view of reality affordedby
persuadedignoresthe complexity,depth, the more oppressedperson is less partial

Feminismand LiberalTheory

and perverse than the view of the more thoughit may appearto threatenand dis-
privileged person precisely because the empower them. For in reality, it em-
natureof privilegeis to obscurethe ways powers us all.
it exists at others' expense. So while the NANCY J. HIRSCHMANN
standpointof the oppressedis epistemo-
logically superior, it is politically disad- Cornell University
vantaged.Thus, thoughstandpointepiste-
mology seeks to persuade,feminist theo-
ristsmust also recognizethe politicalreal-
ity of political theory:we may fail to per- Notes
suade precisely because of structural SinopolithanksEmilyGoldman,LarryPeterman,
genderbias. In this, then, it may have to JosephSinopoli, and especiallyMary Jackmanfor
be enough, at least for now, simply to helpful comments and suggestions. Hirschmann
force the discourseof political theory to thanks ChristineDiStefano, Nancy Hartsock,and
JulieMostov for commentingon an earlierdraft of
allow our voices in. For this provides an her response.
enteringwedge for feministsto highlight 1. As Hirschmannnotes, one of her primepieces
our epistemologicalexclusionand to pur- of empiricalevidencefor a genderdifference,Carol
sue our claimsfor inclusionso thatwe can Gilligan'sIn a DifferentVoice (1982), has sparked
have more persuasivepower. By ignoring ever, much debate in the psychologicalliterature.How-
she gives little senseof justhow contestedthis
this politicalreality-by settingup a dual- question is (Baumrind1986; Walker1984, 1986).
istic typology and acceptingsuch dualism Walker surveys and reanalyzesdata in some 50
as the given for his intellectualreason- studies of moral reasoning.His conclusion, chal-
ing-Sinopoli predetermineshis refusalto lenged by Baumrind,is that these studies fail to
displaysignificantsex differencesin moralreasoning
be persuaded:he seeksto makesuchfemi- when suitablecontrolsfor educationand occupation
nist critiques systematically impossible are introduced.Gilligan'swork has been criticized
from the start. sharply on methodologicalgrounds not only for
Yet such a position is self-defeating. omittingsuchcontrolsbut for failingto provideher
Men have insights to contributeto femi- criteria for coding interviewresponsesas indicative
of a "justice"orientation,or "caring"orientation
nism. But the definition of such stand- (Greenoand Maccoby 1986; Luria1986). Hirsch-
points within the parametersof feminism mann cites as empirical evidence only Gilligan's
requiresthat such experiencesbe articu- work and that of her two formergraduatestudents
lated from the perspective of women's at the HarvardGraduateSchoolof Education(John-
ston 1985; Lyons 1983). Given that an audienceof
lives. For instance, Sinopoli's assertions political scientistscannotbe expectedto be familiar
about rights would have to make sense with this literature,it is incumbenton Hirschmann
from the perspectives of women and to indicatethe considerableextent to which she is
otherswho have been excludedfrom, and buildinga theoreticaledificeon a very shakyempiri-
hurtby, the liberaldiscourseof rightsand cal foundation.Sheis, at best, overlyselectivein her
citationof evidence.
not just from the privileged white male 2. Even if such evidence were provided, this
perspectivethat createdrights discourse. would not establish Hirschmann'spsychoanalytic
In this, his defense of liberalismclearly explanation,particularlyas muchof the researchon
fails. Yet the task of theorizing from gender differencehas dealt with adolescents(i.e.,
old enoughto makelearningexplanationsat
others'perspectivesshould not fall exclu- people
least plausible). Indeed, the verificationproblems
sively to feminists, who more obviously for the psychoanalyticexplanationof genderdiffer-
have something to gain from such a ences are formidable,given that this theory attri-
mutualisticstrategy;12 rather,those in tra- butesa greatmanyperceptionsto preverbalinfants.
ditionally privilegedpositions must also at Hirschmannplacesthe developmentof a senseof self
six monthsof age.
take responsibility for such theorizing, 3. In fact, the work of Nancy Chodorow,which
criticallyexaminingtheirown beliefs and providesmuch of the psychologicalframeworkfor
assumptions. They must do this even Hirschmann's piece, is sensitiveto historicalandcul-

American Political Science Review Vol. 85

tural differences in practices of childrearing. 10. See Hirschmannn.d., chap. 6. Seealso Barber
Chodorow warns against the very sort of universali- 1984, Habermas1979, and Mansbridge1983, for
zation and polarization of gender experience that similararguments.
Hirschmann embraces (Chodorow 1989, 100). 11. Severaltheoristshave highlightedhow female
4. This is not to say that Lockean liberal tolerance political theorists (such as Arendt, Astell, Follet,
was universal: it did not include Catholics or Wollstoncraft)have long given muchgreaterpriori-
atheists, for instance. On the controversial issue of ty to these issues than have theirmale counterparts
neutrality in liberal theory, see Goodin and Reeve (see Hartsock 1984; Mansbridge1990; Pateman
1989. 1988);but this is not the kind of argumentI engage
5. Hirschmann truncates Rawls's account of in here.
natural duties by focusing only on the duty of 12. Nor to peopleof color, lesbians,homosexuals,
justice, which does reside in some limited sense on or otheroppressedgroups.Whitefeminists,as well,
consent. The same could not be said of Rawls's ac- need to theorizefrom the experiencesof women of
count of such general duties as mutual aid or the color and to attendto the voices of women of color
duty not to harm others. more actively and diligently.See Hirschmannn.d.,
6. Even more inexplicably, he says that I ignore chap. 7.
Chodorow, who "warns against the very sort of uni-
versalization and polarization of gender experience"
that I "embrace." Sinopoli exactly reverses the case.
I completely agree that Chodorow is antiuniversalist References
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