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The Subject of Liberty : Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom - Nancy J. Hirschmann

The Subject of Liberty

Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom

Paperback Published: 23rd September 2002
ISBN: 9780691096254
Number Of Pages: 312

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This book reconsiders the dominant Western understandings of freedom through the lens of women's real-life experiences of domestic violence, welfare, and Islamic veiling. Nancy Hirschmann argues that the typical approach to freedom found in political philosophy severely reduces the concept's complexity, which is more fully revealed by taking such practical issues into account.

Hirschmann begins by arguing that the dominant Western understanding of freedom does not provide a conceptual vocabulary for accurately characterizing women's experiences. Often, free choice is assumed when women are in fact coerced--as when a battered woman who stays with her abuser out of fear or economic necessity is said to make this choice because it must not be so bad--and coercion is assumed when free choices are made--such as when Westerners assume that all veiled women are oppressed, even though many Islamic women view veiling as an important symbol of cultural identity.

Understanding the contexts in which choices arise and are made is central to understanding that freedom is socially constructed through systems of power such as patriarchy, capitalism, and race privilege. Social norms, practices, and language set the conditions within which choices are made, determine what options are available, and shape our individual subjectivity, desires, and self-understandings. Attending to the ways in which contexts construct us as "subjects" of liberty, Hirschmann argues, provides a firmer empirical and theoretical footing for understanding what freedom means and entails politically, intellectually, and socially.

Winner of the 2004 Victoria Schuck Award "[An] extremely well argued piece of work... [V]ery important, not just to feminist theory but to an understanding of the theory and practice of freedom in general."--Marion Smiley, Perspectives on Politics "Freedom theorists, whether feminist or not, should study this importan book... With its practical applications, this is feminist theory at its best."--Choice "This is an impressively rich work, full of careful, closely argued encounters with philosophers and feminists from a variety of 'schools,' and well worth reading from a number of perspectives... [T]his book presents an articulate and well-informed, synoptic view of the broad problem of freedom, autonomy, and choice, and moves us firmly in the right direction."--Robert Switzer, H-Net Reviews "Nancy Hirschmann has written an impressive and important book. It constitutes a significant contribution to feminist theory, political philosophy, and discussions of social construction... [T]his is a powerful book."--Hypatia

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
A MasculinistTheory of Freedom?p. 3
Freedom as Political, Not Philosophicalp. 14
Feminism and Freedomp. 23
Defining Feminismp. 30
Why Not Autonomy?p. 35
The Social Construction of Freedom in Historical Perspectivep. 40
Locke: An Educated Freedomp. 41
Rousseau: A "Well-Regulated "Freedomp. 48
Kant: An Intelligible Freedomp. 55
Mill: A Utilitarian Freedomp. 62
Conclusion: A Masculinist Freedomp. 70
Feminism and Freedom: The Social Construction Paradoxp. 75
Social Construction and Political Theoryp. 77
Discourse and Realityp. 85
The Social Construction of Freedomp. 93
The Paradox of Social Constructionp. 98
Internal and External Restraint: The Case of Battered Womenp. 103
Battering in Contextp. 108
The Thin (Black and)Blue Line: Institutional Contextsp. 113
Constructing Violencep. 121
Reconstructing Freedomp. 131
Welfare as a Problem for Freedom Theoryp. 138
Women's Freedom and Discourses of Welfarep. 140
Freedom Theory and Conservative Discoursep. 146
The Social Construction of Welfare Subjectsp. 154
Freedom, Care, and Welfare Rightsp. 158
Eastern Veiling, Western Freedom?p. 170
"The Veil" as Discursive and Social Symbolizationp. 175
Autonomy and Freedom in Contexts of Communityp. 185
Feminism and Freedom: Cross-Cultural Possibilitiesp. 192
Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedomp. 199
Changing Contexts: The Contribution of Foucaultp. 206
The Politics of Freedomp. 217
Changing Contexts: The Role of Equalityp. 222
Constructing Feminist Freedomp. 233
Notesp. 239
Name Indexp. 279
Subject Indexp. 285
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691096254
ISBN-10: 0691096252
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 312
Published: 23rd September 2002
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.88  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.45