Feminist standpoint theory, Hegel and the dialectical self: Shifting the foundations

Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (4):477-502 (2004)
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Abstract

The claim that theoretical foundations are historically contingent does not draw the same intensity of fire as it did one or especially two decades ago. The aftermath of debates on the political boundaries created by foundations allows for a deeper exploration of the foundations of feminist theory. This article re-examines the (anti)-Hegelian foundations of the feminist standpoint put forward by Nancy Hartsock and argues that the Hegelian subject of the early Phenomenology of Spirit resists gender codification in its experience of ongoing rediscovery and fallibility in knowing. The subject against which the feminist self was constituted does not fit the masculinity thought to be natural. Hegel’s master-slave dialectic and phenomenological subject reveal contradictions that cannot be resolved by an opposing feminist standpoint, and may provide resources that resist the rigid gender categories upon which the standpoint depends. Key Words: abstract masculinity • feminist standpoint • feminist theory • foundations • Nancy Hartsock • Hegel • master-slave dialectic • subjectivity.

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