‘Indisputably required reading ... Lively, sophisticated, and challenging discussions at the crucial intersection of feminist, psychoanalytic, and political ideas. Jane Flax allows her own multiple and conflicting identities into open dialogue, and the result is a promontory on the postmodern landscape.’ – Kenneth J. Gergen
‘Jane Flax is one of the most challenging women writing today ... It is the well-informed voice of sanity, balance and courage.’ – Phyllis Grosskurth
‘Jane Flax’s bold new book challenges orthodoxies in feminism, psychoanalysis, and postmodernism. By questioning the questions that have been taken to define these fields, she demonstrates once again the originality of her thinking.’ – Alison M. Jaggar
In tracing how lesbian feminism came to be defined in uneasy relationships with the Women’s Movement and gay rights groups, Shane Phelan explores the tension between liberal ideals of individual rights and tolerance and communitarian ideals of solidarity. The debate over lesbian sado-masochism—an expression of individual choice or pornographic, anti-feminist behavior?—is considered as a test case.
Phelan addresses the problems faced by "the woman-identified woman" in a liberal society that presumes heterosexuality as the biological, psychological, and moral standard. Often silenced by laws defining their sexual behavior as criminal and censured by a medical establishment that persists in defining homosexuality as perversion, lesbians, like blacks and other groups, have fought to have the same rights as others in their communities and even in their own homes. Lesbian feminists have also sought to define themselves as a community that would be distinctly different, a community that would disavow the traditional American obsession with individual advancement in the world as it is.
In this controversial study of political philosophy and the women’s movement, Phelan argues that "the failure to date to produce a satisfying theory and program for lesbian action is reflective of the failure of modern political thinking to produce a compelling, nonsuspect alternative to liberalism."
In the series Women in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg.
Wittgenstein and feminist theorists are alike, however, in being unwilling or unable to "make sense" in the terms of the traditions from which they come, needing to rely on other means—including telling stories about everyday life—to change our ideas of what sense is and of what it is to make it. For both, appeal to grounding is problematic, but the presumed groundedness of particular judgments remains an unavoidable feature of discourse and, as such, in need of understanding. For feminist theory, Wittgenstein suggests responses to the immobilizing tugs between modernist modes of theorizing and postmodern challenges to them. For Wittgenstein, feminist theory suggests responses to those who would turn him into the "normal" philosopher he dreaded becoming, one who offers perhaps unorthodox solutions to recognizable philosophical problems.
In addition to an introductory essay by Naomi Scheman, the volume’s twenty chapters are grouped in sections titled "The Subject of Philosophy and the Philosophical Subject," "Wittgensteinian Feminist Philosophy: Contrasting Visions," "Drawing Boundaries: Categories and Kinds," "Being Human: Agents and Subjects," and "Feminism’s Allies: New Players, New Games." These essays give us ways of understanding Wittgenstein and feminist theory that make the alliance a mutually fruitful one, even as they bring to their readings of Wittgenstein an explicitly historical and political perspective that is, at best, implicit in his work. The recent salutary turn in (analytic) philosophy toward taking history seriously has shown how the apparently timeless problems of supposedly generic subjects arose out of historically specific circumstances. These essays shed light on the task of feminist theorists—along with postcolonial, queer, and critical race theorists—to (in Wittgenstein’s words) "rotate the axis of our examination" around whatever "real need[s]" might emerge through the struggles of modernity’s Others.
Contributors (besides the editors) are Nancy E. Baker, Nalini Bhushan, Jane Braaten, Judith Bradford, Sandra W. Churchill, Daniel Cohen, Tim Craker, Alice Crary, Susan Hekman, Cressida J. Heyes, Sarah Lucia Hoagland, Christine M. Koggel, Bruce Krajewski, Wendy Lynne Lee, Hilda Lindemann Nelson, Deborah Orr, Rupert Read, Phyllis Rooney, and Janet Farrell Smith.