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New Left Review 56, March-April 2009


NANCY FRASER

FEMINISM, CAPITALISM AND THE CUNNING OF HISTORY

I would like here to take a broad look at second-wave feminism. Not at this or that activist current, nor this or that strand of feminist theorizing; not this or that geographical slice of the movement, nor this or that sociological stratum of women. I want, rather, to try to see second-wave feminism whole, as an epochal social phenomenon. Looking back at nearly forty years of feminist activism, I want to venture an assessment of the movement’s overall trajectory and historical significance. In looking back, however, I hope also to help us look forward. By reconstructing the path we have travelled, I hope to shed light on the challenges we face today—in a time of massive economic crisis, social uncertainty and political realignment. [1] This essay originated as a keynote lecture presented at the Cortona Colloquium on ‘Gender and Citizenship: New and Old Dilemmas, Between Equality and Difference’ in November 2008. For helpful comments, I thank the Cortona participants, especially Bianca Beccalli, Jane Mansbridge, Ruth Milkman and Eli Zaretsky, and the participants in an ehess seminar at the Groupe de sociologie politique et morale, especially Luc Boltanski, Estelle Ferrarese, Sandra Laugier, Patricia Paperman and Laurent Thévenot.

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