Sabina Lovibond replies: Perhaps I should have confined myself more strictly to the ‘specific bit of textual exploration’ which I announced at the beginning of my paper. I ventured further afield out of a sense of alarm at the growing tendency for postmodernist views of subjectivity to be deployed, not just against vanguardism on the left, but against any kind of conscious resistance to patriarchal or capitalist normality in everyday life. And I mentioned Elizabeth Wilson because her work on fashion has seemed to me to give comfort, over the last few years, to people with a vested interest in female consumerism. I did not go so far as to say that Elizabeth Wilson countenanced this application of her ideas, and it is good to be told explicitly that she does not.
Radical movements are nothing without their charge of anger against large-scale structures of oppression. But on the other hand, this diffuse kind of anger also creates an ever-present potential for moral terrorism or fundamentalism. Feminism shares in this tension; and I suppose Elizabeth Wilson and I find ourselves pulling opposite ways with respect to it. To me at any rate the righteousness of the 70s seems remote indeed: analysis and abstraction are surely the endangered species now, and it is the capacity to stand back from socially endorsed forms of pleasure that is at risk of being undervalued. Similarly, I didn’t think readers of nlr would still need me to tell them that they had better take postmodernism seriously.
I’d like to record that I find much to agree with in the theoretical argument of Adorned in Dreams (especially as regards the impossibility of a ‘style-free style’), and also in the essay on ‘Utopian Identities’ in Elizabeth Wilson’s more recent Hallucinations.
Finally I would like to take this opportunity of completing the reference in footnote 22 of my article to The Critique of Pure Reason: A648/B676.
Thanks are due to Macmillan (Educational) for permission to reprint Sabina Lovibond’s article ‘Feminism and Postmodernism’, which will appear later this year in Postmodernism and Society, edited by Roy Boyne and Ali Rattansi.