Dangerous Liaisons – Review by Chris Byron – Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

Dangerous Liaisons – Review by Chris Byron – Marx & Philosophy Review of Books.

The first two chapters – which are roughly two thirds of the book – are primarily a history of revolutionary practice and organization. The third chapter deals primarily with the attempt to theorize where Marxism and socialism, can be married, or ought to be divorced, from women’s liberation. Arruzza discusses all the usual positions, Marxists who think we can talk about class without gender, feminists who think we can talk about gender as a class, and finally feminists who think we can talk about gender without class. This chapter is filled with summaries of highly regarded theorists like Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, and Lacan, to name but a few. And Arruzza in only a few pages is able to lay out the strengths and weaknesses of numerous philosophical dispositions.

It is not until chapter four that Arruzza talks about a much needed queer union of Marxism and feminism, and develops her own view as to how this merger should take place. Arruzza first details the past discussions of merger, as theorized by Nancy Fraser, Heidi Hartmann, and Iris Young. Hartmann set the groundwork for the debate when she accepted that ‘the concept of class alone is not sufficient…and must be integrated with the concepts of gender, race, nationality and religion’ and the hierarchy that puts women below men in the capitalist system, while ‘not the logic of capitalism’s internal functioning’, is still a system of patriarchal oppression that ‘is intertwined with capitalism’ (116). The framework of the debate is subsequently about the nature of this intertwinement, and the degree to which it is or is ‘not the logic of capitalism’s internal functioning’. And Nancy Fraser accepted Hartmann’s dual system approach towards analyzing systems of ‘distributive’ (i.e., more economic) and ‘recognitional’ forms of oppression. It’s only after a compact summary of all these different views, and historical development, covering over a hundred pages, that Arruzza uses the final five pages to explain her own view.

According to Arruzza the ‘reconstruction of some of these debates … has attempted to follow a logic and classifications not generally used in the feminist debate, seeking instead to attempt to circle around an unresolved political problem … namely, the historical, political and theoretical relationship between gender and class and the possibility of developing a theory that reconciles Marxism and feminism’ (124). And she believes that we need to develop ‘an outlook that can make sense of intersections and decipher the complex relationship between patriarchal holdovers that drift like homeless ghosts in the globalized capitalist world and patriarchal structures that, on the contrary have been integrated, used and transformed by capitalism [and] calls for a renewal of Marxism’ (128). As she concludes ‘the point is not whether class comes before gender or gender before class, the point is rather how gender and class intertwine in capitalist production and power relations to give rise to a complex reality, and it makes little sense and is not very useful to attempt to reduce these to a simple formula’ (128).


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