ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reflections on Feminism and Marxism

The Woman Question

The entwined and conflicted histories of feminism and Marxism could yield new understandings of the problems besetting the women’s movement in 21st century India, particularly issues concerning sex work, and caste. Spanning the socialist feminists of early 19th century Europe, Marx’s own writings on the “woman question,” and the scholarship that emerges from the 1960s and 1970s, this paper suggests that recent post-Marxist work can offer a fruitful site for pushing the boundaries of feminist approaches to capitalist development in India today.

Mary E John ( is with the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi.

Concerns relating to Marxism and feminism are not marginal, or of interest only to those who identify themselves as Marxist or feminist, but are pertinent to some of the most challenging and vexed issues in social and political theory today. Both Marxism and feminism are theoretical–political movements and ways of thinking that have thrown up the largest questions of our times. Their complex relationship, and its extraordinary history, is a demonstration of this.Unfortunately, much of this history (which traversed the last two centuries across most parts of the world) has been lost to us, even to those who claim its legacy. The present moment has become quite inhospitable to productive debate on these issues, turning too many into defensive “believers” or hostile rejecters. I would like to think, however, that it is precisely during such moments of danger that exploring the entwined and conflicted histories of feminism and Marxism could yield something new.

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Updated On : 22nd Dec, 2017


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