U.S. Intellectual History Blog

More on Feminism and Capitalism

After reading Andrew Hartman’s piece on the work of Nancy Fraser about second-wave feminism and capitalism, I happened to read Walter Lippmann’s, Drift and Mastery. Apropos Fraser’s argument but nearly one hundred years earlier, Lippmann said this:

“Women to-day are embarked upon a career for which their tradition is no guide. The first result, of course, is a vast amount of trouble. The emancipated woman has to fight something worse than the crusted prejudices of her uncles; she has to fight the bewilderment of her own soul.” [218]

“The first impulse of emancipation seems to be in the main that woman should model her career on man’s. . . . Yet at the very time when enlightened people are crying out against the horrors of capitalism, you will find many feminists urging women to enter capitalism as a solution of their problems. Of course millions have been drawn in against their will, but there is still a number who go in voluntarily, because they feel that their self-respect demands it. They go in response to the desire for economic independence. And they find almost no real independence in the industrial world. What has happened, it seems to me, is this: the women who argue for the necessity of making one’s living are almost without exception upper class women, either because they have special talents or because they have special opportunities.” [221-222].

“And the theorists of feminism have yet to make up their minds whether they can seriously urge women to go into industry as it is to-day or is likely to be in the future. I, for one, should say that the presence of women in the labor market is an evil to be combatted by every means at our command. The army of women in industry to-day is not a blessing but the curse of a badly organized society.” [223].

Thoughts? -DS

2 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Thanks for pointing out these Lippman passages, David. I think you’re correct that he seems to be making the same argument made by Fraser a century later–Fraser with the benefit of decades of evidence of women in the workforce. I think the type of capitalism Lippman was referring to is not far removed from neoliberalism.

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