Feminism Impact On Liberalism Essay


Feminism and Liberalism The world of philosophy, political science, and social theory has come a long way since the times during which ancient Greek philosophers created theories according to which the best city state should be constructed and run. The beauty and joy of being human lies in the fact that humanity is constantly evolving. The same is true of social and philosophical ideas and theories. In the views of some, this is less than ideal, since new theories tend to supplant those before them even though the latter still have much to offer in terms of valid ways of living and being. On the other hand, another school of thought maintains that the new does not necessarily supplant the old. Instead, "new" theories like environmentalism and feminism can effectively join with "older" ideologies like socialism and liberalism. The result is then what can be referred to with the old adage "more than the sum of their parts," where each ideology adds elements of itself to form a whole that provides an ideology that is more suited to its environment than either of its component parts. For the purpose of discussing this phenomenon, the combination of feminism with liberalism will be considered in terms of effectiveness and validity. While there are many contending views, these ideologies seem well suited to combine with each other, since both concern the democratic freedom of individuals within a society under a limited government.

According to Princeton University (2013), the ideology known as "classical liberalism" has at its heart ideals such as the freedom of individuals. Developed during the 19th century in Western Europe and the Americas, freedoms valued within this theory include freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and free markets. Theories within this ideology were developed in response to social and economic phenomena of the time, such as the Industrial Revolution and urbanization, during which society was gradually moving from a collective to a more individual consciousness. Adam Smith's economic theory, along with the concepts of individual liberty, natural law, and utilitarianism form part of the tenets of liberalism in its earliest forms. During...


It has been claimed above that no ideology or theory remains static. Liberalism is no exception. According to Hartley and Watson (2010, p. 1), for example, political liberalism is somewhat more specific in political terms than classical liberalism. Although still based upon the basic principle of freedom for all citizens, political liberalism recognizes the challenges presented by a wide array of ideologies, beliefs systems and theories within a single society. Hence, political liberals accept the fact of pluralism within society, in which here exist "irreconcilable but reasonable" doctrines. The principles of justice as provided in the Constitution can therefore not be based within any particular doctrine, but rather on political values and reasons that are external to any particular doctrine. Such political values can then apply comprehensively to all within the society, regardless of the specific doctrine accepted by such individuals. Political liberals also accept the challenges that pluralism presents for a democratic state and those within it.
Further complicating the matter of marrying ideologies is the fact that each ideology has evolved into several directions and subdivisions. Hartley and Watson (2010, p. 2) compare political liberalism with comprehensive liberalism, as an example. Comprehensive liberalism uses moral, religious or other values on which to base principles of justice. These, however, are not limited to citizens' interests but do make claims regarding an acceptance of certain ways of being as "right" or "true."

In the light of the above, it is useful to consider some of the tenets of feminism to determine whether or not it could be, in any way, compatible with liberalism. Historically, the rise of feminism occurred in response to the tendency of males in misogynistic societies to highlight weakness and other less desirable traits as the main characteristics of women in general. The…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bennett, J.M. (1989, Autumn). Feminism and History. Gender and History, Vol. 1, No. 3. Retrieved from: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~judithb/femhist.pdf

Hartley, C. And Watson, L. (2010, Oct.). Is a Feminist Political Liberalism Possible? Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Vol. 5, No. 1 Retrieved from: http://www.jesp.org/PDF/FeministPoliticalLiberalism.pdf

Higgins, T.E. (2004). Gender, Why Feminists Can't (or Shouldn't) Be Liberals. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 72, No. 5. Retrieved from: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3966&context=flr

Princeton University (2013). Classical Liberalism. Retrieved from: http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Classical_liberalism.html

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