Reclaiming Feminist Futures: Co-opted and Progressive Politics in a Neo-liberal Age



This article engages with the influential narrative about the co-optation of feminism in conditions of neo-liberalism put forward by prominent feminist thinkers Nancy Fraser, Hester Eisenstein and Angela McRobbie. After drawing out the twin visions of ‘progressive’ feminist politics that undergird this narrative – couched in terms of either the retrieval of past socialist feminist glories or personal reinvention – we subject to critical scrutiny both their substantive claims and the conceptual scaffolding they invoke. We argue that the proleptic imaginings of all three authors, in different ways, are highly circumscribed in terms of the recommended agent, agenda and practices of progressive politics, and clouded by conceptual muddle over the meanings of ‘left’, ‘radical’ and ‘progressive’. Taken together, these problems render the conclusions of Fraser, Eisenstein and McRobbie at best unconvincing and at worst dismissive of contemporary feminist efforts to challenge neo-liberalism. We end the article by disentangling and redefining left, radical and progressive and by sketching a contrasting vision of progressive feminist politics enabled by this re-conceptualisation.