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Contra Fraser on Feminism and Neoliberalism


  • Nanette Funk


This article is a critical examination of Nancy Fraser's contrast of early second-wave feminism and contemporary global feminism in “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History,” (Fraser 2009). Fraser contrasts emancipatory early second-wave feminism, strongly critical of capitalism, with feminism in the age of neoliberalism as being in a “dangerous liaison” with neoliberalism. I argue that Fraser's historical account of 1970s mainstream second-wave feminism is inaccurate, that it was not generally anti-capitalist, critical of the welfare system, or challenging the priority of paid labor. I claim Fraser mistakenly takes a minority feminist position as mainstream. I further argue that Fraser's account of feminism today echoes arguments from James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer (2001) to Hester Eisenstein (2009), but such arguments ignore contemporary feminist minority positions. I challenge Fraser's arguments that feminism legitimates neoliberalism to women, that women's NGOs are simply service-providers enabling the state to withdraw services, and that criticisms of microcredit lending programs can be generalized into criticisms of women's feminism and women's NGOs today. I argue that these claims are vast over-generalizations and ignore countertrends. I give empirical evidence to support my objections by considering women's activities in post-communist European countries, which Fraser discusses.