Feminism as Revolutionary Practice: From Justice and the Politics of Recognition to Freedom


  • Marieke Borren


In the 1980s extra-parliamentary social movements and critical theories of race, class, and gender added a new sociocultural understanding of justicerecognitionto the much older socioeconomic one. The best-known form of the struggle for recognition is the identity politics of disadvantaged groups. I argue that there is still another option to conceptualize their predicament, neglected in recent political philosophy, which understands exclusion not in terms of injustice, more particularly a lack of sociocultural recognition, but in terms of a lack of freedom. I draw my inspiration from Hannah Arendt's model of political action. Arendt diagnoses exclusion not solely as a mode of injustice, but as a lack of participation and public freedom. Consequently, she advocates a struggle for participation, political equality, and freedom as a strategy for emancipation or empowerment. Arendt could help feminists see that collective empowerment is made possible not by a shared identity (the target of poststructuralist critics) but by common action in the service of a particular worldly issue or common end. In other words, feminists would do well to appreciate the revolutionary quality and heritage of the feminist movement better, that is, its character as a set of practices of freedom.