Feminist theory and critical theory



    1. University of Alberta
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    • *Work on this paper was facilitated by the financial support of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. I am grateful to Ray Morrow for his valuable guidance throughout the preparation of the paper, and to Graham Lowe for his detailed comments on an earlier draft. I also wish to thank the editors of this issue and two anonymous readers for their suggestions. This article was received in May, 1987 and accepted in August, 1987.


Je passe en revue, dans cet article, certains problèmes clés des théories socialistes-féministes de la reproduction de ľoppression des femmes; et j'appelle à un dialogue plus soutenu entre théorie féministe et ‘théorie critique’. Bien que cette dernière ait jusqu'à maintenant peu étudié les questions de sexe, on les trouve en filigrane dans les thèmes principaux de la théorie critique. De plus, ces questions représentent une illustration de choix du besoin de reformulation des problématiques marxiennes traditionnelles si ľon veut mieux comprendre les formes complexes de domination inexplicables par la relation capital/salaire. Je crois qu'il est possible de reconstruire la théorie féministe au moyen de la théorie critique de façon à plus clairement articuler le role de ľaction sociale dans la reproduction et la transformation des structures de domination; cette reconstruction pourra aussi fonder la transformation socialiste sur la base de valeurs féministes.

This paper reviews key problems in current socialist-feminist theories of the reproduction of women's oppression, and argues for increased dialogue between feminist theory and ‘critical theory’. While gender has not been a focus of critical theory, it is implicated in its central themes, and provides a ready illustration of the need to reframe the traditional Marxian problematic to more adequately understand complex forms of domination that cannot be explained by the capital/wage relationship. It is suggested that work in the tradition of critical theory may be instructive in reconstructing socialist feminist theory to articulate more clearly the role of agency in both reproducing and transforming structures of domination, and in grounding feminist values as a basis for socialist transformation.