If feminism is an ideology, it is so only in the blandest sense of that term. Most feminists argue their case as one component of a larger picture of human lives and social possibilities. John Charvet's contribution to the 'Modern Ideologies' series acknowledges this point without comment in its very organisation. The book is divided into sections on Individualist Feminism, Socialist Feminism and Radical Feminism, each tracing feminist themes within a more comprehensive theory. This framework distinguishes the book from its stablemates ('Socialism','Conservatism', 'Liberalism' and, prospectively, other 'isms' of our time) and is also its greatest strength. Charvet takes it that the differences between forms of feminism derive from more general ethical and political theories. While all feminists believe in the equality of women with men (apart from a handful who claim women's superiority), this shared belief receives wholly different interpretations in the context of more basic conceptions of liberty and equality. To articulate and assess feminist theories it therefore becomes necessary to probe the structure of the host ideologies in which feminist thought has flourished. Accordingly, Charvet presents and assesses the conceptions of human freedom and equality underlying liberal individualism, traditional socialism and the New Left in order to elucidate the three types of feminism.
LRB 15 September 1983 | PDF Download