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Contra Fraser on Feminism and Neoliberalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2020


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.

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