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Already Doin' It for Ourselves? Skeptical Notes on Feminism and Institutionalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 June 2009

Meryl Kenny
University of Edinburgh
Fiona Mackay
University of Edinburgh


Let us first lay our cards on the table: We are both invested in the “feminist institutionalist project” and have highlighted the potential benefits of such a synthesis in earlier interventions (Kenny 2007; Lovenduski 1998; Mackay and Meier 2003; see also Lovenduski 1998). However, in this essay we sound a cautionary note and urge a more skeptical approach. We pose the questions: Why does feminism need new institutionalism? What do neoinstitutionalist approaches contribute to feminist scholarship on political institutions, broadly defined? When considering the potential for intellectual “borrowing” between feminism and new institutionalism, it is important to consider whether new institutional theory is “an enabling framework—or an intellectual strait-jacket” for feminist scholarship (Mackay and Meier 2003, 6). The question, then, is not only what the new institutionalism can contribute to feminist research but also what scope there is to “gender” the new institutionalism.

Critical Perspectives on Gender and Politics
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2009

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