To engage with Hegel's philosophy from a feminist perspective is necessarily to be confronted with questions about the politics of reading (specifically the politics of reading canonic philosophical texts). Politics, that is, both in the obvious, traditional ideological sense (since feminism involves an explicit political agenda) and in the less obvious sense of the politics of the relation between reader and text. For some scholars this automatically places feminist readers in the category of a dubious scholarship which rests on a mistaken understanding of the meanings of both politics and truth.
It seems to me a mistake — and an inexcusable conceit — to say as some now do, that all scholarship is somehow ‘political’ or is itself politics practised by other means. That view demeans both politics and scholarship. Now this is not to say that a scholar's motives must not be political, only that the methods and results of her researches must be judged according to scholarly standards and not political ones. The aim of scholarship is to seek and to tell the truth, as best one can discern it, and not to promote any particular partisan cause. (Ball, 1995: 24)
Ball here confines the role of politics in the traditional (ideological) sense to the Weberian category of ‘value’, which may motivate and orient scholarship but which cannot provide the criteria according to which scholarly work is carried out or its findings are judged. He dismisses the relevance of the category ‘politics’ to the understanding of the relation between reader and text as such and instead, argues that ‘truth’ is what that relation should be about. Yet, the work of interpretation and reflection in the reading of texts insofar as it involves a process of interaction between reader and text always problematises, I would argue, the distinction between politics and truth upon which Ball's analysis relies. There are various models on offer, both descriptive and prescriptive for what the process of textual interpretation does or should involve. One can contrast the notion of ‘scholarly standards’ as the route to the true meaning of a text with Skinner's new historicism, the virtuous circle of hermeneutics or the destabilising ambitions of deconstruction (Tully, 1988; Bamett, 1998). These approaches elicit very different interpretive results but they also differ in their assumptions about what is or ought to be taken as authoritative for understanding and interpretation and in this sense they are characterised by a politics of the interplay between reader and text. This is a modest claim but one which disrupts the politics/truth distinction even if it doesn't necessarily imply the end of distinguishing between good and bad, valid and invalid understanding/interpretation.