Feminism, Capitalism, and Critique: A book excerpt from Banu Bargu and Chiara Bottici

New School Professors Banu Bargu (Politics) and Chiara Bottici (Philosophy) recently teamed up to co-edit a collection of essays inspired by the work of the legendary Nancy Fraser. Below, please find an excerpt from the book. To read the whole passage, please visit Public Seminar. To purchase the book, please visit Springer Press. 

“Since the financial crisis of 2008 and its devastating consequences around the world, interest in capitalism has come back with a vengeance. A palpable need has emerged for a fresh, systematic, and compelling critique of capitalism, one that can offer both explanations of the multiple and complex problems that we face in every sphere and solutions to address these challenges. Scholars from a multitude of disciplines have begun to tackle the reasons behind the crisis, specifically, and to analyze the workings of capitalism, more generally. Philosophers, political theorists, economists, and sociologists have turned their attention back to the economy, inquiring into its relationship with political power, social practices, cultural forms, experiences of domination, and different forms of knowledge. Neoliberalism is now being scrutinized as a historical phase, governmental rationality, ideological form, and a set of institutions and practices that constitute the dominant modality of capitalism in the present. From climate change to violent conflict, from an upsurge in authoritarian tendencies to stagnant economies, from the increasing gap between the rich and the poor to racism and xenophobia, the diverse array of problems that confront the world has prompted scholars to take up capitalism as their main object of analysis.[i]

What has followed is a veritable revival of research on different aspects of capitalism (see, for example, Piketty 2013; Stiglitz 2013). While the movement away from the predominantly culturalist perspectives toward the register of materiality has been welcomed by many, this turn to the material sphere has not exactly been a return to classical Marxism, whose orthodox frame for the study and critique of capitalism is now largely considered inadequate. Rather than a purely economic or economistic analysis, novel perspectives today stand out for their incorporation of feminist, anti-racist, and ecological perspectives. It has become crucial to understand how capitalism is linked not only with forms of economic exploitation but also with forms of gender domination (for example, see Arruzza 2013; Cudd and Holmstrom 2010; Federici 2012; Floyd 2009; Mojab 2015; Vogel 2014; Weeks 2011), racial and ethnic discrimination, as well as the increasingly irreversible destruction of the environment (for recent examples, see Harvey 2014; Moore 2015). Current scholarship is now much more attentive to the complex and multifaceted interaction between economic and non-economic spheres, resulting in rich analyses that tackle the nexus between various forms of economic inequality and social and political domination.[ii]

On the one hand, our goal is to speak to this revival by re-examining the relationship between three terms that we consider to be highly significant for grasping our present situation: capitalism, feminism, and critique. On the other hand, our goal is also to celebrate the work and life of a thinker, activist, scholar, and critic who has done the most to address this nexus: Nancy Fraser. Her innovative scholarship, original perspective, clarity of thought, erudition, and remarkable systematicity all distinguish her as one of the most prominent thinkers of our time. In honor of her seventieth birthday, this collection brings together scholars from different disciplines and theoretical approaches, both to address the current crisis of capitalism and to evaluate Fraser’s lifelong contributions to theorizing it. This collection echoes what we consider to be the spirit of Fraser’s work; namely, the weaving together of a strong commitment to feminism with an equally strong commitment to the critique of capitalism and an egalitarian politics. We could not think of a better way to honor her than by continuing her legacy of critique while also reflecting on her path-breaking contributions to the tradition of critical theory.”