Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence
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Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence

Edited by Robin West and Cynthia G. Bowman

The Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence surveys feminist theoretical understandings of law, including liberal and radical feminism, as well as socialist, relational, intersectional, post-modern, and pro-sex and queer feminist legal theories.
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Chapter 5: Socialist feminist legal theory: a plea

Cynthia Grant Bowman


This chapter argues that a significant strand of feminist theory – socialist feminism – has largely been ignored by feminist jurisprudence in the US and explores the potential of recapturing its insights. It first describes the most important theoretical contributions by feminist socialist authors in the 1970s and 1980s: the theory of capitalist patriarchy, dual systems theory, an analysis of the role of housework, a class analysis of women’s status, a race and identity politics approach, perspective theory, alienation theory and an analysis of the international division of labor by sex. The chapter then explores how each of these arguments could supplement our current feminist legal analysis as well as clarify our understanding of modern legal feminism’s profound limitations. It argues that attentiveness to feminist socialism can help twenty-first-century feminist legal theorists and activists design legal projects and reforms on which to focus in order to make progress toward genuine equality.

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