An article of mine that I wrote a few years ago, “Two Feminisms,” found a new life as the subject of the fall symposium of the online journal, Symposia on Gender, Race, and Philosophy. Every season the editors pick an article for a symposium and also four scholars to critique it. Then the author has an opportunity to reply; the reply along with the critiques are posted; and the symposium is open for public commentary. My four interlocutors—Amy Allen, Nancy Bauer, Scott Pratt, and Linda Zerilli—had quite varied responses to the paper, all of which prompted me to put the piece in a broader frame. “Having read my interlocutors, it now occurs to me that …’Two Feminisms’ isn’t about two distinct groups of feminist scholars; it’s about two different conceptions of power and politics.” In the original article and the response, I argue for a model of politics and change that is deliberative in the Deweyan (not Habermasian) sense, a model where change need not come from battling the other but from working on changing the ways in which the larger sociosymbolic system situates us. The deep problem that accompanies injustice is the ways “the system,” and not just segments of society, puts us in “our place.” By moving the focus from primarily particular bad actors to the larger sociosymbolic sphere, I’ve touched some nerves. But this is a discussion worth having.
By Noelle McAfee
I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.View all of Noelle McAfee's posts.