Presentation on theme: "Critical Theory: Other Perspectives “Women’s tastes and proletarian tastes are similar not because women are proletarian or because the proletariat is."— Presentation transcript:
Critical Theory: Other Perspectives “Women’s tastes and proletarian tastes are similar not because women are proletarian or because the proletariat is feminine, but because both are disempowered classes” Jonathan Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture, 47.
2 What’s critical about Critical Theory? Theme of Nancy Fraser’s paper: a critique of Habermas’ analysis of contemporary liberal welfare society. She criticizes his model for being “blind to the significance and operation of gender” (283).
3 Key terms in Habermas’ model 1. Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society 2. Natural Kind vs. pragmatic-contextualist interpretation 3. System Integrated vs. Socially Integrated social action 4. System vs. Life-world
4 What’s critical about Critical Theory? Fraser endorses Marx’s definition of Critical Theory as “the self clarification of the struggles and wishes of the age” (272) In her view, this view of Critical Theory commits its practitioners to treat all social theories—critical and non-critical—alike from the point of view of justification: subject both to critique.
5 Critical Theory and Gender In the context of the subordination of women in society, critical theory would seek to “shed light on the character and bases of such sub- ordination. It would employ categories and explanatory models that revealed rather than occluded relations of male dominance and female subordination. And it would demystify as ideological any rival approaches that obfuscated or rationalized these relations” (272). Habermas’ analyses of liberal welfare society is flawed for being virtually silent on gender issues.
6 Habermas’ model Recall the key terms: 1. Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society 2. Natural Kind vs. pragmatic-contextualist interpretation 3. System Integrated vs. Socially Integrated social action 4. System vs. Life-world
7 Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society Material production of society: production of material goods for the preservation of individuals Symbolic production of society: reproduction of the cultural traditions by maintaining and transmitting “the linguistically elaborated norms and patterns of interpretation that are constitutive of social identities” to new members—i.e. socialization of the young and the forging of solidarity among individuals
8 Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society Material reproduction include ‘paid work’ since that is social labour necessary for the maintenance of society Symbolic reproduction include childrearing activities and unpaid domestic work because they are constitutive of socializing the young and may even serve to forge solidarity among individuals.
9 Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society According to Fraser, the distinction between the material and symbolic can be interpreted in two ways: Natural Kinds vs. Pragmatic-contextualist What are ‘natural kinds’? What connotations does the term ‘natural kind’ evoke? ‘Natural kind’ suggests permanence. If the ‘natural kind’ interpretation is right, then it could be potentially ideological because it would institutionalize the separation of childrearing from paid work.
10 Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society Fraser argues that childrearing activities do not just serve the symbolic reproduction of society. How do child-rearing activities serve the material reproduction of society? They ensure the biological survival of the young. Childrearing activities reflect both material and symbolic reproduction of society
11 Material vs. Symbolic reproduction of society What about ‘paid work’ is it merely just material reproduction of society? No. Social mores are introduced as well as identities are forged in these activities. Example—what goes on at work? Both material and symbolic reproduction are not ‘pure’ processes but rather involve ‘dual aspects’
12 System Integrated vs. Socially Integrated social action Socially Integrated social action are those in which actors “coordinate their actions with one another by reference to some form of explicit or implicit intersubjective consensus about norms, values, and … consensus” (275). Socially Integrated social actions are those that reference consensual norms System Integrated social action are those social actions in which individuals are motivated by “self-interested, utility- maximizing calculations” (ibid) System Integrated social actions are those that reference strategic interaction—primarily in the media of money and power.
13 System Integrated vs. Socially Integrated social action Is the distinction between System Integrated vs. Socially Integrated social action ‘absolute’? No. Because some (if not most) socially integrated social actions, those aimed at consensus, contain strategic calculations. Example—parent/child or teacher/student interactions. What about system integrated social action? Such social actions take place against the context of shared meanings, such as basic rules
14 System Integrated vs. Socially Integrated social action The ‘absolute difference’ view of the two kinds of social action is potentially ideological because in exaggerating the differences (and overlooking the similarities) it can lead to the rigid opposition between two spheres: roughly, the economic and family spheres. This is borne out in Habermas model of the institutional structure of modern societies.
15 Habermas’ model of modern liberal societies Habermas notes modern societies split off material production functions from symbolic production ones. These functions are housed in different institutions: 1. Material: the official economy and the state, which cater to system integrated social actions 2. Symbolic: the ‘private’ (nuclear family) and the ‘public’ spheres, which focus on socially integrated social actions.
16 Habermas’ model: System vs. Lifeworld Habermas distinguishes between ‘system’ and ‘lifeworld’ By system, he means the official economy and the state By lifeworld, he means those social domains specializing “in socialization, solidarity formation and cultural transmission” (277)— i.e. the realm of interpersonal relationships against the broadest background
17 Habermas’ model: Public vs. Private Combining the public and private distinction together with the distinction between System and Lifeworld yields: Public (mediated by ‘citizen’) Private (mediated by ‘consumer’) SystemStateOfficial Economy LifeworldPublic Sphere Private Sphere (nuclear family)
18 Fraser’s critique of Habermas (Part I) Habermas’ model is blind to the gendered subtext involved in modelling the relationship between system and lifeworld. Consider the role of the worker in traditional ‘capitalist’ economy. Is it gendered? Yes. The idea of a ‘work force’ is masculine. But women are workers as well. However in what sectors do they work? Furthermore there is no mention of women’s unpaid work at home sustaining the work force
19 Consumers and Citizens Consider the idea of the ‘consumer’ which mediates the private sphere between System and Lifeworld. Is the idea of ‘consumer’ gendered? Fraser claims it is because it is typically women who is responsible for purchasing the goods and services for domestic consumption. Consider the idea of the ‘citizen’ which mediates the public sphere between System and Lifeworld. Is the idea of ‘citizen’ gendered? Again it would appear that it is gendered. Is the voter male/female? Does the public sphere welcome women’s voices?
20 Fraser’s critique of Habermas (Part II) Habermas modifies his analysis of contemporary society in light of the fact the situation is one of liberal welfare state and not capitalist production. For Habermas, the social welfare rights have the perverse consequence of reducing the role of the citizen to that of a client. Other gains under the liberal welfare system allows for further colonization of the Lifeworld by the State (System). Here think about education and health care: the norms and expectations of the State now permeate the domestic sphere.
21 Fraser’s critique of Habermas (Part II) Fraser notes that here again Habermas fails to take note the male-dominated, patriarchal character of liberal welfare economic and administrative systems. These welfare economic and administrative systems are instruments for women’s subordination. Fraser notes there is a difference between social programs, between masculine (Employment Insurance) and feminine (Family Welfare for ‘defective’ households).
22 Feminist critical theory What is needed for critical theory to include women? A more sensitive framework which (a) does not consider the worker (or citizen) and childrearer as ‘different’ in kind, and (b) the causal influence does not run one-way from the economy to the family
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