Paper Title

[3.2] Towards an Anti-Racist Materialist Feminism: In Response to Farrelly’s “Patriarchy and Historical Materialism”

Location

Arts & Education Building 208, Moderated by Dr. Robin Tapley

Start Date

18-1-2019 5:00 PM

End Date

18-1-2019 6:15 PM

Disciplines

Philosophy

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

In his paper “Patriarchy and Historical Materialism”, Colin Farrelly attempts to construct a historical materialist account of the origins of patriarchy, with the goal of generating the knowledge that is necessary to eliminate patriarchy or mitigate its worst effects (Farrelly 3). Farrelly works with Gerda Lerner’s definition of patriarchy, which is “the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family, and the extension of male dominance over women in society in general” and adopts Gerald Cohen’s functionalist interpretation of historical materialism (Lerner 239, quoted by Farrelly 2). Farrelly holds that the origins of patriarchy lie in a sexual division of labour in early societies, which mandated that women spend most of their adult lives engaging in reproductive and caring labour (7). In the first half of my paper, I reconstruct Farrelly’s account of the origins of patriarchy and discuss the implications of his conclusion. In the latter half, I argue that while Farrelly is correct that a historical materialist account of the origins of patriarchies can provide the theoretical basis necessary for combating these oppressive structures, he has failed to generate “critical emancipatory knowledge” in this paper because he has failed to factor in a critical third dimension: race (3). I use the specific form of patriarchy to which Black women in the United States are subjected as a case study. While the facts of Black American women’s oppression seem incompatible with Farrelly’s analysis, I hold that they cohere with Cohen’s functionalist interpretation of historical materialism and incorporating them into our analysis will bring us closer to the “critical emancipatory knowledge” that we seek (3).

Comments

Key words: feminism, patriarchy, Marxism, historical materialism, gender, race

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[3.2] Towards an Anti-Racist Materialist Feminism: In Response to Farrelly’s “Patriarchy and Historical Materialism”

Arts & Education Building 208, Moderated by Dr. Robin Tapley

In his paper “Patriarchy and Historical Materialism”, Colin Farrelly attempts to construct a historical materialist account of the origins of patriarchy, with the goal of generating the knowledge that is necessary to eliminate patriarchy or mitigate its worst effects (Farrelly 3). Farrelly works with Gerda Lerner’s definition of patriarchy, which is “the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family, and the extension of male dominance over women in society in general” and adopts Gerald Cohen’s functionalist interpretation of historical materialism (Lerner 239, quoted by Farrelly 2). Farrelly holds that the origins of patriarchy lie in a sexual division of labour in early societies, which mandated that women spend most of their adult lives engaging in reproductive and caring labour (7). In the first half of my paper, I reconstruct Farrelly’s account of the origins of patriarchy and discuss the implications of his conclusion. In the latter half, I argue that while Farrelly is correct that a historical materialist account of the origins of patriarchies can provide the theoretical basis necessary for combating these oppressive structures, he has failed to generate “critical emancipatory knowledge” in this paper because he has failed to factor in a critical third dimension: race (3). I use the specific form of patriarchy to which Black women in the United States are subjected as a case study. While the facts of Black American women’s oppression seem incompatible with Farrelly’s analysis, I hold that they cohere with Cohen’s functionalist interpretation of historical materialism and incorporating them into our analysis will bring us closer to the “critical emancipatory knowledge” that we seek (3).