Gender and the public sphere: Alternative forms of integration in nineteenth-century America

Sociological Theory 19 (3):344-370 (2001)
Abstract
This paper intends to evaluate two competing models of multicultural integration in stratified societies: the "multiple publics" model of Nancy Fraser and the "fragmented public sphere" model of Jeffrey Alexander. Fraser and Alexander disagree on whether or not claims to a general "common good" or "common humanity" are democratically legitimate in light of systemic inequality. Fraser rejects the idea that cultural integration can be democratic in conditions of social inequality, while Alexander accepts it and tries to explain how it may be realized. In order to address this debate, I analyze the cultural foundations of the female-led, maternally themed social movements of nineteenth-century America. The language of these movements supports Alexander's position over Fraser's, though it also suggests that Alexander is mistaken in the specifics of his cultural theory of a general and democratic "common good." While Alexander's model of integration is structured uniquely by what he and Philip Smith have called "the discourse of civil society," the evidence suggests a distinctly alternative, equally democratic code at play in this case, which I have labeled a discourse of affection and compassion
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