Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism: Toward a New Theory of the Political Subject

New York: Oxford University Press (2017)
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Abstract

According to postmodern scholars, subjects are defined only through their relationship to power. However, if we are only political subjects insofar as we are subjected to existing power relations, there is little hope of political transformation. To instigate change, we need to draw on collective power, but appealing to a particular type of subject, whether "working class," "black," or "women," will always be exclusionary. Recent work in political and feminist thought has suggested that we can get around these paradoxes by eliminating the idea of political subjects entirely or else thinking of political identities as constantly shifting. In this book, I argue that these are both failed ideas. Instead, I suggest a novel idea of a subject in outline as the agent of socio-political change. This subject moves within the tension of coherence necessary for an agency (the subject) and permanent openness necessary to counter the exclusionary character of a political collectivity based on identity (the outline). I also develop the idea of the moment of the limit, which refers to those moments when power structures fail to subject us, and transformative agency becomes a possibility. While I reject the idea of political autonomy, I show that there is always a moment in which subjects can contest the power relations that define them. Throughout the book, I ground these concepts in work by Adorno, Lacan, and Marx - the very theorists who are often seen as denying the subject's agency.

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Claudia Leeb
Washington State University

Citations of this work

Psychoanalytic feminism.Emily Zakin - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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