Writing with the rigorous argument and generous insight that characterizes all her work, Martha Nussbaum in these essays articulates a distinctive conception of feminism, one rooted in the liberal tradition of political thought but responsive to radical feminist critiques of this tradition. Growing out of her years of work with an international development agency connected with the United Nations, the book charts a feminism that is deeply concerned with global justice and with the urgent needs of women who live in hunger and illiteracy, or under inherently unequal legal systems. Nussbaum contends that the liberal tradition holds rich resources for addressing these problems provided it transforms itself by responsiveness to feminist arguments concerning the social shaping of preferences and institutions. Nussbaum also takes on the pursuit of social justice in the sexual sphere, dedicating several chapters to the issue of equal rights for lesbians and gay men. Further chapters consider the feminist concept of objectification and argue for the importance of sympathy and mercy within a feminist conception of justice.
Clear, timely, and accessible, these essays, extensively revised where previously published, make available to a wide audience the incisive political reflections of one of our most important living philosophers.
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Oxford University Press Inc
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US Kirkus Review »
University of Chicago law and ethics professor Nussbaum combines feminist theory and an internationalist perspective to fashion a stunning defense of justice. In a series of works (Poetic Justice, 1996; The Therapy of Desire, 1994; etc.), Nussbaum has tried to demonstrate the value of philosophy to the practical matters of everyday life; she continues that work here. She begins with the assertion that justice consists of respecting the equal worth of all human beings, given the universal human capacities of choice and reasoning. An essential element of this respect is protecting the liberty of individuals to create lives of their own choosing. As women in general, as well as lesbian and gay men, have too often been denied such freedom, justice should be and is a central concern for feminism. Yet Western feminism itself has too often neglected the needs and conditions of women of the non-Western world. A feminist theory of justice must concern itself both with abstract liberties, such as freedom of expression, and the practical needs of nutrition, health, education, shelter, and physical safety. Against charges that her vision of justice is a foreign idea being imposed upon other cultures, she argues that she is defending the creation of space in which free choice for all, including women, actually exists. In another vein, against those who would impose a rigid cultural relativism, she argues that local tradition is not always an inviolable code that must remain unchallenged. Such traditions may simply reflect the most powerful voices - invariably male. We must be suspicious of norms formed under conditions of injustice. All these themes are developed in a series of carefully crafted essays. There are weaknesses here. Questions of sexuality are not particularly well integrated within her arguments, and as she admits, she does not deal with the question of global redistribution of wealth as an essential element of justice. Nevertheless, a brilliant book. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Martha C. Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. Among her many publications is Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (OUP 1990).