Partial Attraction

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's career seems dedicated to the principle that radicals can be reasonable. The encouraging title of her latest book suggests that they may even be realistic. Although the author challenges the grounds on which most feminists argue their rights, she is admittedly and regrettably a feminist herself, and her book is primarily a contribution to a family quarrel.

What teases is the suggestion, here and there, of a susceptibility to ideological conversion. In this Ms. Fox- Genovese's book reminds me of Germaine Greer's offering of a few years ago. It contained just enough openness to the allurements of traditionalism to arouse in some a missionary impulse. But whatever the peregrinations of a Germaine Greer or an Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, neither seems likely to loose a floodgate of feminist converts to conservatism by means of their arguments. objections, or misgivings.

Fox-Genovese argues that the vocabulary and philosophy of individual rights on which feminists (and almost everybody else in modern times) have based their claims are illegitimate and finally unsatisfactory inheritances of capitalist, paternalistic, bourgeois society. Feminists should recognize the extent to which the language of individual rights derives from an intellectual history that is market-driven and paternalistic and hence an uncomfortable bedfellow of feminists. A more communitarian philosophy of rights, taking a leaf...

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