Neoliberalism, we are told, has “seduced” feminism. What is meant is that the libertarian and democratic hopes that have scoped this radical social movement have been reconfigured and re-energised by neoliberal project that models all our freedoms upon the market. Misgivings about “seductions” and “betrayals” require that feminist theory adopts the role of the arbiter on goals and meanings and this puts strains upon its deep commitment to democratic epistemologies. The following paper finds that the leading theorist of feminism as critique in a neoliberal age has failed to fully grasp the normative tension that is involved. Nancy Fraser fails to rethink the tasks of critique in terms that is sufficient to its role as arbiter on meanings. I suggest that this rethinking might be done without betraying the demands of a democratic epistemology if we reconstruct the emancipatory idealisations that underpin Fraser’s account of a democratic epistemology. While this rendering of feminism as critique retrieves a representation of feminist ideals that might unmask neoliberal distortions, it does so without betraying the responsiveness to self-interpreted needs that is also claimed by a critical and democratic feminist theory.
- Nancy Fraser