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Contemporary Marxist Theory and Practice: A Feminist Critique


  • Heidi I. Hartmann

    (National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Washington)

  • Ann R. Markusen

    (Dept. of City and Regional Planning Institute of Urban and Regional Development University of California Berkeley)


Both Marxist theory and practice continue to ignore, for the most part, recent developments in feminist theory and practice. Feminist theory chal lenges a definition of production as narrowly confined to the production of com modities that is commonly used in much Marxist literature, examines the pro duction and reproduction of people under patriarchal relations, and focuses on the conflicts that arise between women and men because of their differing rela tions to these two types of production. Feminist practice emphasizes building consensus strategies, supporting women in their individual struggles (because women in their homes tend to face patriarchy as individuals), and helping each woman feel both her oppression and her power. The value of this strategy is largely misunderstood by the left. Feminist practice is as revolutionary as class struggle, but its object is different — the destruction of patriarchy. The antipathy of much of the left toward feminism seems to stem from a misuse of Mao's notion of "principal contradiction" as requiring a class-first strategy. In the contempor ary U.S. the "principal contradiction" encompasses class, gender, race, ethnic and age conflict. Moreover, a struggle aimed primarily at gender domination may destroy class domination as well.

Suggested Citation

  • Heidi I. Hartmann & Ann R. Markusen, 1980. "Contemporary Marxist Theory and Practice: A Feminist Critique," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 12(2), pages 87-94, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:reorpe:v:12:y:1980:i:2:p:87-94

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    Cited by:

    1. Gillian Hewitson, 2001. "A Survey of Feminist Economics," Working Papers 2001.01, School of Economics, La Trobe University.

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