Martha Gimenez (was Re: Sartre & God (was Re: the mature Marx?)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Tue Dec 26 19:53:29 MST 2000

Carrol writes:

>This makes quite a bit of sense to me, *but* I also
>know a number of clearly aggressive revolutionary
>marxists who claim a debt to Althusser. So I don't
>think he can be merely dismissed as "the enemy." And
>at least some forms of structuralism offer a corrective
>to the inroads of various (bourgeois) "genetic,"
>"pragmatist" or "historicist" distortions of marxism.

Martha Gimenez writes in "The Oppression of Women: A Structuralist
Marxist View," _Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference,
and Women's Lives_ (eds. Rosemary Hennessy & Chrys Ingraham, NY:
Routledge, 1997):

*****   ...[T]he key to developing an adequate explanation of sexual
inequality is to be found not in individual biology or psychology, in
the organization of parenting, in ahistorical accounts about the
origins of human society, or in abstract processes of functional
adaptation and structural differentiation.  Instead, regardless of
its ubiquitousness, sexual inequality should be investigated, in each
instance, as a historically specific phenomenon with historically
specific roots located in the invisible levels of social reality;
namely, in structures concealed by those visible processes which are,
in fact, the effects through which the existence of those structures
manifests itself.  This concept of structure corresponds to social
relations which evolve in the process through which people produce
their material and social existence and which are independent from
individuals' will (Marx 1970a, 20).  Production has a twofold nature:
"on the one side, the production of the means of existence...on the
other side, the production of human beings themselves (Engels 1972,
71).  The variety of visible, institutionalized ways that "men
oppress women" are effects, at the level of "society" and "market
relations," of the articulation between the two aspects of the mode
of production which determine relations between men and women that
are independent of their will: i.e., relations determined not by what
individuals think, believe, want, or need -- consciously or
unconsciously -- or by whatever social constraints the "market" or
"society" imposes upon them; instead, they are relations mediated by
the historically specific relation of men and women to the material
conditions of production and of physical and social reproduction
(Althusser 1976, 200-207).  The general methodological principle is
that the material basis of sexual inequality is to be sought in the
articulation between class relations or relations of production and
the relations of physical and social reproduction valid within a
historically specific mode of production.  (Bibliography omitted, p.
75)   *****

The oppression of women is historically prior to capitalism, but this
fact says little about how genders & oppressions based upon them are
produced & reproduced under capitalism.  The school of feminism that
posits the trans-historical existence of "patriarchy" & regards it as
the "essence" of women's oppression under capitalism ignores the
insights of Martha Gimenez & others who have learned from Althusser


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