Poststructuralism on State (Polity) - Dictionary of Arguments
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State/Poststructuralism/Gender Theory/Mottier: poststructuralist research. Feminists who draw on
poststructuralist (especially Foucauldian) theories argue that it is problematic to consider the state as an homogeneous, unitary entity which pursues specific interests. They consider the state as a plurality of arenas of struggle, rather than as unified actors (...).
Consequently, poststructuralist analyses of the state introduce less dichotomous
perspectives which take into account the local, diverse and dispersed nature of sites of gender
power (see, for example, Pringle and Watson, 1992)(1). They consider feminist attempts to define
what 'women's interests' might be by authors such as Virginia Sapiro (1981)(2) and Irene Diamond and Nancy Hartsock (1981)(3) as problematic, since these treat as pre-given both the state and the notion of interests.
Drawing on poststructuralist theory, R. Pringle and S. Watson point out that the analytical
focus needs to shift instead to the discursive practices which construct specific interests, including
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those by femocrats. Comparative research has similarly led to scepticism towards a vision of the
state and its role in structuring gender relations that is too unilateral. Comparative analyses of welfare states suggest that the impact of the state on gender relations varies greatly from one welfare regime to another, and importantly allow for the universalizing of the experience of individual states to be avoided (Sainsbury, 1994(4); Lewis, 1997(5); Fraser and Gordon, 1994(6)). >State/Gender Theory, >State/Feminism, >Welfare state/Gender Theory.
It is important to recognize that relations between the state and gender are not intrinsically positive or negative. Feminist analyses of the state need to take into account its historical complexity, its variations within different political contexts such as liberal democracy, colonialism or state socialism, and its dynamic relationship to gendered power relations (Waylen, 1998(7): 7).
1. Pringle, R. and S. Watson (1992) '"Women's interests" and the poststructuralist state'. In Michele Barrett and Anne Phillips, eds, Destabilising Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates. Cambridge: Polity, 53—73.
2. Sapiro, Virginia (1981) 'When are women's interests interesting? The problem of political representation of women'. The American Political Science Review, 75 (3): 701-16.
3. Diamond, Irene and Nancy Hartsock (1981) 'Beyond interests in politics: a comment on Virginia Sapiro's "When are interests interesting? The problem of political representation of women'". The American Political Science Review, 75: 717-21.
4. Sainsbury, Diane (1994) 'Women's and men's social rights: gendering dimensions of welfare states'. In Diane Sainsbury, ed., Gendering Welfare States. London: Sage, 150—69.
5. Lewis, Jane (1997) 'Gender and welfare regimes: further thoughts'. Social Politics, 4 (2): 160-77.
6. Fraser, Nancy and Linda Gordon (1994) 'A genealogy of dependency: tracing a keyword of the U.S. welfare state'. Signs, 19 (2, Winter): 309-36.
7. Waylen, Georgina (1998) 'Gender, feminism and the state: an overview'. In Vicky Randall and Georgina Waylen, eds, Gende'; Politics and the State. London: Routledge, 1—17.
Véronique Mottier 2004. „Feminism and Gender Theory: The Return of the State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004