Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism: Toward a New Theory of the Political Subject

ISBN : 9780190639891

Claudia Leeb
224 ページ
156 x 235 mm

How do we become political subjects? Put another way, how do we become actors who have the power to instigate political change? These are questions that have long vexed political theorists, particularly feminist and critical race scholars who think about how to achieve real political transformation. According to postmodern scholars, subjects are defined only through their relationship to institutions and social norms. But if we are only political people insofar as we are subjects of existing power relations, there is little hope of political transformation. To instigate change, we need to draw on collective power, but appealing to a particular type of subject, whether "working class," "black," or "women," will always be exclusionary. This issue is a particular problem for feminist scholars, who are frequently criticized for assuming that they can make broad claims for all women, while failing to acknowledge their own exclusive and powerful position (mostly white, Western, and bourgeois). Recent work in political and feminist thought has suggested that we can get around these paradoxes by wishing away the idea of political subjects entirely or else thinking of political identities as constantly shifting. In this book, Claudia Leeb argues that these are both failed ideas. She instead suggests a novel idea of a subject ". As such, we are coherent political subjects, but we are always open, or in outline. It is this openness that both underscores the exclusionary character of political subjectivity and allows us to counter it. Leeb also argues that power structures that create political subjects are never all-powerful. While she rejects the idea of political autonomy, she shows that there is always a moment in which subjects can contest the power relations that define them. Over the course of the book Leeb grounds this concept of the subject in outline in work by Adorno, Lacan, and Marx - the very theorists who are often seen as denying the agency of the subject. Specifically, she takes a critical look at the way that Judith Butler treats the political subjectivity of women and the ways in which Marx and Adorno treat the liberation of working class women.


1. Introduction

Part I: The Subject-in-Outline
2. The When of Socio-Political Transformation: The Moment of the Limit
3. Who Changes the World: The Political Subject in Outline
4. How to Transform the World: Rethinking Theory and Practice
5. What makes us Rebel: Suffering Reconsidered

Part II: Applications
6. Rejecting the Politics of (Mis-)Recognition: Butler Revisited
7. The Working-Class Woman and Marx: Biased Constructions
8. Disrupting the Fantasy: Adorno and the Working-Class Woman
9. Conclusion


Claudia Leeb is Assistant Professor in the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs at Washington State University, as well as Research Affiliate at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University.