Feminism Without Illusions Critical Essays

Elizabeth Fox


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The subtitle of this work is critical to Fox-Genovese’s thesis. She recognizes that feminism and individualism came into the world of ideas at the same time, supporting each other. Taking a historicist argument, she claims that rights grow out of the group experience, out of history, and that rights for an individual do not exist outside or prior to the larger collectivism, the state or society. As a historical concept, individualism came into existence with the creation of the modern middle class in its institutional setting, the market. As she states, “Individualism, carried on the rising tide of capitalism, transformed community into a fiction that has largely benefited men by easing their transition into that rootless, atomized world that conservatives have so long prophesied and decried.”

Writing with respect to Marxism, Fox-Genovese accepts that her radical critique has a conservative consequence. Despite the violent nature of capitalism regarding social relationships, women have the power to maintain community against the fragmenting force of the market. Generally her analysis is in a critical, nonidealist mode. Psychological analysis is a very small part of the text. At least once, however, she uses the current fashion of psychological analysis, as shown in her following statement: “Anger lies at the heart of the matter, for without anger there is no feminist consciousness at all.” Unfortunately such a sentiment is out of place in her generally effective narrative and analysis. It is a generalization with an inadequate historic reference. Fox-Genovese’s reliance on...

(The entire section is 653 words.)