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Is a Feminist Political Liberalism Possible?

by Christie Hartley, Lori Watson

Is a feminist political liberalism possible? Political liberalismís regard for a wide range of comprehensive doctrines as reasonable makes some feminists skeptical of its ability to address sex inequality. Indeed, some feminists claim that political liberalism maintains its position as a political liberalism at the expense of securing substantive equality for women. We claim that political liberalismís core commitments actually restrict all reasonable political conceptions of justice to those that secure genuine substantive equality for all, including women and other marginalized groups. In particular, we argue that political liberalismís criterion of reciprocity limits reasonable political conceptions of justice to those that eliminate social conditions of domination and subordination relevant to reasonable democratic deliberation among equal citizens and that the criterion of reciprocity requires the social conditions necessary for recognition respect among persons as equal citizens. As a result, we maintain that the criterion of reciprocity limits reasonable political conceptions of justice to those that provide genuine equality for women along various dimensions of social life central to equal citizenship.

ISSN 1559-3061
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