The Politics of the Personal: A Liberal Approach
American Political Science Review, Vol. 101, No. 1, pp. 19-31, February 2007
13 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2011
Date Written: February 1, 2007
Feminist thinkers have long criticized liberal theory’s public/private distinction for perpetuating indifference to injustices within the family. Thinkers such as Susan Okin have extended this criticism in evaluating the theory of political liberalism, suggesting that this theory’s reliance on a public conception of citizenship renders it indifferent to the way in which the internal politics of the family can undermine equality. However, I argue in this article that the feminist concern to ensure equality within the domestic sphere can in fact be incorporated into a reconstructed account of political liberalism. Central to my strong public reconstruction is the principle of publicly justifiable privacy, according to which the public/private distinction itself must be formulated with reference to the values of free and equal citizenship. On my account, the public values of citizenship should figure prominently in evaluations of family life. This reformulation of the public/private distinction answers feminist critics who suggest that political liberalism fails to offer a politics of the personal.
Keywords: Feminism, Liberalism, Okin, Rawls, Public/Private Distinction
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