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Recovering Socialism for Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century

55 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2017  

Cynthia Grant Bowman

Cornell University

Date Written: January 3, 2017


This Article argues that a significant strand of feminist theory in the1970s and 1980s — socialist feminism — has largely been ignored by feminist jurisprudence in the United States and explores potential contributions to legal theory of recapturing the insights of socialist feminism. It describes both the context out of which that theory grew, in the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-imperialist struggles of the 1960s, and the contents of the theory as developed in the writings of certain authors such as Heidi Hartmann, Zillah Eisenstein, and Iris Young, as well as their predecessors in the U.K., and in the practice of socialist feminist groups in the United States during the same period. Although many American feminist legal theorists themselves participated in or were influenced by the progressive movements of the 1960s and 1970s, socialist feminism is virtually absent from their writings, except for those of Catharine MacKinnon, who, despite sympathy with the approach, disagreed with it and went on to develop her own version of feminist equality theory. The author argues that the time is now ripe to recapture this strand of feminism and explore what it would add to the study and pursuit of women’s equality.

Keywords: feminist theory; legal theory; socialist theory; women and law; feminist jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Bowman, Cynthia Grant, Recovering Socialism for Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century (January 3, 2017). Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2016; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-01. Available at SSRN:

Cynthia Bowman (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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