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The Politics of Individualism
Liberalism, Liberal Feminism and Anarchism

Brown, L. Susan
Publisher:  Black Rose Books, Montreal, Canada
Year Published:  1993  
Pages:  198pp   ISBN:  1-895431-79-4
Dewey:  320.5`1
Resource Type:  Book

An examination of the similarities and differences between liberalism, anarchism and feminism.

Abstract:  Brown examines the similarities among the political philosophies of liberalism, anarchism and their related feminist schools. Against traditional views, she argues that there is no contradiction between liberalism and anarchism as each theory seeks the creation of a new world where everyone can develop to his or her full potential. She describes anarchism as a humanist variation of Marxism, in which the macroeconomics of Marxism are transferred to individual experience. Incompatibilities, however, exist between the two, such as what she sees as the uncomfortable coercive undertone of Marxism. Similarly, Brown is troubled by the repression and angry emotions which motivate feminism, therefore she identifies increasingly with the theoretical framework of anarchism. Brown argues that, despite popular belief, anarchism encourages society to organize according to individual expression and rejects chaos.

Brown looks at existing social movements in order to gain fresh insights about them and to contradict the belief that traditional theory is elitist and unpractical. Rather, she posits that theory allows us to conceptualize how change can occur and provides a method to both analyze and organize human experience. Therefore within her book, Brown critically analyzes liberalism. Only after removing the bonds of political, economic and social domination can we as individuals start to define freedom and nature.

The book is divided into seven chapters, of which the first provides a comparison between anarchism and liberal individualism. Chapter 1 examines theories of individualism and their connection to Liberalism, while the next chapter looks at John Stuart Mill's perspective on women. Chapter 4 centers on how contemporary liberal feminism reconciles existential and instrumental individualism. In response to this, Chapter 5 examines the consequences for feminism of how anarchism endorses existential individualism. Chapter 6 looks at anarchism and existentialism's role within human nature. Finally, Chapter 7 calls for a move beyond feminism towards anarchism and human freedom.

[Abstract by Amanpreet Dhami]

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