It is at first sight odd to include a chapter on classic Marxism in a work on feminist political theory, because Karl Marx was not a feminist. This does not mean that he was deliberately hostile to female liberation but simply that, unlike Mill or Thompson, he did not see issues of sexual oppression as interesting or important in their own right, and he never made them the subject of detailed empirical or theoretical investigation. Marx’s theory did, however, claim to enable a comprehensive analysis of human history and society, and he provided a radically new way of seeing the world that inspired many later feminists, influencing both theoretical understanding and ‘real world’ feminist politics. His close friend Friedrich Engels applied Marx’s ideas to feminist issues, and from the late nineteenth century other writers and activists in the United States, Germany and Russia attempted to develop a Marxist analysis of ‘the woman question’ (see Chapters 5 and 6). Marxist feminism was also a key strand of ‘second wave’ feminism from the 1960s that remains important today. This means that to understand much feminist history and recent feminist debate, it is necessary to have some knowledge of Marx’s original theory; it is to a brief account of this that we therefore now turn.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- The Contribution of Marx and Engels
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number