Gender and the "Woman Question" in classical sociological theory : an exploration of Marx and Marxism
Sierzega, Michelle P.
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This thesis examines how the theories of Karl Marx and their extensions and adaptations address the issue of women’s subordination. Although Marx did not develop a specific and systematic theory of gender relations, and some scholars have suggested that he said little regarding the emancipation of women, I argue that his progressive views and writings provide a strong albeit schematic theoretical framework with which women’s situation within industrial capitalist society, when it is utilized in concert with socialist feminist theoretical expansions and adaptations, can be effectively analyzed. To provide support for the above arguments, the first three chapters of this thesis trace the evolution of Marx’s discussion of women’s subordination, and how those theories presented in his most well-known works can be applied to the “woman question.” The third chapter presents an examination of two less-known works by Marx, providing further evidence of his lifelong commitment to the issue of women’s subordination and oppression. The final two chapters present the following: (1) contemporary Marxist and socialist feminist adaptations of Marx’s theories and their contribution to the development of a unified materialist perspective on women’s liberation; and (2) an examination of how Marxist theory has been utilized or ignored by various leaders in the Soviet Union in the formation of social and political ideologies and policies regarding the “woman question.” Thus, this thesis will not only present extensive support for Marx’s commitment to women’s liberation, but will also depict the magnitude of the impact of his theoretical contributions.