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Nussbaum vs Butler

(7 Posts)
9toenails Mon 17-Apr-17 15:32:28

I wonder if this is a good place to ask.

My question: what is your take on Judith Butler, particularly in the light of Martha Nussbaum's critique? (At e.g. faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Nussbaum-Butler-Critique-NR-2-99.pdf)

-- Why this question, why from me?

I joined MN mainly to look for up-to-date hints/tips about childcare, as an elderly man with the great good fortune to be regularly in sole charge of/caring for small grandchildren. MN is, indeed, useful for that. Thanks MN. I also looked around, and amongst other things, stumbled on some of your 'trans' threads. (I don't do any social media, facebook, twitter; nothing, really, since usenet died and the internet was invaded by advertising.)

At first I took the contemporary trans narrative I came across just as an interesting raw example of cognitive error and its consequences (professionally, in a way, though I won't expand here) ... but then I became disturbed by, well, obviously disturbing things like early transition, puberty blockers, effects on youngsters in general. Also, I count myself feminist (as much as a man can be - I support partner and daughters as well as I can), and the trans narrative, with its peculiar accent on gender, looked more and more anti-feminist the more I found out about it. I see feminism as a hope for the world (trying not to gush too much here!), so anything anti-feminist I'm generally inclined to be opposed to.

OK, so I tried to educate myself a bit on theoretical aspects of what's going on. I had read Greer's 'Female Eunuch' way back in the early 70's, generally convinced by that, albeit I was a bit younger then ... but very little other until fairly recently. Over time I have read various pieces by Martha Nussbaum; she seems one of the greats -- for example my mind was changed in some important ways by 'The Fragility of Goodness' some time ago; it's unusual when a book does that, well worth celebrating. And so on and so on.

There's a little of my background and reasons for asking, anyway. Anyone interested to reply, I wonder? Sorry to be so prolix.

Nussbaum? Or Butler?

9toenails Mon 17-Apr-17 15:52:02

I'm sorry, the link didn't work right. Here it is again:
Nussbaum-Butler

Booboostwo Mon 17-Apr-17 16:24:26

Nussbaum without a doubt. She has a stunning intellect and a wonderful ability to develop a nuanced and imaginative argument.

Butler...postmodernist rubbish.

wigglybeezer Mon 17-Apr-17 19:42:32

That has filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge, thanks for the link.
I can remember the first time postmodernism ruined something for me; i was a post-graduate fine art student when a visiting professor critiqued my work, ideas, indeed the whole idea and purpose of art from a po-mo perspective, i ended up with artists block for years!

9toenails Tue 18-Apr-17 09:45:15

Thanks for the replies.

Booboostwo, yes I tend to agree, particularly wrt Nussbaum. Has postmodernism just died out in more recent feminist theory, I wonder?

wigglybeezer, glad you liked the link. Your story is sad; I did used to think rather of postmodernism as a kind of disease clever young people could catch ... and of at least some of their teachers as engaged in a trahison des clercs. (I'm a little less inclined to be so definite now; 'let a hundred flowers bloom'?)

I do wonder if anything is salvageable from postmodern analysis of sexual politics and gender issues. Is there? Maybe I'm just becoming too tolerant as I get older.

EnidColeslaw771 Tue 18-Apr-17 09:55:10

I read this a couple of weeks ago, it's from 1999 but still feels relevant.
sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/let-them-eat-text-the-real-politics-of-postmodernism/

"Postmodernism is a theory which denounces the act of theorizing, it is speech that silences voices, it is writing that stultifies and obscures, it is a position which advocates no position at all, it is a politics which refuses to take a stand on anything. And we must see the politics of that–it is a viper that women’s studies and English departments have nursed to their collective bosoms. It is a theory, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is a stealth theory that contains a virus which, once incorporated, explodes all possibility of impassioned righteous collective action for changing the conditions of our lives.”

I've also downloaded Catherine McKinnon's critique of postmodernism but i haven't read much of it yet.

I remember finding postmodernist theory so hard to understand at uni but i think that is the point -meaning is obscured and when you dig through the obfuscation they're not actually saying anything much or anything new.

Booboostwo Tue 18-Apr-17 14:41:48

I don't know if postmodernism has died in feminist theory, interesting question though, maybe someone else knows?

I work firmly in the analytic tradition, mainly on Aristotle, so I am more familiar with Nussbaum's earlier works.

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