Focus: The Continuing Relevance of Beauvoir
2023 (45) Issue 2
A plea for Beauvoir’s timeliness today has to assert itself in a field that has become confusing, both in terms of gender relations in Western societies and in the face of the diversity of feminisms. With regard to the real role of women, among many people there is an apologetic understanding that gender equality may not have been achieved but ‘is well on its way’ or ‘improvements have been made.’ Aggressive demonstrations against male supremacy, still remembered by some from the 1960s...
Table of Contents
Focus: The Continuing Relevance of Beauvoir
Title: Thinking with Simone de Beauvoir Today
Author: Manon Garcia
In the last decade, the importance of Simone de Beauvoir’s contribution to 20th-century French philosophy has been beyond debate. However, it can be tempting to read her contributions as the dated beginnings of feminist philosophy, and to believe that her work is only interesting from the perspective of the history of philosophy. To the contrary, this article claims that contemporary philosophers can and should take Beauvoirian philosophy as a source of fruitful insights on contemporary issues in political and moral philosophy by showing the limited scope of two classic critiques of Beauvoir and by defending the relevance of her work for thinking about female submission and the importance of erotic experience.
Title: Beauvoir or Butler? Comparing ‘Becoming a Woman’ with ‘Performing Gender’ Through the Life Course
Author: Susan Pickard
Judith Butler claims to have based her theory of gender performance on Simone de Beauvoir’s path-breaking idea that one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. However, Butler’s interpretation of Beauvoir’s work departs considerably from Beauvoir’s own expressed view which is that women are shaped by an interplay of femininity (construed by cultural and structural norms) and sexed bodies and that the concept of woman is a mutable one that can accommodate increasing degrees of freedom. In this paper I explore Beauvoir’s theories further, showing how they depart from Butler’s interpretations of them and in the process exploring the contribution that Beauvoir and Butler respectively make towards understanding ongoing gender inequality. Finally, I compare and contrast the role of temporality and the life course in ‘becoming a woman’ and in performing gender respectively, focusing on the figure of the post-menopausal woman in particular.
Title: Beauvoir’s Myths as a Concept for Analyzing Gendered Asymmetries
Author: Claudia Gather and Regine Vogl
Can the concept of myths, as developed by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, help us to better understand and sociologically examine social inequalities in heterosexual couple relationships? Beauvoir has shown how women are defined as the Other. Her conceptualization of myths plays an important role in the production of asymmetry between men and women. How can we translate these myths, to a sociological micro level to examine couple relationships? We illustrate the feasibility of this approach through the comparison of two qualitative research projects from the 1990s and 2020s with dual-earner couples in transition to retirement. We try to find out how femininity and masculinity are defined in couple relationships, how they relate to each other, and whether asymmetry is at work. What has changed over time and are women (still) defined in a subordinate and derivative way from men?
Title: The Importance of Realism about Gender Kinds: Lessons from Beauvoir
Author: Theodore Bach
Beauvoir’s The Second Sex stands out as a master class in the accommodation of conceptual and inferential practices to real, objective gender kinds. Or so I will argue. To establish this framing, we will first need in hand the kind of scientific epistemology that correctly reconciles epistemic progress and error, particularly as pertains to the unruly social sciences. An important goal of the paper is to develop that epistemological framework and unlock its ontological implications for the domain of gender. As we will see, the real gender kinds that contemporary social scientists successfully identify and track are very much the same kinds to which Beauvoir was coordinating reference in The Second Sex. The correct identification of those kinds endures as a moral and political priority, regardless of one’s other gender-related normative agenda.
Title: Deliberative Procedures as Social Technology
Author: Fabian Anicker
Research on deliberative procedures uses normative concepts not only to justify the democratic legitimacy of these procedures but also as analytical tools to understand their empirical effects. This leads to a normativist bias in deliberation research. I argue that deliberative procedures should instead be regarded as a type of opinion-shaping social technology. I introduce a theoretical scheme that helps researchers analyze the interplay between formal and informal aspects of deliberative procedures. The usefulness of the scheme is shown in a case study of the EuroPolis Deliberative Poll.
Title: Institutional Operability: Outward Rule-Following, Inward Role-Playing
Author: Michele Bocchiola and Emanuela Ceva
Institutional operability refers to the normative conditions governing the exercise of power of office that makes an institution work. Because institutional action occurs by the interrelated actions of the officeholders, a focus on institutional operability requires the analysis and assessment of the officeholders’ conduct in their institutional capacity. This article distinguishes two perspectives on operability: ‘outward’ and ‘inward.’ The outward view emphasizes predefined instructions for efficient execution, focusing on rule-following to achieve institutional purposes. The inward perspective highlights role-playing and reflective engagement among officeholders to uphold an institution’s raison d’être. The inward perspective brings to the fore the relational aspect of institutional life and officeholders’ interrelated responsibility for guiding institutional action.
Title: Classical Realism in World Politics. Précis to a Symposium
Author: Jonathan Kirshner
This paper introduces some of the major themes of An Unwritten Future: Realism and Uncertainty in World Politics, and provides a short illustration of how the analytical apparatus elaborated there can offer fruitful insights into understanding enduring puzzles in international relations. An Unwritten Future explores, illuminates and interrogates Classical Realism, an approach to the study of world politics that is contrasted with Structural Realism and with the ‘hyper-rationalist’ perspective associated with the ‘Rationalist Explanations for War’ school of thought. It elucidates the fundamental flaws of those two highly influential paradigms, and explains why Classical Realism, with its emphasis on what Structural Realism and Hyper-rationalism forbid—content, purpose, history, and irreducible uncertainty—provides a more promising and productive point of departure for students of international relations.