The second explanation for the deradicalisation of theory concerns the nature of the theory itself. From literary theory to epistemology, architecture to geography, biology to law, feminist academic theory has blossomed. But identity theory has reigned supreme, indeed poststructuralism has exerted an hegemonic influence on the directions within feminism and this has provided strategic and theoretical problems. It has been argued that feminist discourses of difference pulled the rug from under feminism as politics (Soper, 1990). This is for two main reasons. Firstly, once the diversity of women is recognised and privileged over community, any sort of collective and goal directed action becomes problematic. Secondly, the substance of feminist theory became itself and the purpose of theory became the reflection upon, and the interrogation of internal divisions and conflicting subject positions (Whelehen 1995).
Theorising Social Complexity.
Here I would like to pick up Ann Brook’s idea that postmodernist feminism is fundamentally a critical project: directed at essentialism, ethnocentrism and ahistoricism within branches of feminist theory. My argument is that feminist theory is only plausibly a critical project if it jettisons a number of its key paramours and favoured beliefs. Principally, it is necessary to disambiguate the terms universalism, essentialism, naturalism, biologism I shall leave aside arguments concerning the body and gender, because, I believe, these can only be addressed properly when a number of other beliefs have first been clarified.
Elizabeth Grosz most obviously identifies these terms in A Note on Essentialism and Difference arguing that they are all used to justify women’s social subordination The terms – essentialism, biologism, essentialism, universalism – are often elided and support, rationalise and underpin existing power relations. But it is just not clear why essentialism is necessarily bad, except by dint of association, or universalistic, one could assert individual modal profiles,