subjectivity, sex and gender. But this attempt to destabilise universal concepts has also been accused of pulling the rug from under the feet of feminism; for if individuals cannot be conceived as women, belonging to a distinct group, then they cannot be expected to mobilise around common concerns, shared political identities or allegiances. Indeed, unsettling concepts in this way, it has been suggested, has also left feminists unable to discuss the ‘structural’ context of power and the conditions of subjectivity: be they economic, social, psychological, or linguistic. This is particularly awkward for some third wave feminists, such as Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, who contextualise third wave feminist perspectives by showing how they are shaped both by material conditions created by economic globalisation and technoculture and by bodies of thought associated with postmodernism and poststructuralism.
The aim of this paper is to indicate what has been subsumed, elided and erased in the recent canonisation of feminist theory and to suggest that the exclusion of materialism, associated with socialist feminism, has led to a form of ‘cultural’ feminism within which is a particular thread of anti-realism leaving feminism unable to articulate, investigate or analyse its own conditions. Yet one must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, the contradictions internalised by feminist theory express something true about the situation of its emergence and that cannot be addressed simply by calling for a return to old knowledges; for a reduction of all social relationships to their material origin. Indeed, the recent discussions within Marxism about the economic crisis in the late 90s, demonstrate that arguments within socialist and Marxist feminism were held aside from the ‘mainstream’, abandoned rather than resolved.
Recent history of feminist theory: constructing a canon.
Kristeva, in her now seminal essay ‘Women’s Time’ argues that the feminist movement can be divided into three distinct phases (Keohane ed., 1982 31 - 53). Liberal (existentialist);