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Cornell, D.L. (1991). Gender Hierarchy, Equality, and the Possibility of Democracy. Am. Imago, 48(2):247-263.

(1991). American Imago, 48(2):247-263

Gender Hierarchy, Equality, and the Possibility of Democracy

Drucilla L. Cornell

My argument will have three steps.

First, I will argue that Hannah Arendt's understanding of the polis perpetuates the hierarchy between the genders so as to make her own ideal of politics impossible and further gives us a conception of politics inseparable from the subordination of women.

Second, I will show how psychoanalysis in general, and the theory of Jacques Lacan in particular, are crucial in explaining the reproduction of the gender hierarchy so that we can understand that the dilemma inherent in Arendt's understanding of politics is not a coincidence or superficial to her central argument.

Third, I will suggest that Derrida's deconstructive intervention into Lacan not only opens a space for a redefinition of gender, but does so in such a way as to provide a different concept of participatory democracy and of civic friendship uncontaminated by the erasure of woman.

I begin with a summation of Arendt's conception of law and politics. Here is her description of the view of law accepted by the Greeks:

To them, the laws, like the wall around the city, were not results of action but products of making.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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