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Bensman, M. (1983). Public Man, Private Woman, Woman in Social and Political Thought. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(3):443-444.
(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(3):443-444
Public Man, Private Woman, Woman in Social and Political Thought. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.
Review by: Marilyn Bensman
The author of this book on feminist theory offers us a brief for the family, the importance of preserving the inviolability of the domestic realm, the necessity for bolstering positive feminine identity, and the moral responsibility embedded in the idea of citizenship. Perhaps it is a sign of the movement's coming of age that feminists such as Elshtain feel free to express their anger towards other feminists for their scapegoating of men and the family, the excesses of their rhetoric, and their political shortsightedness. In the first section of the book, Elshtain ferrets out ideas concerning public spheres, and the differences between the proclivities and roles of men and women from the works of philosophers, theologians, and political and social theorists from Plato to Parsons. Elshtain explains that she has undertaken this in order to inform women of “the terms under which their political exclusion has occurred.”
Part II, entitled “Contemporary Images of Public and Private, Toward a Critical Theory of Women and Politics,” presents an analysis of feminist theory to date, carefully reasoned and lucid, organized around the disparate, often irreconcilable perspectives held by various feminists whom she categorizes as Radical (Ti-Grace Atkinson, Shulamith Firestone); Liberal (Betty Friedan); Marxist (Juliet Mitchell, Sheila Rowthbottom); and the newest, Psychoanalytic (Dorothy Dinnerstein, Nancy Chodorow).
The author's most scathing criticism is directed towards the Radical feminists, for their defensive, overreactive hatred and distrust of men, their ro-manticization and glorification of women, and the utopian separatism they preach.
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