Professor Alice Crary, New School for Social Research
The Methodological is the Political
Any feminism worthy of the name must direct attention to the interrelatedness of systems of oppression and must in this sense be politically radical. This core political lesson of some Second Wave feminist writings has an important methodological aspect. Many feminist thinkers contend that the intersecting patterns of behavior constitutive of gender-based abuses are recognizable as the abuses they are only when looked at in the light of an appreciation of the significance of forms of social vulnerability that pervasive gender-bias occasions. These thinkers suggest that, if we are to combat sexist social formations, we therefore need to complement our political radicalism with a methodological radicalism that involves making use of the practical power of ethically non-neutral resources, conceived as in themselves cognitively authoritative. Despite its apparent widespread acceptance, this methodological precept goes missing in an emerging body of feminist theory loosely associated with analytic philosophy. The current article takes Miranda Fricker’s celebrated 2007 book Epistemic Injustice as representative of this developing feminist corpus, bringing out how Fricker unquestioningly—and incorrectly—takes for granted that ethical neutrality is a regulative ideal for all world-directed thought. The article’s ambition is to revive venerable calls for ethically nonneutral modes of feminist social criticism by showing that the methodological conservativism to which Fricker is committed is fatal to feminist politics.