The politics of freedom and power : a feminist critique of liberalism : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

Thumbnail Image
Savage, Joshua A.
Fry, Jeffrey P.
Issue Date
Thesis (B.?.)
Honors College
Other Identifiers

The focus of this paper is to show how the dominate ideology of liberation in Western society, otherwise known as liberalism, goes wrong in its assumptions about how power and freedom function. The arrogant missteps in the underpinnings of liberal ideology have played a significant role in setting up and maintaining systematic barriers against women and minorities which work to the benefit of white men. In this paper I will follow the reasoning of Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Marina Oshana and several feminist thinkers to show that autonomy and power are intertwined as mobile and constantly shifting sets of relations of power or force (in both a passive and active sense) that emerge from every social interaction and thus pervade the social body. Liberal notions of autonomy and freedom discussed either in terms of human rights or authorship of one's own choices are problematic and of limited value. I argue that even human rights are politically created, often in a way that advantages certain social groups over others. I also argue that regardless of whether one leads a life of her own choosing, one may still make choices that are disadvantageous to herself. Thus, I will be discussing freedom in terms of the capacity to begin, to start anew, to do something unexpected; while power will be discussed as phenomena experienced through our collective social engagements which run counter to, restrict, mold or otherwise inhibit our capacity to begin anew (i.e. behave in ways which the social groups in power have made previously unavailable or undesirable). The aims of liberalism are incompatible with these notions of freedom and power, which are relational, dyadic conditions, not commodities that can be acquired, possessed, and distributed.