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Higher Ground

From Utopianism to Realism in American Feminist Thought and Theory

Higher Ground

From Utopianism to Realism in American Feminist Thought and Theory

Many feminists love a utopia—the idea of restarting humanity from scratch or transforming human nature in order to achieve a prescribed future based on feminist visions. Some scholars argue that feminist utopian fiction can be used as a template for creating such a future. However, Sally L. Kitch argues that associating feminist thought with utopianism is a mistake.

Drawing on the history of utopian thought, as well as on her own research on utopian communities, Kitch defines utopian thinking, explores the pitfalls of pursuing social change based on utopian ideas, and argues for a "higher ground" —a contrasting approach she calls realism. Replacing utopianism with realism helps to eliminate self-defeating notions in feminist theory, such as false generalization, idealization, and unnecessary dichotomies. Realistic thought, however, allows feminist theory to respond to changing circumstances, acknowledge sameness as well as difference, value the past and the present, and respect ideological give-and-take.

An important critique of feminist thought, Kitch concludes with a clear, exciting vision for a feminist future without utopia.

320 pages | 4 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2000

Women in Culture and Society

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Catharine Stimpson
I. The Utopian Roots of American Feminism
1. The American Utopian Landscape
2. Feminist Utopias
II. Utopianism in Feminist Thought and Theory
3. Detecting Utopianism
4. Utopian Discourses
III. Toward Higher Ground: Approaching Realism in Feminist Thought and Theory
5. Searching for Realism
6. Toward Realistic Feminist Discourse
IV. Beyond Feminism
7. Confronting the Culture of Utopia

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