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Mary Dietz on Maternalism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 282
Maternalism/Dietz/Mottier: The most systematic and influential critique of maternal thinking has been formulated by Dietz (1992)(1). >Maternalism/Political philosophy, >Maternalism/MacKinnon.
Dietz criticizes maternalists for committing the same errors as liberal thinkers:
1) first, by transforming a historical model of female identity into a universal and ahistorical one; and
2) second, by reproducing the same rigid distinction between the public and the private as
liberal approaches to citizenship.
Democracy/virtues: As Dietz points out, there is no reason to think that the experience of mothering leads necessarily to democratic practices. Values that are virtues when taking care of vulnerable children in the private sphere are not necessarily a good model for political interactions between equal
citizens in the public sphere. She consequently pleads in favour of a conception of citizenship that would resist the 'temptation of womanism' which attributes a superior moral nature to women (1992(1): 393). As Dietz puts it, 'such a premise would posit as a starting-point precisely what a democratic attitude must deny - that one group of citizens' voices is generally better, more deserving of attention, more worthy ofemulation, more moral, than another's' (1992(1):393).
Society: Rather than a withdrawal into the assumed values of the private sphere or interest-group politics, Dietz emphasizes the active engagement of women in the public sphere. >Maternalism/Political philosophy.


1. Dietz, Mary (1992) 'Context is all: feminism and theories of citizenship'. In Chantal Mouffe, ed., Dimensions of Radical Democracy. London: Verso, 63-85.

Véronique Mottier 2004. „Feminism and Gender Theory: The Return of the State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Dietz, Mary
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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