ABSTRACT

While it has continued to be a source of powerful critiques of liberal and essentialist feminisms, materialist feminism's radical edge has blunted over time in the arenas of oppositional political struggles. As multinational capitalism systematically expands its network of exploitative relations of production and consumption, patriarchal and capitalist relations become even more securely imbricated - witness the growing disciplinary violence against third-world women by multinational corporate research, the increasing sexualization of women by an all-pervasive commodity aesthetics, and the intensifIed contestation over woman's

body as the site of reproduction in the first world and of production in the third world. How we make sense of these disparate instances of women's oppression in our historical present will affect their perpetuation or elimination. It has therefore become urgent to adopt theoretical frames that can account for the complex interconnections between the various axes along which exploitation and oppression take place. A philosophy of praxis capable of directing a globally articulated revolutionary struggle gains a certain urgency as the confinement of oppositional struggles to regional and isolated sites becomes a widely deployed strategy of crisis management. In this respect, what was once materialist feminism's greatest strength is now being pressured by increasing calls to recognize difference within the category 'woman'. From the beginning, materialist feminism gave priority to the. social construction of gender while simultaneously' avowing commitment to the analysis of gender in its intersection with class. It is only recently that race and sexuality have become part of materialist feminist concerns, but the articulation of class, race, gender and sexuality has for the most part merely been used as the legitimizing cliche of a leftist discourse.