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Lecture 2

PHIL 325 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Positive Liberty, Negative Liberty, Feminist Theory

Course Code
PHIL 325
Yoshiki Kobasigawa

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Short Reading Reflection #2
Prabhleen Brar
Philosophy 325 L01 – Law and Morality
Shelley Hulbert
July 30, 2015
MacKinnon, Catherine The Liberal State – DMR pp. 257-269
Catherine MacKinnon critically synthesizes feminist theory and posits Marxist’s
accounts on class struggle and right to equality. As a result of this, she develops new
ideas on rape, abortion and pornography. MacKinnon stresses that society has
discriminated against gender roles, particularly making women subordinates. By applying
Marxism into her argument, she discusses justice and inequality that women face and the
conflicting interests of the state, which is obvious when she asserts,
“If one group is socially granted the positive freedom to do whatever it wants to
another group, to determine that the second group will be and do this rather than
that, no amount of negative freedom legally guaranteed to the second group will
make it the equal of the first. For women this has meant that civil society the
domain in which women are distinctively subordinated and deprived of power,
has been placed beyond reach of legal guarantees. Women are oppressed socially,
prior to law, without express state acts” (DMR, 265).
MacKinnon considers that in order to solve inequality and forms that gender equality
takes; it is essential to understand the theory of justice. Therefore, she questions “what is
this state, from women’s point of view?” and continues by answering that the state is
“male in the feminist sense: the law sees and treats women the way men see and treat
women” (DMR, 262). Catherine MacKinnon posits that the liberal state treats women no
differently than men do and she feels this is apparent through the social order that sits in
favor of men. This is because MacKinnon believes that the state’s social order – policies,
norms, etc. “recapitulate the male points of view” (DMR, 262). Due to this believe,
Mackinnon argues, in arenas such as the workforce, women get marginalized and are kept
at competition with men “at a male standard of exploitation” (DMR, 266). This as a
result, leads to the division between men and women, leaving women at a disadvantage.
MacKinnon strongly rejects this idea and social reform by further arguing that if the law
regulates the state to create reform in favor of men, this not only controls the lives of
women on the job, but also on the street, bedroom, family dynamic (home), etc. (DMR,
It is obvious the author is against social reform and the legislation of laws at hand,
particularly rape, pornography, abortion, etc. all of which are as Mackinnon puts it,
“primary process of the subordination of women” (DMR. 269). Through the law, the state
institutionalizes male sovereignty over women by taking male perspectives into account.
I believe this fundamental point should be taken into consideration when analyzing social
structures of society as Catherine MacKinnon has. I believe this is because much of what
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