Carole Pateman was born to working class parents in a village in Sussex, England. She passed the 11+ examination at her village school and attended the local girls grammar school but left at 16. She is still the only member of her family to have attended university. She began her academic career when she won a place at the adult eduction Ruskin College in 1963 (the College was founded in 1899). She was the only woman to sit for her Diploma (one of her classmates is John Prescott, now Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain) and then went on to Oxford Unviersity, where she obtained her PhD.
Pateman's career has been an international one, with teaching appointments and research fellowships in Europe, Australia, and North America. She has been active in the profession of political science, serving as President of the Australasian Political Science Association, ont he Council of the American Political Science Association, and as the first woman President of the International Political Science Association from 1991-1994 (IPSA was founded in 1949). She was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996. She currently teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
"Freedom in Pateman's Feminism"
by Jason Caro
[Copyright 1998 Jason Caro.]
If a theme has to be ascribed to Pateman's feminism it could be freedom. As a working definition, such freedom can be viewed as the absence of subordination. In the Problem of Political Obligation, Pateman addresses the 'liberal' arguments designed to guarantee such freedom. Being 'free and equal' the individuals of liberal theory must consent to have their freedom protected by the state. But this opens up the 'problem' that they might not consent, indeed, that they may never have consented, and so the liberal state would lack a justification. Although the argument of Political Obligation is developed from a very different tradition than the feminist one, it has implications familiar to feminist thought and it helps to outline Pateman's later critique in the Sexual Contract. And it is easy to see why given that 'problem' of 'consent,' since it is 'women' who are typically said to be consenting, even when they are not doing so, even when they say no ('they mean yes'). There is an odd double movement in liberal theory, whereby women do not or have not consented to the political order and yet they must be able to consent to it.
In the Sexual Contract, Pateman addresses very seriously what she calls 'contractarian' theory. Such theory provides an account of the 'origin' of freedom in that politically guaranteed liberties come into being as a result of an original contract. Whether beginning with a 'state of nature' or an 'original position,' making a contract allows 'individuals' to exchange states of unfreedom, apolitical and often asocial, for political society and freedom. Individuals 'contract in' to the political and to freedom. However women are left out of this original, originary move. It is this latter insight that makes Pateman's reading of classic political thinkers like Hobbes and Locke a serious one for it is according to their own accounts that this crucial omission takes place. Admittedly women are found as equals in their relations with men in the state of nature, more so with Hobbes than with Locke. But they are not part of that group which later contracted in to form the political state. Thus any equality that may have been present at the start is forgotten. The newly inaugurated politics of liberty, equality, and 'fraternity,' the result of men's consent, must also be a politics of subordination for those who were not part of the originary contract which enabled freedom and equality. Women are left behind in a primordial space, without the guarantees over their persons that are the very condition of political freedom.
Pateman goes on to trace this contractarian 'logic' institutionally. One of the most interesting institutions in this regard is marriage. What is interesting about this exchange is that women have to consent to marriage in order for the shift from the unmarried to the married state to take place. As such, women seem just like any other free individual who can contract in and who indeed must consent in order for a new state to be legitimate. However women cannot contract into marriage as 'individuals' but only as women. Here Pateman locates the other, hidden, side of the contract 'story,' the 'sexual contract.' Since women did not contract in to begin with they cannot be doing so as free individuals now, for the married state. So they can only be doing so as women (more precisely they do so as those who did not 'contract in'; they are 'not-individuals'; according to the contract 'stories' they are 'women'). The oddity here is that women must consent to marriage and so are and must be free for that, but according to the contractarians, they were never among the politically free. So in their (married) relations with men they are both free and subordinate. As a case study, Pateman refers to 'coverture' whereby the husband gained all rights to the property of his wife upon marriage. Having been free to consent to marriage, a wife now finds herself facing the other, subordinating side of contractarianism, i.e. the effects of the sexual contract. Pateman suggests that husbands had a kind of special right over his wife which helps to explain the extremely slow development of legal protections against rape by husbands. Using the same line of argument, Pateman notes the paradox again in the chapter entitled 'What's Wrong with Prositution.' For the sexual contract between prostitute and her client to take place, she must consent as a free individual. But that is impossible. Women must consent to these contracts, they must be free 'individuals' to such exchanges, and yet they are not such individuals if the accounts of how political freedom originates are any indication. Thus under contractarianism, in those states which refer to that tradition, women are simultaneously free and not free.
In and around the theory of the Sexual Contract, Pateman has developed other ideas concerning feminism. There are two powerful views (among many) that can be mentioned here: the overall position of feminism and the idea of a basic income as a way to encourage women's freedom. The tradition of feminist thought, which Pateman traces back at least to Mary Astell, is one which is part of political theory and yet is simultaneously outside of the canon. Pateman's main concern in this regard has been to detach feminism from efforts to see it merely as extensions of liberal, socialist or other mainstream, progressive projects. Finally, Pateman has strongly advocated the idea of a 'basic income' which would, for the first time, give women an independent income. While modest in that it would only allow for a comfortable means of support, it would increase freedom since women would then be free not only to consent to marriage, as they have been officially for centuries, but they would also be free not to consent as well.
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