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Rad Geek Speaks: “Women and the Invisible Fist,” bringing Molinari to the Marxians, and Libertarian-Left Radical Philosophizing

I’m pleased to say that my paper Women and the Invisible Fist: How Violence Against Women Enforces the Unwritten Law of Patriarchy[1] has been accepted for a panel at the Ninth Biennial Radical Philosophy Association Conference next month in at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The RPA, if you’re not familiar with it, publishes Radical Philosophy Review, puts on conferences of its own, and puts on regular panels at the American Philosophical Association Eastern and Pacific Division meetings, on (engaged) radical philosophizing, critical theory, feminism, postcolonialism, academic Marxism, and the like. As RPA would have it, Founded in 1982, RPA members struggle against capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, disability discrimination, environmental ruin, and all other forms of domination. We also oppose substituting new forms of authoritarianism for the ones we are now fighting. … We believe that fundamental change requires broad social upheavals but also opposition to intellectual support for exploitative and dehumanizing social structures. Since this conference’s theme is Violence: Systemic, Symbolic, and Foundational, I figured that the Invisible Fist essay was apropos, and might provide a chance for some interesting Left / Left-Libertarian engagement and dialogue. Since the program committee seems to agree, I will be there representing the Molinari Institute.[2] If you happen to be around southern Cascadia next month, here’s my panel. It’d be great to see you there:

The Ninth Biennial Radical Philosophy Association Conference

Violence: Systemic, Symbolic, and Foundational

November 11th-14th
University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon
Conference Program available online

V-E: A Culture of Violence Against Women

Friday, November 12th 2010, 3:45–5:15pm
Rouge Room, Erb Memorial Union
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Chair: Gertrude Postl, Suffolk County Community College

  • Christa Hodapp, University of Kentucky. Identity Through Destruction

  • Charles Johnson, Molinari Institute. Women and the Invisible Fist

  • Jacob Held, University of Central Arkansas. Revisiting MacKinnon via Rae Langton: Pornography as Illocutionary Disablement and Civil Suits as a Means to Enfranchise the Silent Majority

I can’t speak for the others; but here’s my abstract. (If you’ve read the post with a similar title, you’ll already have a general idea; but there’ve been some changes, and like all academic enterprises, this one needs a tl;dr summary.)

When feminist theorists challenge the common dichotomies of pervasive private crimes from public policy, and of personal problems from political struggles against oppression, antifeminist critics often treat the challenge to this distinction as if it were a simple replacement of the private with a conventional understanding of the political – treating feminist analyses of patriarchy as little different from the use of conspiracy theories to explain the prevalence of male violence. I argue that, contrary to these canonical misunderstandings, the central insights of feminist analysis of patriarchal violence may be articulated with help from a surprising source – the work of radical libertarian social theorists, in particular the Austrian free-market economist Friedrich Hayek. Using philosophical analysis and critique to charitably reconstruct Susan Brownmiller’s "Myrmidon theory" of stranger-rape, as presented in Against Our Will, in light of Hayek’s conception of social order as importantly structured by emergent "spontaneous orders" which are "results of human activity but not of human design," I argue that the dialogue provides critical terms to articulate the radical feminist critique of rape culture, while also claiming and importantly enriching the concept of "spontaneous order" as a tool for radical social critique. When this analytic reconstruction is supplemented with a discussion of recent empirical data on the pervasiveness of rape, drawn from social-science and public health literature on male violence against women, it reveals a distinctive picture that should be of prime importance both to radical feminists and to serious libertarians: a pervasive, diffuse threat of violence that constrains the liberty of women in everyday life to move and act and live as they want, but which, unlike the kinds of State violence which male radicals are accustomed to discussing — modes of domination handed down according to explicit State policies, ratified through political processes, promulgated from the top down and consciously carried out by officially appointed or deputized agents of the State — expresses itself instead in attitudes, behaviors, and coercive restrictions that are largely produced by bottom-up, decentralized forms of violence without conscious collaboration or conspiracy, sometimes in conflict with the explicit provisions of the law, in which women are battered into the social position they currently occupy as if by an invisible fist. I conclude that this unexpected convergence of Brownmiller and Hayek provides (1) a mutually illuminating dialogue on methodology in radical social theory and analytical understandings of structural violence, (2) a surprising synthesis of radical critiques of the construction of identity with radical critiques of domination through the state, and (3) an opportunity to ramify and radicalize understanding of both the feminist insight that "the personal is political," and the Hayekian insight that society is structured by emergent orders that are "results of human activity but not of human design."

Interested? It’d be great to see you there. And, if you’re interested in supporting radical libertarian academic work, left / left-libertarian engagement, and the occasional quixotic effort to repurpose Hayekian economics for the purposes of individualist anarchist and radical feminist social theory, then you may also be interested to know that I’m raising some money on behalf of Molinari to help the Institute cover the costs of getting me out to the conference.[3] The budget is also attached, for the curious.

Donate to the Molinari Institute to support left-libertarian scholarship.

Round-trip from LAS to EUG
3 nights at conference rate
Conference registration $75.00
Transport to & from airport
Total: $651.06

Meanwhile, I’m going to be in Eugene, Oregon and its immediate environs — I will probably also make at least one trip up to Corvallis, if I have the time — for a few days a month for now. Of course, I’ve been hearing all about Eugene all my damn life as an activist; but I’ve never made it out there yet. So, any suggestions on places to go (bookstores, infoshops, eateries, local sights), or people to meet? (How about you, gentle reader, if you’re in the area?) If so, drop a line in the comments!

Cascadia, ho!

  1. [1]A refined, expanded, and paper-ified version of the thoughts I was working on in my Women and the Invisible Fist post here at the RGPD.
  2. [2]If the Marxians won’t come to Molinari, then I guess Molinari must go to the Marxians.
  3. [3]All contributions go to the Molinari Institute, with an earmark noting that it’s for the RPA presentation; any proceeds above and beyond actual costs will go towards our slush-fund for future awesome left-libertarian academic engagements.
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