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Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex, 2015

Shulamith Firestone , The Dialectic of Sex : The Case for Feminist Revolution, Verso, Londres , 2015, xviii+216 pages, ISBN : 978-1-78478-052-4.
À part les xviii pages qui l’ouvrent, cette édition est une reproduction en facsimilé des pages 3 à 2016 d’une édition antérieure.

The author would like to note that this book remains unbabridged and unrevised since its original publication in 1970.

C’est un livre absolument remarquable à divers point de vue. Je suis impressionné d’abord par son âge. Elle a vingt-cinq ans quand le livre paraît en 1970, donc moins en l’écrivant. J’aurais été parfaitement incapable d’écrire un livre à cet âge. (En 1970, je terminais ma thèse et je suis né deux ans avant elle.) Maintenant que je suis vieux, je suis sans doute plus mûr, mais toujours moins cultivé qu’elle alors. C’est un livre audacieux, profondément révolutionnaire. Elle vise une société radicalement autre, une révolution à la fois sexuelle (féministe), économique (prolétarienne) et culturelle (surtout scientifique). (P. 173.)

Parmi les féministes marxistes, Shulamith Firestone se distingue en ce qu’elle s’inspire de Marx et Engels de manière générale, de leur conception dialectique de l’histoire, mais qu’elle part de la biologie et pas de l’économie.

Elle trouve que la première contribution théorique importante est celle de Simone de Beauvoir avec Le deuxième sexe. Elle la trouve cependant parfois trop « philosophique ».

Perhaps she has overshot her mark: Why postulate a fundamental Hegelian concept of Otherness as the final explanation and then carefully document the bioloical and historical circumstances that have pushed the class ‘women’ into such a category — when one has never seriously considered the much simpler and more likely possibility that this fondamental dualism spring fom the sexual division itself? To posit a priori cateories of thought and existence — ‘Otherness’, ‘Transcendence’, ‘Immanence’ — into which history then falls may not be necessary. Marx and Engels had discovered that these philosophical categories themselves grew out of history.

P. 8.

Elle continue donc immédiatement avec son propre point de vue :

Before assuming such categories, let us first try to develop an analysis in which biology itself — procreation — is at the origin of the dualism. The immediate assumption of the layman that the unequal division of the sexes is ‘natural’ may be well-founded. We need not immediately look beyond this. Unlike economic class, sex class sprang directly from a biological reality: men and women were created different, and not equal. Although, as De Beauvoir points out, this difference of itself did not necessitate the development of a class system — the domination of one group by another — the reproductive functions of these differences did. The biological family is an inherently unequal power distribution. The need for power leading to the development of classes arises from the psychosexual formation of each individual according to this basic imbalance, rather than, as Freud, Norman O. Brown, and others have, once again overshooting their mark, postulated, some irreducible conflict of Life against Death, Eros vs. Thanatos.

The biological family — the basic reproductive unit of male/female/infant, in whatever form of social organization — is characterized by these fundamental — if not immutable — facts:

(1) That women throughout history before the advent of birth control were at the continual mercy of their biology — menstruation, menopause, and ‘female ills’, constant painful childbirth, wetnursing and care of infants, all of which made them dependent on males (whether brother, father, husband, lover, or clan, government, community-at-large) for physical survival.

(2) That human infants take an even longer time to grow up than animals, and thus are helpless and, for some short period at least, dependent on adults for physical survival.

(3) That a basic mother/child interdependency has existed in some form in every society, past or present, and thus has shaped the psychology of every mature female and every infant.

(4) That the natural reproductive difference between the sexes led directly to the first division of labour at the origins of class, as well as furnishing the paradigm of caste (discrimination based on biological characteristics).

These biological contingencies of the human family cannot be covered over with anthropological sophistries. Anyone observing animals mating, reproducing, and caring for their young will have a hard time accepting the ‘cultural relativity’ line. For no matter how many tribes in Oceania you can find where the connection of the father to fertility is not known, no matter how many matrilineages, no matter how many cases of sex-role reversal, male housewifery, or even empathic labour pains, these facts prove only one thing: the amazing flexibility of human nature. But human nature is adaptable to something, it is, yes, determined by its environmental conditions. And the biological family that we have described has existed everywhere throughout time.

P. 8-10.

Acheté le 19 avril 2020 à Book Depository et reçu début mai.