Two paths, we hear, led political scientist Balbus (U. of Illinois, Chicago Circle) to this tiresome, unrewarding critique...


MARXISM AND DOMINATION: A Neo-Hegelian, Feminist, Psychoanalytic Theory of Sexual, Political, and Technological Liberation

Two paths, we hear, led political scientist Balbus (U. of Illinois, Chicago Circle) to this tiresome, unrewarding critique of Marxism: his involvement with the New Left and his ""rediscovery of the power of my mother over my life."" He's prepared to deal with those who scoff at this ""oscillation"" between the personal and the political; he'll only speak, however, to the person ""who no longer has an unconscious stake in resisting a theory of maternal power."" That reliance on a leap of faith is only the most glaring of the book's problems. In typical academic fashion (notwithstanding protestations of alienation from academe), Balbus combs the literature by Marx and Engels, on Marx and Engels, and by their descendants, for views on production, technology, sexual oppression, and the state. The masters, he discovers, saw the modes of production as the source of social ills. Marxists either concur or, retaining the core, try to attach feminist, antitechnological, or Freudian criticisms. Neomarxist Herbert Marcuse, for instance, accepted Freud's theory of repression as valid--but only for a particular historical epoch; institutional repression, he theorized, would cease with the attainment of abundance and the end of capitalism. British feminist Juliet Mitchell advances the Freudian argument that patriarchy is reproduced by the family structure--but she also believes that the present-day family will collapse with the end of capitalism. Balbus, unconvinced by Marcuse and Mitchell and others, puts forth an alternative view that Marxism is not only insufficient for explaining various forms of domination, but is itself an agent of domination. This view is derived from the thinking of Norman O. Brown (Life Against Death) and Dorothy Dinnerstein (The Mermaid and the Minotaur), and centers on the idea of maternal power. Putting together Brown's conception of aggression (as dependence-on-mother sublimated) and Dinnerstein's conception of patriarchy (as a reaction against mother-domination), Balbus argues that the liberation signaled in the subtitle can be effected by changes in child-rearing which, by involving both parents equally, will deflect the reactions of aggression and patriarchy; will enable us to see nature as a subject rather than an object (of aggression); and will free us from the instrumental mode of thinking and social organization that Marxism itself represents through its focus on material production. To make this argument, however, Balbus didn't need the lengthy run-up. And to make it stick, he needs the leap: no psychoanalytic theory, no argument. Production or parents, it's still a search for a single key.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982