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Sex and Social Justice Paperback – August 24, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0195112108 ISBN-10: 0195112105

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 24, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195112105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195112108
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1.3 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Human beings have a dignity that deserves respect from laws and social institutions. This idea has many origins in many traditions; by now it is at the core of modern liberal democratic thought and practice all over the world. The idea of human dignity is usually taken to involve an idea of equal worth: rich and poor, rural and urban, female and male, all are equally deserving of respect, just in virtue of being human, and this respect should not be abridged on account of a characteristic that is distributed by the whims of fortune."

But in the world we live in, notes classicist and law professor Martha C. Nussbaum, gender and sexual orientation are used routinely as excuses to violate human dignity. In 15 deftly written essays that are as accessible as they are erudite, she makes a convincing argument for viewing feminism and gay-rights activism as two facets of the same movement, a movement that has legitimate roots in the writings of philosophers like Kant and Mill (as well as the ancient Greeks). Whether she's discussing issues as concrete as Colorado's attempts to pass legislation that discriminated against homosexuals and the contemporary debate over female genital mutilation, or as abstract as the social construction of desire, Nussbaum writes with a thoroughness and clarity that help the reader better to imagine a society in which true equality for all people could be achieved. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Among academic stars, Nussbaum (Love's Knowledge) is one of the brightest. She combines her formidable erudition with meaningful experience beyond the ivory tower and an ability to synthesize her reading, her thinking and her experience in prose that is remarkably clear given the density of the content and the rigor of her thinking. A professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago, she presents an admirably objective and insightful work on gender inequality, drawing from her experience as a researcher with the World Institute for Development Economics Research (an agency connected with the U.N.). This book, parts of which have appeared in professional journals and magazines such as the New Republic, leaves no issue unexamined, from pornography, genital mutilation and prostitution to the effects of religion on women's rights and the conflicts caused by the biological differences between the sexes. There's also an extensive section on gay and lesbian rights, illuminating their connection to feminist platforms, and a chapter on the effect of ancient Greek norms on modern sexual controversies. Drawing on writings throughout history, Nussbaum presents conflicting theories and current thinking while bringing her own insights to each topic. With a balance of contemporary radical critiques, ancient philosophy and political liberalism, Nussbaum ultimately makes a persuasive argument that feminism can be reconciled with the traditions of classical liberalism. Nussbaum is not a popularizer; she's a deep thinker, and one of the best. With its remarkable scholarship and comprehensive research, this work is both the ultimate primer on, and a major advance in, feminist thought.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Foell on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I decided to write this review just to be fair to anyone who is thinking about reading this book. I say this because the reviews I read of the book that were posted were severely misleading and unnecessarily harsh. So I will first of all respond to some of the misguided criticisms of the book that you will find in the other reviews, and then present my view on the book. First of all, no the author does not discuss discrimination against children or the elderly. Why would this make her book bad? She is dealing with SPECIFIC issues, like issues of justice relating to gender and sexual orientation. These issues are certainly large enough in scope and importance to justify their own treatment in a book, there is no reason why a discussion of every conceivable type of discrimination should also be included. The issues of discrimination against the young, the elderly, and the religious are important, but there are numerous books out there on those issues if someone wants to read them. It is unfair to say that this particular book should have to address them, it already runs 550 or so pages, that should be enough.
Also, someone complained that the author takes a purely male - centered perspective on the issues, and thus could not possibly be a feminist. I must confess I don't think you honestly read the book if you think that. She gives REASONS as to why her perspective is right and is feminist as well. There is no reason why rationality is a peculiarly male preoccupation, and I think that to intonate that is sexist in and of itself, because the conclusion seems to be that women are not reasoned creatures like men are, and that is a view women have been struggling against for centuries.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Plumb on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
I will start this review by noting two things. I greatly appreciated Nussbaum's 'Upheavals of Thought', and I am uncomfortable with the way sex sits in the society I live in. (But, then, I recognise things in myself that - for good or bad - change my perspective from that of the society I am embedded in.) But Wedekind's play 'Springtime Awakening' should raise alarm bells for most of us.

We are sexual beings (most of us anyway) and we have to deal with that - learn to accept it within ourselves, learn to share it with others (it is, of course, the quintessential sharing experience), learn to grow with it, learn to let it go .... The easy path to take is to grasp a social 'norm' and follow it regardless of the morality of that path. Societies do present many 'norms' to a young person developing sexual awareness but not all of these are equally desirable. If Nussbaum's book does nothing else but diminish the acceptability of some of the undesirable 'norms', and enhance the more socially responsible ones it will have achieved a great service.

There are curious things in this book for me. Nussbaum refers to many sources but many of them are male - Aristotle, Seneca, JS Mill, DH Lawrence .... To be fair, the last chapter is about 'To the Lighthouse' by Virginia Woolf, and other writers such as Andrea Dworkin are prominent. However I was surprised that some powerful women writers are totally ignored - where is Mary Wolstonecraft, where is Emma Goldman, where is Mary Shelley? Why is 'Maurice' (Forster) referred to but not 'The Well of Loneliness' (Hall)?

The chapter on female genital mutilation (FGM) is an appalling indictment on the behaviour of some societies.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is what all philosophy should be--tightly argued, clearly written, and deeply moving. Nussbaum (and Amartya Sen's) capabilities approach offers promise in taking on problems of distributive justice and human rights. Nussbaum deserves praise for unflinchingly shining the moral spotlight upon all institutions--from the family to the nation-state--a project unsatisfactorily handled by some brands of liberalism. I eagerly await Nussbaum's next book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ann Munger on March 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Nussbaum's persuasive arguments altered my position on human rights in that I was able to see new possibilities for all men and women. Her many perspectives on human rights were so well-documented that I have used her books, "Sex and Social Justice" and "Women and Human Development," as textbooks and sources to support my thoughts when writing papers and having conversations on subjects that have ranged from early child development to global poverty. Her capabilities approach to issues of gender equality are supremely encouraging. If you are looking for a scholarly text that encompasses multi-faceted, intelligent viewpoints, I recommend Martha C. Nussbaum's books.
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Format: Paperback
Martha Nussbaum has written other works, focusing on philosophy, ancient Greek and Roman works, feminism, and politics (Nussbaum, 1999). Martha is an American philosopher and is a professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago (Nussbaum, 2004). She has also written other works such as Cultivating Humanity, Hiding from Humanity and Frontiers of Justice (Nussbaum, 2004). Martha is also very prestigious in holding 50 honorary degrees in colleges and universities in the Untied States as well as Asia, Africa, and Europe (Nussbaum, 2004). She also has been awarded several writing and recognition awards (Nussbaum, 2004). She demonstrates and go into detail on how sex has the ability to define the human race. She proposes functional freedoms, or central human capabilities, as a rubric of social justice. She obtained her information from Catharine MacKinnon's, Kathryn Trevenen, and Andrea Dworkin. The attended audience for this book is anyone who is interested in sex and the meaning behind it. In my personal opinion I would deem this book a success, the author gets her points across, and the book is very interesting because it is so intimate.
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More About the Author

Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in Law, Philosophy, and Divinity.

Author photo by Robin Holland

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