"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
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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.
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