View & Print PDF


Feminism and Revolution: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Julie Matthaei

Since the stirring of “second wave” feminism a half century ago, the movement has become progressively more inclusive and systemic. Early on, Marxist-feminists argued that true women’s liberation required transcending both patriarchy and capitalism, and thus a politics at once feminist and anti-classist was essential. Soon, they, too, were challenged to broaden their theory and practice to acknowledge oppressions arising from race, nationality, sexual orientation, and other sources of identity and social location. Addressing this challenge gave birth to a solidarity politics within feminism rooted in intersectionality and manifest both within the movement and in its relationship with other movements. Importantly, this new politics offers ways for individuals to engage in radical social change now by creating new practices and institutions in the solidarity economy. An implacable and inclusive feminism remains essential for building the larger solidarity politics and economics we need for a Great Transition that eliminates oppression of all kinds.


Who will lead the fight for a better world? The Great Transition Initiative has, for more than a decade, posited the emergence of a “global citizens movement” capable of shifting the world toward a just and sustainable future. How that movement will coalesce remains to be seen, but the evolution of feminism over the past fifty years offers valuable lessons.

As a US Marxist-feminist, anti-racist, ecological economist, I have been part of this evolution, in both theory and practice. In the early 1970s, as an integral part of “second wave” feminism, we Marxist-feminists insisted on recognizing that patriarchy and capitalism were intertwined oppressive systems: liberation could not be achieved without overcoming both. A simple identity politics of womanhood or a class-specific Marxist politics of a working-class revolution would not suffice.

Soon, though, we and other feminists were challenged by the need to broaden our lens further. The insight that identities of gender, class, race, sexuality, nationality, etc., are mutually determining gave rise to a new concept: intersectionality. Some feared that acknowledging interconnecting identities and forms of oppression would prove divisive, but what began as splintering gave birth to a new form of politics: solidarity politics. Solidarity politics can unite people across movements and within movements, and offers the foundational framework for any successful global citizens movement. Indeed, this dynamic already is engaging various social movements on the ground and inspiring the development of new, solidarity economy practices and institutions.

Feminism Meets Marxism

In the early 1970s, second-wave feminism (so-named in contrast to the first wave, which focused on gaining the right to vote) exploded in the United States and beyond. Women met in consciousness-raising groups and formed grassroots organizations engaged in a wide spectrum of feminist struggles from clerical organizing to media reform. Mainstream feminist organizations focused on guaranteeing reproductive rights and gaining equal rights and opportunities with men in the paid labor force.

However, the second-wave feminist movement also included an active left wing of Marxist/socialist-feminists who built on and critiqued Marxist theory of capitalism and revolution. They noted that the Marxist framework analyzed women’s oppression as workers by capitalists, but ignored the issue of women’s oppression by men, both in the household and in the workplace. Labor unions—ideally, the revolutionary expression of a working-class movement—had a checkered past regarding their position on women’s equality, having supported women’s exclusion from higher-paid jobs and relegation to domesticity in the nineteenth century. Traditional Marxists, like traditional men, we pointed out, expected feminists—like traditional wives—to lose their identity when they connected to Marxism.1

Marxist-feminists also critically examined Marxist theory of revolution. Marxist theory viewed workers as the agents of revolutionary social change, class struggle the motor, and a planned, socialist economy the goal. So strong was this vision of change that even after the lamentable lack of democracy in the Soviet Union became obvious, early Marxist- and socialist-feminists were told to postpone organizing with women against our oppression until after the class-based, worker-led revolution had been won. Feminist organizing, according to male leftists, would divide the working class, and thereby perpetuate capitalism.

However, we Marxist-feminists were not about to wait until after the revolution, nor were we willing to give up our connection to Marxism or the vision of a better, socialist future. We felt the sea change in this feminist upsurge and were determined to play an active part, as socialists. We saw two truths: women’s liberation could not be achieved within the capitalist system, but women could not wait until after the socialist revolution to fight for our liberation. Homemakers’ entrance into the paid labor force brought them from gender oppression in traditional marriage into class and gender oppression by bosses. Even if structures of gender inequality and domination were somehow eliminated by the feminist movement, women would continue to be oppressed as workers.

At the same time, Marxist-feminists realized that women’s oppression would not be eliminated by socialist revolution, at least not as it had been practiced thus far. We based this conclusion on the experiences of women in socialist countries such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Our own experience showed us that leftist men in the US were sexist as well. As socialist-feminists, we committed ourselves to feminist and anti-classist organizing, and to moving towards a broader vision of a post-capitalist, socialist-feminist system. We participated actively in the creation of socialist-feminist women’s unions in Berkeley, Chicago, and New Haven, among others, in which academics and activists came together to advocate systematic feminist, anti-classist transformation of capitalism.2

We adapted Marxist theory so that it could be better used to analyze and elucidate the economic position of women. In the “domestic labor debate,” we examined whether housework constituted productive labor and produced surplus value for capitalists (with no clear resolution of the debate). Some used Marx’s materialist analysis—which specifies a “mode of production and reproduction”—to analyze women’s unpaid work of homemaking and child-rearing as part of the material base of capitalism, and hence as core to revolutionary organizing. These discussions helped inspire a movement demanding “wages for housework.” Though this debate did not generate a consensus around a single theoretical framework, it lifted up and validated women’s unpaid caring work as a central, and undervalued, aspect of economic and social life.3

Marxist-feminists concluded that systemic class and gender oppression undergird the current economy. Sometimes, the two work in concert; at other times, as when capitalist development drew married women into the paid labor force, they undermine one another.4 Both needed to be analyzed and overcome by a two-pronged, Marxist and feminist, movement. We argued for a dual struggle against capitalism and patriarchy, two intertwined economic systems, by organizing women against male domination, and workers against class domination. This type of analysis—recognizing both patriarchy and capitalism as coexisting, intertwined, and oppressive systems—came to be known as “dual systems theory.”

In adopting dual systems theory, Marxist-feminists accepted and extended Marx’s basic analysis of revolution or system change. We subscribed to Marx’s view of economic transformation as a revolutionary process, fueled by struggle by members of the oppressed group. Whereas radical feminists had substituted women for workers as the revolutionary agent, Marxist-feminists accepted class struggle as a key aspect of revolution, and added women to workers as a second oppressed group. We conceptualized two systems of oppression—capitalism and patriarchy—each requiring radical transformation for women to be liberated.

Intersectionality and the Collapse of an Identity Politics of Revolution

While dual systems theory appeared to “dissolve the hyphen” between Marxism and feminism, Marxist-feminists (and all feminists) soon faced a clear challenge from anti-racist women of color. Feminists of color harshly critiqued white feminists’ notions of “sisterhood” or woman-based identity politics. They pointed to racism within the feminist movement, especially white women’s monopolization of leadership positions and the defining of “women’s issues” from the point of view of white women.5

To complicate things further, lesbian feminists were also protesting homophobia in the feminist movement. Both groups called on white and heterosexual feminists to explicitly declare themselves to be against racism and homophobia and to incorporate this stance into their practice, platforms, and theories.

Ecofeminism, which linked women’s oppression to the domination of nature, added yet another dimension of complexity to Marxist-feminist discourse. Ecofeminists called upon women to join the ecology movement as an extension of being women, and many heeded the call. A rich line of left-ecofeminist analysis developed. In The Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant argued that the domination of nature arose with the emergence of Western science, intertwined with the objectification and domination of women.6 In their brilliant book Ecofeminism, Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva created a synthetic analysis of class, gender, North/South, white/black, and man/nature domination and violence as interconnected parts of the present world system, proposing a coalescence of movements around provisioning the fundamental necessities of life.7

Divisions between the Global North and the Global South also came to the fore. During the United Nations Decade for Women (1975–1985), feminists from around the world came together in three global conferences. Huge differences in priorities surfaced, especially between Northern women, focused on equal rights in the labor force and reproductive rights, and Southern women, concerned about neocolonialism and poverty. These differences forced feminists, again, to expand their perspectives on women’s issues, especially to include class and North-South domination, as they strove to construct transnational feminist networks.8

From this process of broadening the view, a key new feminist concept emerged: intersectionality, the idea that race, gender, class, nationality, and even our conception of “nature” are mutually determining. Feminist anti-racist activist and legal scholar Kimberlee Crenshaw is most associated with the term, but the understanding behind the concept emerged out of the experiences of diverse groups of women trying to do feminist organizing together, across differences of race, class, nationality, sexuality, etc. They found that there was no common experience of womanhood that they could point to, or organize around, or create demands from: what it means to be a woman shows significant variation across race, class, sexuality, country, etc. The same can be said about the experience of being black or working-class. Each comes out of a unique dimension of oppression, yet cannot be understood in isolation from the other dimensions. As Elizabeth Spelman put it, gender, race, and class are not pop beads on a necklace of identity.9

The recognition of intersectionality had a profound effect on Marxist-feminism, and on feminist organizing in general. The identity politics upon which both mainstream and Marxist-feminism had been built—the understanding that women are oppressed, by and vis-à-vis men—had attempted to transcend other forms of oppression that differentiate and stratify women’s experiences. But this project was doomed to fail. Ignoring these other systems of oppression amounted to privileging the experiences and needs of white, heterosexual, Northern, middle-class, and professional women, while ignoring how the feminist movement was reproducing class, racial-ethnic, North-South, and other forms of inequality. Because women are oppressed not only by gender, but also by race, class, sexuality, nationality, and the domination of nature—these differences come up, differentiate, and divide women when we come together as feminists.

Consider, for example, the feminist debate about Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which advises women on how to succeed in the corporate world. The book instructs highly educated, upwardly mobile women on how to “break the glass ceiling” by working harder and leaving behind their fears, but this formula for success is a nonstarter for working-class and poor women, disproportionately of color. As one left feminist blogger put it, the priority of feminist efforts should not be breaking the glass ceiling—but advocating for poor women, for whom “the basement is flooding.”10

The recognition of intersectionality put an end to simple identity politics. If, as is clearly the case, there is no universal experience of womanhood, women do not form a homogeneous class with common interests that can organize to overthrow patriarchy—just as workers do not form a homogeneous class with common interests (across gender and race) that can organize to over throw capitalism. On the one hand, experiences of gender oppression do tend to bring women together across other lines of difference in the struggle for change. On the other hand, because women inhabit opposing poles of other inequalities, the same identity politics makes women who are multiply oppressed splinter off into distinct, identity-based groups. Within each of these groups, though, more divisions split off, fostering further splintering. Such identity-based divisions among strands of feminism indeed became a defining characteristic of a new “third wave” of feminism. The nightmares of the white male leftists—that feminism would divide and destroy the movement for socialism—seemed to be coming true.

The breakdown of identity politics as a basis for both social movements and visions of revolutionary system change coincided with other historical changes dimming the prospects of socialist revolution. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan began their counterrevolutions in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Thatcher’s response to critics of capitalism’s ravages of the working class and the environment was TINA (“There Is No Alternative”). One of Reagan’s first acts as president was to break a strike of the air traffic controllers union, an infamous event in US labor history whose ramifications carry on today. By the 1990s, capital reigned triumphant, empowered by a neoliberal ideology funded by Charles Koch and other right-wing donors, which rejected Keynesianism and government regulations and embraced the “free market.”11 The spark of revolution by the working class grew faint: unionization declined rapidly, vanquished by the global assembly line and the race to the bottom. With the democratic failure and dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the decline of the labor movement in the face of relentless political attacks, Francis Fukiyama pronounced communism and Marxism dead in his widely cited 1992 book The End of History. Marxism, socialism, and Marxist/socialist-feminism all fell out of fashion.

The Rise of Solidarity Politics

The splintering of feminism that characterized the “third wave” led many to believe that feminism was dying or dead. However, feminism did not die. Rather, through synchrony with other identity-based social movements, a new, more complex form of politics is emerging, which builds on and transcends identity politics: “solidarity politics.”

Simply put, the way out of the challenges posed by intersectionality for feminists, especially Marxist-feminists, has been to expand our practice of feminism. Feminists have found that we cannot bring women together to fight for our liberation if we do not also recognize and seek to eradicate the other forms of oppression that women face, both within our movement and in society. We need to reach beyond a politics that views feminism as a struggle of women against oppression by men for a solidarity politics that seeks to end all forms of oppression—patriarchy, racism, classism, homophobia, able-ism, neocolonialism, species-ism, etc.—from our movements, and from our economy and society. This emerging solidarity politics has the potential to bring people together across all inequalities with the shared purpose of deconstructing all forms of inequality. Solidarity politics has been developing in other social movements as well, as they confront the inadequacies of a unidimensional view and grapple with intersectionality.

This key shift within feminism occurred at the same time another form of solidarity politics was forging ties—not within but among social movements. Social movements and NGOs around the world began to come together in a “movement of movements” to fight neoliberal globalization, which was wreaking havoc on workers, women, the environment, and the Global South. This movement of movements surged into global attention at the “Battle of Seattle” protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999, and continued at other meetings of the WTO, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Then, in 2001, women’s, workers, environmental, LGBTQ, peace, peasant, indigenous, and other social movements came together at the first World Social Forum under the motto “another world is possible,” starting a wave of global and local organizing that continues today. A core principle of the Social Forum movement was—and still is—the rejection of all forms of exploitation and oppression—in other words, solidarity politics.12

In this way, solidarity politics has been developing both within feminism (and within the other social movements) and within the movement of movements, which brings these movements together. While individuals and organizations continue to have specific focuses—a type of oppression (gender, race, class, etc.) or an issue (food, health care, reproductive freedom, climate change)—more and more they understand these as aspects of a common struggle against all forms of oppression. Thus a much more complex and comprehensive revolutionary agent has emerged than the homogeneous industrial working class that Marx envisioned as the builder of socialism: a set of interconnected and mutually determining social movements. This agent of transformation sees an issue from the point of view of all of the oppressed—not just a privileged subgroup—making it appropriate to the task of deconstructing and transforming the multiple, interdependent forms of inequality and oppression that characterize our current global capitalist system.

Here, three aspects of solidarity politics should be underscored. First, it leads identity-politics-based movements—like the women’s movement—to reach out and try to engage members of oppressed subgroups in their leadership and policy formation. While this might seem like tokenism, if practiced in good faith, it can empower and lift up the multiply oppressed, and correct the biases generated by privilege, both among the dominant subgroup (e.g., white straight professional women) and in the theories and platforms of an organization.

Second, targets shift from the dominant group—i.e., “men (or the 1% or whites) are the enemy”—to the social concepts, practices, and institutions that create and perpetuate a particular structural inequality. This happens naturally within identity-politics groups as they grapple with intersectionality. For example, in feminist groups actively addressing issues of homophobia and racism, lesbians experience heterosexual women actively standing against homophobia, and women of color witness white women standing against racism. The Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged in response to police brutality in the US, and is based on an identity politics of race, is an excellent example of this process, in that a significant portion of its membership is made up of white “allies.”

Third, solidarity politics helps build coalitions among different strands within a movement, as well as among different movements. The intersectionality of oppressions, as we have noted above, necessarily recreates relations of inequality within identity politics groups, e.g., “women.” It is normal and healthy for oppressed subgroups to create spaces, caucuses, and organizations for themselves within which they can generate liberatory conceptions of the world and themselves—and then work in coalition with other, mixed but predominantly white/middle-class/heterosexual groups towards shared feminist goals. Coalitions are also developing among the main social movements, as they become increasingly aware that the problems they are addressing have systemic roots that need to be addressed from a holistic perspective, and by a plurality of citizens, if they are to be solved.

The Women’s March, held on the day after Donald Trump took office, was a perfect example of this relationship between identity politics and solidarity politics. As a “women’s” march, it was clearly rooted in identity politics. However, it also exemplified solidarity politics. While the March’s organizing was begun by white women, they established a diverse group of National Co-Chairs and Organizers. As a result, an intersectional view of feminism was front and center in the March’s Mission Statement, which asserted, “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” Its Unity Principles asserted that “Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice,” and foregrounded immigrants’, civil, LGBTQ, disability, and workers’ rights as well as women’s rights, and a commitment to environmental justice. The March’s over 300 sponsors, which included civil rights, labor, and climate action organizations, positioned feminism as part of an interconnected, mutually supportive, movement of movements, the kind of movement required for building solidarity.13 In a critical step, the March was not just limited to the United States: the Women’s March inspired in its proliferation around the globe. Over 600 “Sister Marches” in 60 countries, in every continent, added up to an estimated 5 million marchers.14

From Solidarity Politics to Solidarity Economics

The challenge of intersectionality has led feminism, and other progressive social movements, to a politics against all systemic inequalities and oppressions. Solidarity politics is a powerful tool for economic and social transformation because it subjects each and every social practice and institution to a critical gaze which perceives and rejects inequality of any type. This gaze can mobilize people together around any particular social problem, from an intersectional perspective. A great example of feminist solidarity politics is the Black Lives Matter movement, started by three Black women, and committed to ending state violence against Black people, while also affirming a womanist and queer/trans perspective.15

Solidarity politics leads naturally to systemic critique. Awareness of how oppressions connect with one another in a person’s experience, or in any particular social practice or institution, evolves into an understanding of the systematic ways that oppressive practices and institutions conjoin and interact within an economic and social whole. For the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, critical resistance to police brutality has evolved into critique of the school system and of the prison industrial complex.

The next and critical step to be taken in the development of feminist (and other) solidarity politics is to unite around a positive vision of the future and a way to get there. Such a vision must include ways feminists and others practicing a politics of solidarity can engage in the process of systemic change concretely, in their lives, in the here and now.

Without an overarching vision of systemic transformation, the feminist movement in the US has tended to focus on demands for equal opportunity within the prevailing system, such as gaining representation in positions across the economic hierarchy previously monopolized by men. In so doing, feminism shrinks to a movement which takes the basic rules of our capitalist economy as given, and defines women’s oppression solely in terms of discrimination in the labor force and lack of reproductive rights. At its worst, this approach reduces feminism to “breaking the glass ceiling” whereby a minority of women gains access to top positions, almost always by doing things the way men do them. Even when we add race and class discrimination to the mix, to represent women’s intersectionality, and focus for example on women of color gaining entry into higher paid craft positions, we still take the economy’s basic structure as given. This structure fails women in many key ways, including the poverty wages received by women at the bottom of the economic hierarchy; exploitation and subordination of the unpaid work of caring for a family member; the organization of the entire production system around profit for a minority of owners; and the destruction of our ecosystem in the process—all instead of meeting the needs of women and their families.

However, another vision of feminist transformation, which critiques and transcends equal opportunity, and seeks systemic economic transformation, has emerged and is gaining momentum: the solidarity economy movement. This growing movement emerged in the 1990s, both in Europe and in Latin America, and spread globally through the World Social Forum movement, overlapping with the New Economy movement, Sumak Kawsay/Buen Vivir, and the Community Economy movement, among others.16

The solidarity economy framework identifies liberatory economic practices and institutions already existing within capitalism-dominated market economies, and treats them as parts of an emerging integrated “solidarity economy.” The basic criteria for inclusion in the solidarity economy are the values embodied by the economic practice or institution. The list of solidarity values includes cooperation, equity in all dimensions, participatory political and economic democracy, sustainability, and diversity/pluralism. The framework recognizes that any particular practice or institution will not be a perfect fit for all or even any particular value. Instead, each of these dimensions of the solidarity economy lies on a spectrum. The struggle for systemic transformation involves moving our economic practices and institutions along the spectrum, from inequality towards solidarity.

While cooperatives of all sorts—worker, consumer, and producer—comprise a key building block of the solidarity economy, so, too, do efforts to promote socially responsible consumption patterns, shift investment toward social and environmental goals, and redesign enterprise for community benefit. Many of the practices showcased, from community gardens, to the takeover of abandoned factories or lands, to the creation of community currencies, arise as people come together in response to the failure of capitalist economic institutions. Essentially, solidarity economics is the expression of solidarity politics in the economy.

In contrast to the traditional Marxist view of revolution, the solidarity economy framework encourages people to participate in systemic economic transformation in the here and now, rather than waiting for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. The solidarity economy is thriving, within markets, alongside of capitalist institutions, even within them. There is a plethora of ways to participate and make positive, systemic change. An apt term for this type of change is r/evolution—revolutionary in terms of being systemic, but evolutionary in the sense of needing to happen gradually, because it is multi-dimensional, multi-sectoral, and multi-level (micro and macro).

Feminism and the Solidarity Economy

The solidarity economy framework is deeply feminist. The capitalist economy was built as a white-masculine-dominated sphere, defined by traditionally masculine qualities of competition—the struggle to win, i.e., to “better” or dominate other men. Men provided for their families by competing with each other in the economy for money, as entrepreneurs, farmers, and workers. The (white) masculine ideal of the “self-made man” was one who made it from the bottom to the top of the economic hierarchy of wealth and power. Firms embodied this ethos of narrow materialistic self-interest in the form of profit-motivated production, with a callous disregard for the needs of their workers, consumers, and the ecosystem. Caring for others was restricted to women’s unpaid and devalued work in their homes, or to low-paid women-dominated service jobs.

The solidarity economy can be understood as the injection of the traditionally feminine work of caring for others into the core structures of our masculine-dominated economy. In the capitalist system, economic activity is structured to increase the wealth of capitalists. The owners and managers of firms literally do not care about the possible negative effects of their actions on others. Workers are fired and deprived of their livelihoods, consumers are manipulated and misinformed, and the environment is destroyed, all as a regular part of business. As many feminist economists have avowed, the economy must be dedicated to provisioning the peoples’ needs. In addition, the economy must foster compassionate, mutually beneficial relationships among people, and between people and nonhuman life. The solidarity economy framework—which highlights the term solidarity—affirms this core aspect of the new system that solidarity politics is working for.

A related way of recognizing the solidarity economy as a feminist project is to examine how economic agency is transformed. Capitalism was built on the polarization of economic agency among middle- and upper-class whites into economic man, as husband/bread-winner, and economic woman, as wife/mother/home-maker. Hegemonic economic man’s work was bread-winning: paid work in the “market” with the goals of earning at least a family wage, advancing in the economic hierarchy, and funding competitive consumption. Hegemonic economic woman’s work was caring for and serving her husband and family by doing or supervising unpaid work in the home, including child-rearing. In contrast, solidarity economy agency involves a blending of the best aspects of masculine and feminine agency. Work and enterprise become a means of livelihood, self-expression, and self-development (positive forms of masculinity, which transcend the hyper-individualism and competitiveness of capitalist masculinity) as well as a path to serve and help others, society, and the planet (positive forms of femininity, which do not involve self-subordination).

In turn, transforming the practice of care work itself becomes essential to realizing the solidarity economy and the Great Transition. Traditional authoritarian parenting in a patriarchal family sets up the dominant-subordinate roles which are then reproduced through traditional schooling and then in capitalist, authoritarian firms. Unequal relationships of domination and subordination begin in the family, with husband over wife, and parents over children. Children go to school where their teachers direct and rank them, and then to workplaces where obedience to the boss is required. If we are to transform our economy into a system of mutually beneficial, egalitarian relationships, parents need to teach children not to dominate or subordinate themselves, but rather how to love and affirm themselves, to stand up for themselves, and to respect and care for others. Parents teach by modeling positive mutuality in their own relationship, and in their relationships with their children—rather than being either domineering (traditional father) or servile (traditional mother). Feminists have spent a good deal of energy advocating for financial support for women’s traditional care work and low-paid care jobs. But we also need to subject mothering and parenting and caring to a feminist transformative lens, and seek innovative ways to help us all do it better, as part of our work for systemic change.


True feminism—feminism that seeks to liberate all women—leads inexorably to solidarity politics, solidarity economics, and r/evolution—a global citizens movement, as described by the Great Transition Initiative. It is important for feminists, both women and men, to continue to affirm this, and to ascribe to solidarity politics. Feminism must be r/evolutionary if it is to be fully feminist. Moreover, it is imperative that all progressive movements be vigilant about the challenge of intersectionality and commit themselves to eradicating all forms of inequality—including male domination and gender oppression—that they encounter within their organizations and in their organizing.

The movement of movements is a major actor in a new world theater, yet most are unaware of it. We must keep shifting the lens from resist to build, from what we are against to what we are for, and inspire ourselves with the many solidarity economy examples around the world. A key task for feminists and all progressives at this time in history is to make visible the r/evolutionary way forward in order to inspire progressive activists to draw together and align in coordinated lines of synergy.


1. Two noteworthy collections in the US were Zillah Eisenstein’s Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979) and Lydia Sargent’s Women and Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism (Boston: South End Press, 1981). In Britain, Annette Kuhn and AnnMarie Wolpe’s Feminism and Materialism: Women and Modes of Production (London: Routledge, 1978) explored similar issues.
2. See Hilda Scott, Does Socialism Liberate Women?: Experiences from Eastern Europe (Boston: Beacon Press, 1974) on the treatment of women in socialist states. On the rise of socialist-feminist unions, see “The Berkeley-Oakland Women’s Union Statement,” in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, ed. Zillah Eisenstein (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979).
3. Julie Matthaei, “Marxist-Feminist Contributions to Radical Economics,” in Radical Economics, eds. Susan Feiner and Bruce Roberts (Norwell, MA: Kluwer-Nijhoff, 1992), 117–144. These ideas were further developed in, for example, Nancy Folbre, The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values (New York: New Press, 2001).
4. See Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union,” in Women and Revolution, 1–42, and Ann Ferguson and Nancy Folbre, “The Unhappy Marriage of Patriarchy and Capitalism,” Women and Revolution, 313–338.
5. Path-breaking books included Cherie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua’s This Bridge Called My Back (London: Persephone Press, 1981) and bel hooks’s Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1984).
6. Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1980).
7. Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, Ecofeminism (London: Zed Books, 1993).
8. Valentine Moghadem, Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).
9. Elizabeth Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988).
10. Laurie Penny, “Don’t Worry about the Glass Ceiling—the Basement is Flooding,” New Statesman, July 27, 2011,
11. Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (New York: Viking, 2017).
12. See principle 10 of the “World Social Forum Charter of Principles,” 2002,
13. “Women’s March 2017,” accessed August 30, 2017,
14. Together We Rise: The Women’s March: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World (New York: Dey Street Books, 2018), 215 –216.
15. See
16. For overviews of the solidarity economy, see Jenna Allard, Carl Davidson, and Julie Matthaei, Solidarity Economy: Building Alternatives for People and Planet (Chicago: Changemaker, 2008); Emily Kawano, Thomas Neal Masterson, and Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet (Amherst, MA: Center for Popular Economics, 2010); and Peter Utting’s edited collection, Social and Solidarity Economy: Beyond the Fringe (London: Zed Books/UNRISD, 2015). RIPESS, the transcontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy ( is an excellent resource, as is the US Solidarity Economy Network (


Julie Matthaei
Julie Matthaei is a Professor of Economics at Wellesley College, co-founder of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network, and author of From Inequality to Solidarity: Co-Creating a New Economics for the Twenty-First Century.

Cite as Julie Matthaei, "Feminism and Revolution: Looking Back, Looking Ahead," Great Transition Initiative (June 2018),

As an initiative for collectively understanding and shaping the global future, GTI welcomes diverse ideas. Thus, the opinions expressed in our publications do not necessarily reflect the views of GTI or the Tellus Institute.

Core GT Texts
The emergence of an organic planetary civilization has become both possible and necessary. What would it look like? How do we get there?

The classic essay on our planetary moment, global scenarios, and pathways to a just, fulfilling, and sustainable future.