Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach


On her book On Civic Friendship: Including Women in the State

Cover Interview of December 07, 2009


I argue for an economy that recognizes not just productive labor for exchange, but equally ethical reproductive praxis as well.  Similarly, our agonistic, two-party legal system actually produces inequality, whereas proportional representation would come closer to expressing a civic ideal give and take.  The work of raising children and of reproducing citizens must become a major concern of government if women are ever to become full citizens and equally represented.

Perhaps one of the most radical analyses the book offers is that of our capitalist economy and the institution of “private ownership” from a feminist point of view. John Locke long ago argued that in the natural state man “owns” that with which he has “mixed his labor.”  With this claim Locke had the private rewards of agricultural labor in mind, and the metaphor also covers craft production and extends to factory labor owning a private wage.  But consider a traditional woman “mixing her labor” with her family, household and children. The woman does not obtain anything in the form of private disposable property—she even “gives” her child away when the child reaches maturity.

My hope is that this work might occasion a novel way of looking at both the strengths and weaknesses of our modern political state—and thereby help provide a new theoretical justification for progressive change.  For first must come the theoretical task to conceive how we might transform various economic, social, and legal structures without violating essential individual freedoms.

© 2009 Sibyl Schwarzenbach