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The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research

Amy G. Dorothy E.; Mazur McBride

Publication Year: 2010

The Politics of State Feminism addresses essential questions of women's movement activism and political change in western democracies. The authors—top gender and politics scholars—provide a comparative analysis of the effectiveness of government agencies and women's movements regarding women’s policy issues—if, how, and why they form a kind of state feminism.

The central research questions are examined across five issue areas in thirteen postindustrial democracies in Europe and North America from the 1960s through the early 2000s. The authors explore a range of topics drawn from contemporary theory, interactions between descriptive and substantive representation, and the place of institutions in democratic change.

Using the innovative qualitative and quantitative methods employed by the Research Network on Gender Politics and the State, the authors have developed a new body of theories about the role of state feminism and how it can help further women’s rights.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Part I. Framework and Foundations

This book is divided into four parts. the “Framework and Foundations” section that opens the book is followed by the research results in Part II, “exploring state Feminism,” which assesses theoretical propositions about state feminism, and Part III, “unpacking state Feminism,” where authors consider the implications of state feminism for foundational theories of social movements, political representation, framing, and institutionalism. Part IV, ...

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1. The State Feminism Project

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pp. 3-26

The politics of state feminism is at the heart of political processes in postindustrial democracies. Of all of the various social movements of the contemporary era, women’s movements have arguably been the most widespread and have endured the longest. One of the responses of political leaders to challenges from women’s movement activism over four decades has been to establish institutions specifically designed to deal with ...

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2. Concepts and Mixed Methods

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pp. 27-47

This chapter discusses the major tools for assessing propositions from the state feminism framework and its components in postindustrial democracies. Conceptualization is the key step in preparing research propositions for empirical investigation; it is especially important in comparative cross-national and longitudinal studies. Here we focus on five interrelated ideas: women’s policy agencies; women’s movements; ...

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3. Mapping Women’s Policy Agencies

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pp. 48-68

Women’s policy agencies sit at the intersection between movement and government. As such, they are the primary focus of state feminism. The agencies studied in this book are those that RNGS researchers found to be in a position to participate in policy debates across the five issues covered in the original study—abortion, job training, political representation, prostitution, and hot issues. In tracing the trajectories ...

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Part II. Exploring State Feminism

The exploration of the politics of state feminism involves three investigations. The first, which we undertake in Chapter 4, is to establish the importance of women’s policy agencies, in relation to other key influences, to the success of women’s movement actors in gaining access to policy arenas and favorable policies—Movement state Feminism. The second investigation, covered in Chapter 5, is to find the ...

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4. Women’s Policy Agencies and Women’s Movement Success

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pp. 71-99

The goal of this chapter turns out to be the most ambitious in our exploration of state feminism, in that it examines eight of the eleven propositions presented in Chapter 1, and the most complicated, in that it seeks to understand the place of women’s policy agency activities in relation to other possible explanations for women’s movement success. In addition, like the rest of the book, the analysis looks at variations ...

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5. Women’s Policy Agency Success and Failure: The Search for Explanations

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pp. 100-121

The activity of women’s policy machineries is a significant influence on state responses to women’s movement demands; at the same time, the most effective agencies—insiders—are not necessary to achieve complete success. Instead, insiders tend to be a backup when women’s movement actors do not have the necessary resources, favorable policy environments, or support from left-wing parties and unions to achieve ...

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6. What’s Feminist about State Feminism?

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pp. 122-140

In examining the politics of state feminism through comparative analysis, we have found that insider agencies can be a key component for women’s movements to achieve positive state responses to their demands. Going further, we have investigated the agencies themselves to see why some are more effective than others, and have determined conditions and configurations that may produce these important insider actors. In this ...

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Part III. Unpacking State Feminism

The chapters in Part III take the study of state feminism beyond the testing and exploration of propositions to deepen and broaden the implications of the framework for theories of social movements, representation, framing, and institutionalism. The authors develop new datasets to investigate what RNGS policy debates have to contribute to major scholarly issues and questions. Each chapter enhances ...

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7. Social Movements and Women’s Movements

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pp. 143-163

There is by now a substantial amount of literature on women’s movements in postindustrial democracies, mainly descriptive and historical case studies focusing on the women’s movement in a particular country.1 There are fewer studies taking a cross-national comparative approach, some of which also cover other postindustrial political systems (e.g., Dahlerup 1986; Katzenstein and Mueller 1987; Kaplan 1992; ...

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8. Political Representation

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pp. 164-192

Feminist empirical and theoretical work on representation has largely proceeded along separate paths.1 The RNGS project offers a corrective, as it permits the simultaneous consideration of the effects of formal and informal channels of participation, patterns of women’s presence in decision-making arenas, movement activities, and policy outcomes. Thus, it provides a rich source of data that can be analyzed to illuminate ...

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9. Framing and Gendering

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pp. 193-216

The concept of framing is an essential component of the state feminism framework examined in the first part of this book, but it is not the central focus of the analysis. The aim of this chapter is to use information collected about the 130 policy debates from the RNGS study to explore propositions about framing as an important strategy for political actors and, in doing so, contribute to the accumulation of knowledge ...

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10. Gendering New Institutionalism

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pp. 217-238

Political institutions are central to state feminism theory. In turn, findings from this study of state feminism make important contributions to theories associated with “new institutionalism,” an approach that typically ignores the complex interplay linking gender, change, and political institutions. The goal of this chapter is to add to ongoing efforts by feminist scholars to gender new institutional approaches. It begins with an ...

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Part IV. Conclusion

This last part of the book comprises a single chapter that brings together the findings from all previous chapters to arrive at a theory of state feminism, assess the mixed-methods approach, and set an agenda for further research. Writing the final chapter has been challenging because of the range of research questions and propositions in the various chapters and the richness of the source materials from the debates collected by the RNGS project. thus, we have set forth clear goals and developed a balanced ...

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11. The New Politics of State Feminism

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pp. 241-266

This book’s mixed-methods exploration of the state feminism framework and the unpacking of its component parts have cleared the way toward a new theory defining and explaining the politics of state feminism in Western postindustrial democracies. In this concluding chapter we offer this theory, reflect upon the study’s contributions to the foundational bodies of theory for the project, suggest a future agenda for state feminism research, and summarize the lessons for practitioners and citizens. As we show at the end of the chapter, the state feminism project ...


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pp. 267-278


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pp. 279-284


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pp. 285-300


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pp. 301-305

E-ISBN-13: 9781439902097

Publication Year: 2010