This article addresses materialism in the economic sense of the word. For information on the philosophical and scientific meanings, see materialism.
Materialism refers to how a person or group chooses to spend their resources, particularly money and time. Literally, a materialist is a person who is preoccupied with material, rather than intellectual or spiritual, pursuits. However, especially since the 1960s, in common use, the word more specifically refers to a person who primarily pursues wealth and luxury, typically at the expense of personal relationships, charity, and/or the world's environment. A considered and realistic materialism leads to economic behaviors that support a sustainable community. See also consumerism, recycling, and compost.
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Materialist Feminism is a "way of reading" that rejects the dominant pluralist paradigms and logics of contingency and seeks to establish the connections between the discursively constructed differentiated subjectivities that have replaced the generic "woman" in feminist theorizing, and the hierarchies of inequality that exploit and oppress women.
Materialist Feminism, as a reading practice, is also a way of explaining or re-writing and making sense of the world and, as such, influences reality through the knowledges it produces about the subject and her social context.
The authors differentiate materialist feminism from marxist feminism by indicating that it is the end result of several discourses (historical materialism, marxist and radical feminism, and postmodern and psychoanalytic theories of meaning and subjectivity) among which the postmodern input, in their view, is the source of its defining characteristics.
Given the conflicting views that co-exist under the materialist cover, I will argue for clear break between Materialist and Marxist Feminisms, and for a return to the latter necessitated by the devastating effects of capitalism on women and, consequently, the political importance of a theoretically adequate analysis of the causes of their plight.
Rosemary Hennessy (1993) traces the origins of Materialist Feminism in the work of British and French feminists who preferred the term materialist feminism to Marxist feminism because, in their view, Marxism had to be transformed to be able to explain the sexual division of labour.
However, in the introduction to Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference and Women's Lives, written with her co-editor, Chrys Ingraham, there is a clear, unambiguous return to historical materialism, a recognition of its irreplaceable importance for feminist theory and politics.
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