are both critical ways of looking at the world. They attempt to rip away popular mythology
and 'common sense
' wisdom". Marxism studies capitalist
societies in terms of class dynamics
. In a capitalist system the means of production
are owned by a minority (capitalist class), while the majority must work for them. The capitalist class sets the conditions of the work. Capitalists make profits because the wages they pay are less than the value
of the work. This creates class conflict. Marxists who go no further than this may be called 'mechanical Marxists.'
Instead many Marxists, both feminist and not, see capitalism as necessarily including cultural and social aspects. The market needs not only people to produce; it also needs people to consume what is produced. Capitalism invades all of society including private life in its need for consumers. In this analysis class struggle occurs in every arena where the interests of classes conflict, and that includes education, health, art, music, etc.
Feminism looks at the world in term of patriarchy and sex oppression. But this analysis does not go far enough to explain the different ways that such oppression may be experianced in different contexts.
Both of these methods of analysis look at fundamental injustices, but both are limited by their narrow scopes. Barbar Ehrenreich criticizes radical feminism for not going far enough, and thus leaving out men and "an awful lot about women." While agreeing that women's oppression is universal, she believes that it "takes different forms in different settings, and that the differences are of vital importance." Thus the oppression that women experience now, in an advanced capitalist society is different than the oppression faced in an agrarian society. Our current conditions are affected by capitalism, and thus a complete understanding of the conditions faced by women today must include an analysis of the capitalist system.
When Marxism includes a social/cultural analysis, and feminism is expanded to include an analysis of women's oppression under the conditions of capitalism, then socialist feminism makes sense, and need not be seen as a paradox. Within this analysis several things become clear. We can see that although the threat of force is a necessary underpinning of the system, most people submit to sex and class oppression without the threat of force. One reason for this is that the working class has been divided and socially atomized, and the subjugation of women is key to this atomization. Thus the sexism and class oppression are fundamentally intertwined. Feminism and Marxism alone are not enough to explain every oppressive situation, but when combined can provide a more complete analysis. This analysis may be termed 'socialist feminism.'