In “Women and the Common Life”, written by Christopher Lasch then finished and published by his daughter Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn after her father’s death, Lasch faults 20 century feminism for succumbing to capitalist ideals instead of more radical, anti-capitalist ideals he had thought feminism to be. This stemmed from Lasch’s personal beliefs in giving “everyday” citizens more power and limiting the authority of a centralized few (658).
Within his essay, he critiques the feminist movement’s push to have more rights outside of the home and inside of the workforce. He insists that organizations such as NOW, the National Organization for Women, is feeding into capitalist propaganda and “[making] a paycheck the only symbol of accomplishment” (663). In order to prove this, he cites NOW’s apparent nonsupport of requiring employers to grant parental leave, which would in turn perpetuate the sexual division of labor (663). Towards the end of his essay, his tone arguably becomes less offensive and more critical of the movement, which could be because his daughter finished the final aspects of his essay although she was simply continuing his train of thought. The solution he offers at the end states, “By rejecting ‘progress,’ of course, [feminism] would put itself beyond the pale of respectable opinion – which is to say, it would become as radical as it now merely claims to be” (663).
Considering Lasch’s opinion on feminism outside of his patriarchal tone and experience as a man critiquing a woman’s plight and experience, he does grasp the concept of the combative and problematic nature of feminism within a capitalist society, although capitalism is not the only reason women tend to be in more subservient roles compared to their male counterpart. Do you believe Lasch’s argument on 20th century feminism, and specifically the sexual division of labor, was valid? Why or why not?