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Source: PRAXISInternational(PRAXISInternational),issue:2/1988,pages:222236,onwww.ceeol.com.




Richard Schmitt
1. Alienation and Autonomy
In the Marxian view workers are alienated because they are estranged from their species life, from what makes them most human. Alienation has several elements: lacking control over one's life, being coerced, and unhappy, and being prevented from becoming as fully human as possible. In the Marxian view, these elements are connected: lacking control over their lives, human beings in a capitalist society cannot develop in ways that would enhance their humanity and would make them as rich and accomplished persons as possible. Central to this conception of alienation is a normative claim - namely, that developing one's person and abilities is a very good, if not the best thing a person can do, - and a factual assumption, that, given the opportunity, human beings would try to develop themselves as fully as possible. 1 Alienation, thus understood, is a peculiar problem for persons living under capitalism. For alienation - being deprived of the opportunities to develop one's abilities - cannot occur where people are not free to develop themselves, where developing oneself is not an intelligible ideal, and where the material conditions do not exist for all to develop themselves. Alienation, in short, cannot occur in a feudal society because there neither the requisite freedoms, nor the required conception of individual worth, nor the necessary level of productivity exist. In a capitalist society the condition of alienation is pretty much the same for different persons: they are formally free to shape their lives, they are expected to be responsible for the shape their life takes, but they do not, in fact, have the opportunities to make good use of their formal freedoms, although it is technologically possible for them to have the requisite resources. Individuals, in our society, have a generous list of freedoms which the state enforces, with varying degrees of thoroughness. But these freedoms go together with great differences in economic and hence political power, and with very different abilities to make use of the society's resources. The material, social and psychological conditions for living freely are often lacking because resources, and the power that springs from them, are distributed unequally. People are, for instance, free to think as they please, but education, which tends to improve the ability to think, is not readily available to everybody. People are free to speak but to get a forum in which to speak, and be heard is hard for most but very easy for some, for instance, the owners of daily papers. The freedom to develop into a full and rich human being is there for almost all people. Only a minority, however, has the power to use those freedoms. Pressed upon by poor education, economic need, the precariousness of daily life, its members fall far short of fulfillment. In a capitalist society persons are formally free, but they lack the opportunity to shape their lives. They are alienated.
Praxis International 8:2 July 1988

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Underlying this description of alienation is a concept of the self which emphasizes the skills and capabilities of the individual person, together with her or his clarity about purposes, values and life plans for her or himself. The stress is on being an active person who takes initiative, and is, where needed, assertive and aggressive. The person with a genuine self runs his or her life as ably and happily as possible. One' 'duplicates" oneself, Marx says, "not only, as in consciousness, intellectually but also actively, in reality and therefore [s/]he contemplates him [or her] self in a world that [s/]he has created".2 Having a self is to have "mastery" and that means to be in charge of one's own life. The person with a strong self is autonomous, and in control of his or her life. 3 The concept of alienation is closely associated with that of freedom. But the concept of freedom has two senses here. 4 Formal freedom, we saw, is a precondition for alienation, the absence of autonomy. But it is also a precondition for freedom in the second sense, the sense of autonomy - often called "positive freedom. " Only those who are formally free are in a position where, ifthey had the means to be autonomous, they could' 'contemplate themselves in a world that they created. " As long as they do not have the means to be autonomous, they are alienated. 5 Alienation thus appears to be closely associated with lack of autonomy. But the concept of autonomy has recently come under serious criticisms, including the claim that autonomy is a source of alienation. Being autonomous is thus seen, by some, as overcoming alienation, while others identify autonomy as the root of alienation. Since both views - that alienation consists of being autonomous and that it consists of not being autonomous - have a good deal to be said for them, we face a serious dilemma here. In this paper I will resolve this dilelnma by distinguishing two senses of autonomy: autonomy conceived as separateness from others, and autonomy as occupying a distinct and acknowledged place in a network of relations. Autonomy in the former sense alienates; autonomy in the latter sense liberates. Autonomy as separateness is most often found in the lives and thinking of stereotypical males; autonomy as distinctiveness in the lives of stereotypical females. The distinction between the two senses of autonomy will lead us finally to distinguish different forms of alienation which are associated with the lives of men and of women respectively.

2. A Case History
What makes the idea of autonomy so attractive? There are endlessly many different stories to tell in answer to that question. I want to look at one such story that focuses on the differences between the lives of men and women because that difference will lead us to the distinction between different senses of autonomy, which we will make use of later in the course of this reflection about alienation. Much of the controversy about the desirability of autonomy arises from the fact that autonomy has been discussed too abstractly, without recognizing that in the lives of women, autonomy means something rather different from what it means in the lives of men. 6 Viginia Woolf displays some of the differences between men's and women's lives in painful detail in To the Lighthouse7 The men - Mr. Ramsay, his student,


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Mr. Tansley, the biologist, William Banks - are thinkers and scientists; they study and do science. They have their' 'work" which is in the public eye and is judged as important or insignificant by other participants in this world of work. Their lives revolve around that work and the figure they cut in that work world. They talk about numbers and books. For women that is an alien world:
What did it all mean? To this day she had no notion. A square root? What was that? Her sons knew. She leant on them; on cubes and square roots; that was what they were talking about now; on Voltaire and Madame de Stael; on .the character of Napoleon. . . she let it uphold and sustain her, this admirable fabric of the masculine intelligence ... Then she woke up; it was still being fabricated. 8

This is Mrs. Ramsay' s view of men and their life. She admires male intelligence as an utter outsider, but she also regards it with amusement as not quite real:" it was still being fabricated". For a younger visitor, Lily Briscoe, the matter is more difficult. She also feels herself outside the male world but she wants to have work, - in that male sense of "work" - she wants to paint. Men repeatedly discourage her; her internalized traditional role never allows her to work wholeheartedly. Both women play a very different role from the men. Here is Mrs. Ramsay again, presiding over the dinner table:
... Nothing seemed to have merged. They all sat separate. And the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her. Again she felt, as a fact without hostility, the sterility of men, for if she did not do it nobody would do it ... 9

While men think and are clever, women support, create a warm ambience, raise children, and protect them against the insensitivity of their fathers, and of other men. To women belongs the "whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating". Women are caretakers. Mrs. Ramsey takes care of her eight children, of Mr. Ramsey and any other male that comes around when he is out of sorts and needy. Lily Briscoe, who is not married and paints, nevertheless feels the demands of a lonely Mr. Ramsey, in the later portions of the book, but resists her 'natural' impulse to take care of them. "Taking care" spans a wide range of activities from seeing to food and clothes, to the maintenance of the house and the garden, to meeting people's emotional needs. That is a great deal of work, much of it organizational, but it also requires the ability to understand what everyone needs, even though they may not have said so, and that in turn requires a good deal of careful thought. Mrs. Ramsay spends a good deal of time thinking about everyone around her, and so does Lily Briscoe. Of course, men love women, and couples experience moments of intimacy. But even then, when Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey sit together at the end of an eventful day, he wants an avowal of love from her. Even in moments of closeness he takes and she gives. Positions and relations of men and women are quite different. Men's relations to women are those of domination: contempt mixed with insistent demands for affection, support, etc. Women are at best adored, at worst used to perform a wide range of services. Watching Mr. Banks looking adoringly at Mrs. Ramsay, Lily Briscoe thinks that' 'no woman could worship another woman in the way he worshipped," 10 for women were not as distant from other women

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and thus saw them more clearly . Even men's love for women is the love of the dominant male who never takes the trouble to seek to know the object afhis affection seriously; in order to maintain domination, women must be kept at a distance. They are kept out of the male world and that makes them utterly different. They, therefore, remain incomprehensible to men. Women by contrast have much more complex understandings of others; they see the faults as well as the virtues of other people. Nor do men dominate only women: the relations between men are relations of potential competition. Men write and produce work that is public, that is judged and criticized by others. Their relations to one another are competitive and judgmental. At the end of the novel, we witness a rare moment of intimacy between Mr. Ramsay and his youngest son J ames, who has just sailed a small boat out to the Lighthouse. "Well done!" says Mr. Ramsay, and his son is terribly pleased, (but, of course, conceals his pleasure behind a mask of indifference).ll Among men, even affection is expressed as a judgment; love appears contingent on good performance. The intellectuals in To the Lighthouse are in competition with one another for public recognition, fame and honors. Competitors are always a potential threat to one another. The successful competitor is in a position to make the loser do something he is not willing to do:- unless made to. The outcome of competition is domination. The different extent to whicbmen and women have power makes them into significantly different persons (A more complete account would have to detail women's lack of power in the sexual sphere, in raising children, in cultural production, and in science. 12) Men's power allows them to act out their feelings. Mr. Ramsay, when annoyed, flies into a terrible rage. Mr. Tansley, when feeling threatened, becomes hostile and assertive. There is a short distance between male sensations and their actions: anger, criticism, demands. Their emotions, rather than becoming accessible to language are directly expressed in action. Men tend to 'act out' their emotions . Women cannot afford to be so expressive; their hostile feelings are repressed; others are veiled in the company of men. In addition, since women are caretakers they are expected to know what is needed. Because men cannot openly acknowledge weakness, needs, or dependence, they expect their needs to be divined by women. Women are expected to assuage a man's feelings without his ever articulating them. Thus women are not only prevented from openly expressing negative feelings, - if they do show anger, they must also burst into tears and show weakness but they are also expected to sense what has not been expressed, and understand what has not been talked about. Hence women talk a great deal about emotions, about persons, about relationships, if not to others, - the women in To the Lighthouse seem quite isolated from one another - at least to themselves. Their inner sensations are not put into action immediately; they are put into words instead. Thus with different lives, due in large part to different positions of power, come different personalities. Men act in the wide world but to women they appear, as Mrs. Ramsay says, "sterile" . The intelligence that Mrs. Ramsay so admires when it deals with books, or numbers is not matched by intelligence in thinking about persons, emotions or relationships . This is often put as "men are not in touch


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with their feelings" as if theirs was a perceptual deficit. But it is not that men are not aware of their inner states, but that, instead of thinking about them, they act on them. Thus they are aware of, but do not understand their feelings, nor those of others. Women, instead, being dominated, cannot afford to act on their impulses. In addition their role is to read the subtle signs of men's feelings and to understand persons so as to be able to placate them where necessary. They learn to understand persons. It is important to add here that this distinction between male and female worlds, power and, thus, personality is not just a perception of Virginia Woolf's. The same distinctions are drawn in recent psychological literature, e. g. in Jean Baker Miller's Toward a New Psychology of Women:
We all begin life deeply attached to the people around us. Men, or boys, are encouraged to move out of this state of existence - in which they and their fate are intimately intertwined in the lives and fates of other people. Women are encouraged to remain in this state. . . 13

A man wants
... first of all, to sail through every situation "feeling like a man" - that is strong, self-sufficient and fully competent. He required of himself that he always feel that way ... at the same time ... he harbored the seemingly contradictory wish that his wife would, somehow, solve everything for him with such magic and dispatch that he never would be aware of his weakness at all. She should do this without being asked ... 14

Mrs. Ramsay' s perception ofherself and of other women is certainly that' 'they and their fate are intimately intertwined in the lives and fates of other people". Only the vocabularly is new. Jean Baker Miller uses the term: "affiliation" for that sort of relationship; Virginia Woolf does not give it a name, but recognizes the fact. Women tend to affiliate and an important element in that is their' 'helping in the growth of others" 15 not just of children, but of men also. Men do not do that. "A man can seldom give fully to his 'equals"'. 16 Mrs. Ramsay recognizes that and calls men "sterile. " Male inability to talk about and understand persons and their emotional life has not changed:
In a study on this period [latency] Luria describes the events in a grade school playground. She talks about the boys' learning not only to be "warlike" and to win out over others, but how to cheat and get away with it. If she asks the girls what they are doing they often answer' 'Nothing". The girls are hanging around the edges ofthe playground, "just talking' '. What are they talking about? They are talking about the issues in their families and what to do about them. In talking about their families, the girls are, of course, very involved in an emotional interaction with each other. 17

Lily Briscoe's hesitation with respect to her work is still replicated in the experience of women to-day. Women who have, by all accounts, very successful academic or artistic careers feel a deep split between their identity in work. 18

3. Alienation as Lack of Autonomy

Is Mrs. Ramsay alienated because she lacks autonomy? For a moment one might hesitate. Mrs. Ramsay, one might say, runs her own life and that of others. She is

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in charge of a fairly large household. She sees to the roof getting fixed and the garden getting cared for. She is in charge of the education of her children. She goes out, when she chooses, to look after the poor and sick in the village. She does a certain amount of decorous matchmaking among her younger guests. She is not taking orders from anyone. She has a great deal more autonomy than her maids, her cook or her gardener. She has more autonomy than her sons and daughters. What is more, Mrs. Ramsay is intelligent and she discharges her various tasks very competently. One might also point out that relation to her husband, she is clearly the stronger and more steady one of the two. She nurtures herself. There is no one for her to go to for affirmation and validation. She seems to be able to do that for herself. Her husband, by contrast, is quite dependent on her for fairly constant support. However well he does in his work as an elderly philosophy professor, the self esteem that is an essential ingredient of autonomy escapes him. He keeps coming around, wanting to be praised, wanting to be reassured that he is alright, wanting his wife to say that she loves him, after she has spent a lifetime making his life hang together and enabling him to do what he most wanted to dO. 19 Mr. Ramsay is dependent on the nurturing of his wife and other women and to that extent lacks autonomy. By comparison, Mrs. Ramsay seems centered and self-reliant. Nevertheless, Mrs. Ramsay lacks autonomy. Her time or her energy are never her own; she must always be ready to help, to understand, to mollify, to "merge and flow and create" connections between the people around her. Someone might choose that sort of life. But Mrs. Ramsay did not make that choice because it was not for her to make. Her world is not of her own making in a number of senses. She did not choose to fill a stereotypical caretaker's role, nor did she have any say in determining what such a role would be, whoever filled it. Society, male society, determined what the caretaker role should be, and that biological females were to play that role. She did not choose the outlines of the private world of the home which is hers, nor did she choose to be confined to that world. Besides, being excluded from the public world, she has no effect on it, on the world of men, of books, of politics, of business. It is not possible for her to contemplate herself in a world which she has created. It is important to understand what that lack of autonomy consists of. Philosophers have, not surprisingly, tended to intellectualize the concept of autonomy. They have argued that the ordinary understanding of autonomy as self-determination leaves open the possibility that one determine one's life in thoroughly conformist ways in order, above all, not to stick out, to be different, and to attract notice to oneself. This, philosophers have argued, is not genuine autonomy for that requires, in addition, that one determine for oneself what one's moral principles should be. To be autonomous, on this view, is to determine for oneself, rationally, what would be the best life for oneself. 20,21 That tends to reduce autonomy to a psychological state internal to the person, to an ability to think rationally about one's life choices. But life choices cannot be made rationally in the absence of relevant experiences and they are accessible only to those who are able to tryout various possibilities. What Mrs. Ramsey lacks is not the freedom to think about what sort of life she might have wanted to lead, but the freedom of action that would make such thinking more than idle speculation. Choosing a life for oneself involves not only thinking


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about what one is going to do, but trying it out, observing the lives of others, asking advice, making false starts, beginning all over on a different trajectory, and practicing the way one has chosen. Most people become professional philosophers only after getting a good deal of education and actually taking some philosophy courses to find out what philosophy is all about, etc. Mrs. Ramsay had no access to that sort of education. She did not have the requisite experiences for her to think usefully about whether she wanted to be a professional philosopher like her husband. Autonomy requires that one be able to act, that one have the economic means - a point Virginia Woolf made so emphatically22,23 - because one needs time and leisure to find one's path, and that one have access to all the resources one needs. Thinking rationally about one's life choices may well be essential to autonomy, but it is impossible if one cannot act. 24 Action, in its turn, is impossible if one's range of actions is circumscribed by, for instance, gender stereotypes which restrict one's access to society's resources. Autonomy is, therefore, not an exclusively psychological state. A person is autonomous only where social conditions permit the required freedom of action. The autonomy of persons requires a very specific social order which make full use of one's formal freedoms possible. But autonomy does, of course, have its internal psychological aspect also. Autonomy is closely connected with self-respect. 25 Self-respect here does not only consist of one's recognition of one's own worth, but also of one's willingness to act and to take risks; it consists of one's confidence that new and difficult projects may succeed. Insofar as autonomy includes exploring new and unaccustomed activities, self-respect is the willingness to take on those new activities, and the self-confidence required for succeeding. 26 Self-respect, for Mrs. Ramsay, would include the willingness to extend the narrow limits of her life, as defined by her society. But she does not have that sort of inner autonomy. On the contrary, she has internalized the dominant male conception of the female caretaker role. She accepts the fact that the male world, the world of books and numbers, is completely closed to her. What is more, she believes that women ought to lead the sort of life she leads. She always wants women to get married because that is what she thinks women's role is. Lily Briscoe has internalized the same stereotypes, albeit not as completely. Mr. Ramsay hanging around and wanting sympathy when she is setting up her easel to paint is enough to distract her, even though she is able to resist his unspoken and, to him perhaps even unperceived, demands. Both women have internalized, to some extent, the pervasive hostility of men against women. That saps their self-respect and diminishes autonomy. Of course, Mrs. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe have some external autonomy, and their lack of internal autonomy is also only partial. Mrs. Ramsay acknowledges her lack of education, but part of her is also bemused by and contemptuous of the heated exchanges at dinner over matters she considers "sterile", and of male inability to see what is going on before their very eyes or to foster relations between people. Lily Briscoe feels the pull of her traditional female role but struggles against it. That struggle, itself, absorbs a good deal of the energy that should have gone into her painting. It is not difficult to understand why feminists have insisted that women need autonomy. 27 Neither woman in Virginia Woolf' s novel is able to make full use

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of her abilities. Mrs. Ramsay is intelligent but uneducated. She is so taken up with caring for others, that she has not learned to get nurturing for herself, to share her thoughts and feelings with others, and to set her sights higher than a very traditional role - however well she fills that role. Lily Briscoe is more willing to challenge existing stereotypes, but the pressure to be more ordinary, to marry, to be always ready to support a lTIan in need, is a constant distraction. It is impossible for her to have self-respect in a world in which every male can patronize her and tell her that her painting does not amount to much. To be autonomous requires that one think about one's life choices, but it also requires that one be able to make tentative choices, to experiment, to move in one direction or another, and that one be able to do all of that with confidence. Lacking autonomy in those senses, women, then and now, are alienated. Men, of course, also lack autonomy but in very different ways. Mr. Ramsay is emotionally infantile. He needs constant mothering. Many externals, such as food and shelter need to be provided for him by others. Without Mrs. Ramsay's efforts there would be no comfortable ambience for him to exist in. He no more contemplates a world he has created than does his wife. He, too, is alienated but he has a considerable degree of autonomy in other areas.

4. The Critique of Autonomy

Iris Young has criticized this account of autonomy as excessively individualist. The underlying conception of a self is of one who is "separate and unified ... self-sufficient, not in a relation of dependence to others, the freely contracting individual' , .28 This conception of the self with its stress on individual autonomy has been attacked, mainly by feminists. Thus Naomi Sheman writes:
There is every reason to react with alarm to the prospect of a world filled with self-actualizing persons pulling their own strings, capable of guiltlessly saying 'no' to anyone about anything, and freely choosing when to begin and end all their relationships. It is hard to see how, in such a world, children could be raised, the sick or disturbed could be cared for, or people could know each other through their lives and grow old together. 29

Sheman questions the idea that people should be autonomous by way of being "self-actualizing [and] pulling their own strings" on the grounds that it would make solid relationships, like those between parents and children impossible. But is that criticism plausible? It would seem that autonomy is perfectly well compatible with solid commitments to other persons. It may well be true that the search for autonomy of many men has been made possible by women who did the caretaking and lacked autonon1y. But it would seem that one can well be autonomous - choose one's own way of life according to principles adopted freely by oneself - and choose a firm commitment to other persons. The concept of autonomy does not limit, it is often claimed, what the autonomous person may choose. Autonomy has to do with the way in which persons arrive at their choices; it has no implications for what they choose by such an autonomous process of choice. 3D It is perfectly true that if a person is autonomous nothing stands in his or her way of making any commitment whatever to other persons. But persons are not born autonomous; they become autonomous, if at all, only as a result of considerable


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effort. What is more, autonomy is not a state one enters into and can then take for granted; becoming autonomous is a never ending project, it is never automatic. Autonomy, when achieved, must be maintained. Finally, one may be autonomous in some aspects of one's life but not be autonomous in others. Thus the effort towards autonomy continues, one tries to maintain autonomy one has already acquired, and strives to gain it in areas where one still is dependent. No person is completely autonomous; autonomy is never secure but is constantly to be expanded and maintained. Trying to remain autonomous and to expand and secure autonomy is much more clearly incompatible with long term commitments. If I were securely, once and for all, my own person I could choose to make all sorts of commitments. But I am not. I am trying to be my own person, emerging from dependence on parents, teachers, friends and lovers, not to mention employers, or benefactors. My attention is focused on being my own person, following my own projects, developing my own abilities, meeting my own needs. Whatever commitments I may want to make to others, I need to be clear that they do not foreclose maintaining and expanding my self-directed projects. I will need to be very careful not to make commitments which will, at some future time, put the needs, or wishes, or projects of others above my own, for once that happens my life is no longer mine, directed by me, but becomes an appendage to the life of that other person or persons. Becoming and remaining autonomous are difficult to reconcile with unqualified long term commitments to others. Persons seeking autonomy Will, and must, see the needs of others as possible threats to their own search for being exclusively their own persons. They will wisely keep themselves at a distance and maintain their separateness. It is not an accident, then, that male autonomy has traditionally been made possible by women's lack of autonomy, for the men determined to be their own men could not reliably be counted on to be there when children, the sick and aged, as well as other men needed care and nurture that you could count on. This criticism of autonomy has been supported by at least two other considerations, which I shall mention only briefly because they require considerably more arguing than I can given them here. Typical male autonomy has been blamed for much of the enmity and destructiveness of public life in our time, and for the fact that autonomous men never can reach full autonomy, but always remain emotionally dependent on others, mostly women, who are not, in that same sense, autonomous. Virginia Woolf raised the first of these criticisms:
They too, the patriarchs, the professors, had endless difficulties, terrible drawbacks to contend with ... True they had money and power, but only at the cost of harboring in their breast an eagle, a vulture, forever tearing the liver out and plucking at the lungs - the instinct for possession, the rage for acquisition which drives them to desire other people's fields and goods perpetually; to make frontiers and flags; battleships and poison gas; to offer up their own lives and their children's lives. 31

The autonomy of men like Mr. Ramsay, and his academic colleagues gives rise to unrelenting competition and a permanent sense of precariousness. Forever threatened and threatening, men's relations to other men, as individuals and as entire nations, forever break out into conflict, struggle and war which destroys our world periodically, and which Woolf scathingly calls "the lack of civilisation" (ibid.). Jean Baker Miller echoes that critique of the concept of autonomy.

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The final criticism of autonomy as separateness begins with the observation, made earlier, that however hard Mrs. Ramsay tries to reassure her husband that he is adequate and loved, he does not become more autonomous. However much soothing and affection she supplies, he comes back for more. There is in the midst of all his autonomy a gaping lack of self-respect, which all her patient ministrations cannot fill: his autonomy does not provide him with self-respect. Mr. Ramsay's autonomy in the work world, and from his family ties, is connected with his emotional dependence on Mrs. Ramsay. He lacks emotional independence because he is autonomous in the way of many men in the world at large. His autonomy consists of not admitting to his needs, and not acknowledging those of other men, let alone of women, but, instead, of closing himself against his feelings. His own inner life thus becomes as unmanageable for him as that of others. He becomes unable to meet his own needs because he is not even allowed to avow having them. He therefore needs others to assuage his needs and, thereby, becomes dependent on them. These criticisms of the concept of autonomy confront us with a serious dilemma, which may be stated in more than one way: Mrs. Ramsay's total absorption in nurturing and caring for others leaves her lacking autonomy and hence alienated. But, as Scheman claims with considerable plausibility, if every adult strove to be autonomous, there would be no one to nurture those who are incapable of autonomy and who need nurturing. We seem then to face a choice between alienated lives, at least for women, or a world which is too desolate to contemplate, because it is, in that world, not possible' 'that children could be raised, the sick or disturbed could be cared for, or people could know each other through their lives and grow old together.' '32 The upshot of these arguments is that if alienation consists of lack of autonomy, as I claimed in section I, then however burdensome alienation might be, we would be better off not struggling against it, for the price of overcoming alienation by gaining autonomy seems too high. We are, it seems, better off alienated. The oppression of women and the emotional impoverishment of men is not as bad as what would ensue were we to try to remedy these two forms of alienation.

5. Autonomy and Separateness

This conclusion is, of course, not acceptable to feminists. We do not want to acquiesce in the oppression of women or make our peace with the emotional inarticulateness, and the destructiveness of men. We therefore need to reexamine the preceding argument to see whether we cannot escape this dilemma. Central to the concept of autonomy is the idea that persons must be separate if they are to be autonomous. 33 For there is an important sense in which an autonomous persons must be "his" or "her" own person. That much the story of Mrs. Ramsay makes very clear. There is also a very obvious sense in which persons are, in fact, distinct, namely insofar as my body is distinct from anyone else's. Hence in a perfectly ordinary sense my feelings, thoughts, and emotions are mine. So are the books I write, the plans I make, and the affection I lavish on others. What is more, it is important to those others that they receive my love and not someone else's.


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In the light of these pre-philosophical commonplaces , it is commonly believed, that each autonomous person has his or her own domain, a body, an inner life, abilities, work, a reputation, position in the world, etc. It is always, in principle, possible to say to whom something belongs: Who invented the first telegraph, who discovered a mathematical theorem, who is the author of a particular poem. When autonomous individuals work together the contribution of each is clearly identifiable and often so identified. The favorite metaphor for this sort of autonomy is that of possession. Persons, are thought of as the owners of private property, which includes themselves and their attributes: "Every man has property in his [sic!] person." 34 A person possesses his or her abilities, his or her body. A man possesses his wife and his children. Husbands feel possessed by their families. Exclusiveness is central to this notion of property. My property is mine alone, to do with as I please and so is my person mine alone. The exclusive relation one has to oneself is often also framed in cognitive terms: I and I alone know my own mental states directly. While it is undoubtedly true that autonomous persons are distinct from one another, in some sense, it is not acceptable to construe that distinctness of aptonomous persons in terms of the exclusive ownership of one's person. The criticisms raised against the concept of autonomy are, it turns out, criticisms of a very specific understanding of the concept of autonomy - namely, that autonomous persons are separate from each other in the sense that each is the exclusive owner of her or his person. We now need to see why the autonomous person should not be thought of as separate in that specific sense. This vocabulary of separate persons, who have clearly identifiable attributes, properties, accomplishments, etc. is useful to describe the lives of men insofar as they write books, build financial empires, or even insofar as they compete with others on a humbler scale for jobs, for advancement at work. Mutatis mutandis it now also applies often to women insofar as they make their careers in the public world. In this public world, it makes sense for persons to think of themselves as separate individuals. They think of themselves as strong and self-sufficient. They compete with and judge each other. Distance characterizes all their relationships. They do not knowthemselves; they cannot express their needs and they cannot explain themselves. They are thus essentially disconnected from others. Given the lives they lead, such persons may well think of themselves as separate individuals in the sense of being sole and exclusive owners of their persons and attributes. But in the life of Mrs. Ramsay whose person is always at the service of her children, her husband, his guests, not to mention the poor in the village whon1 she visits regularly, that sense of autonomy as separateness makes no sense. Her life and person are, of course hers, but never hers alone. On the contrary, they are always hers in relation to other persons. Her husband thinks of his books, and his reputation as a philosopher, as exclusively his. But Mrs. Ramsay's task is to see that the separate persons around her dinner table "merge" and form a group. Separateness is a challenge to her. Her life is always life with, in relation to. She is not under her own exclusive control; on the contrary, the demands of husband and children structure her days. This does not mean that she cannot call "her" life her own, in some sense, but only that "my" and "mine" have a different sense from the individualist sense of "exclusive possession" .35

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In contemporary language Mrs. Ramsay is "affiliated". Her life takes place in a web of relationships, which make her be who she is; she has no identity apart from those relationships. These relationships are different from the relations that Marx sees as constitutive of individuals - "the individual is nothing but the ensemble of social relations" 36 - for relations of, say, exploitation obtain whether one is aware of them or not; one does not need to work at them to have them. Mrs. Ramsay's relationships are her work; she moulds them, thinks about them, nurtures them in her work of "merging and flowing". In these relationships she can, of course, differentiate what comes from her from what comes from someone else, but "mine" and "yours" in that context no longer refer to exclusive possession. Words like "mine" and "yours" acquire a different meaning. Some further examples should make that clearer. More important, they will begin to suggest that the language of separateness does not even do justice to the lives of men. In the life of the single man, in his youth, becoming himself is his project. That does not mean that he does not get help from friends, lovers, teachers, therapists. But it is clearly his project and, in a significantly ambiguous sense, "his alone" . Then he marries. Let us assume that our man is not a stereotypical one, for whom marriage is simply taking on another form of the role of male domination. He is not marrying his domestic servant. Now becoming a fuller person is still his project, but in places that shades into becoming "our" project in several ways: because changing himself is part and parcel of working out a better relationship; because transforming the relationship is also to transform himself, because for him to surrender certain defenses requires for his partner to surrender hers, because seeing himself more clearly in certain respects is the result of negotiating with her who he is, whose view of him is the correct one and working out one that is reasonable for both, etc.; in this situation, it becomes much less appropriate to think of his self as separate, because while it is always his self it is always a self in a relationship. That relationship is, in part, what it is because he is who he is, but the converse is also true: He is who he is because he is in this particular relationship, with this particular person. Families have traditions, rituals they perform, stories they tell. Different elements may have been contributed by one or the other member of the family - and everyone may remember and acknowledge that - but the ritual is clearly everyone's, for the element originated by one becomes a part of the family ritual only when it is taken up by the family as a whole. Great ideas maybe someone's. But what an isolated thinker has is not a "great idea". It becomes that only in the social context, when it is understood, admired, built on, elaborated, clarified by many others working in a common tradition. Authors of academic books often provide long lists of people who helped them write their books. Such expressions of gratitude usually end with "the errors are, however, all my own' '. But this exclusive ownership of errors is obviously false: If a friend reads part of my manuscript and misses an error that I made, the error is then also his. If he makes a suggestion which I adopt, which turns out to be erroneous, the error is not mine alone. If both of us work in an intellectual tradition that is later discredited, the errors of that tradition are not just mine or his, but of everyone that contributed to the perpetuation and development of that tradition.


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It is true that I put the erroneous words on paper, and the physical effort is mine. The content of those words however are mine only in a weaker sense, insofar as I participate in a collective project. . Examples can be multiplied endlessly of situations where the possessive sense of "mine" and "yours" is inapplicable. Since the term "separate" is associated with the exclusive sense of possession, I will say that persons, in relationships, are "distinct" to indicate that there is a domain that is theirs but not theirs exclusively.

6. Two Senses of Autonomy

The differences between persons being distinct and being separate can help clear up the dilemmas formulated at the end of section 4. Mrs. Ramsay lacks autonomy precisely insofar as no one has recognized that it is not for men to determine what role she is to play, or what the demands of that role should be. In order to gain autonomy and overcome her alienation, Mrs. Ramsay needs others - and herself - to recognize and acknowledge her distinct existence. But by the same token it is not for Mrs. Ramsay, or anyone else, to determine by him or herself alone what his or her social role is to be. Persons are not separate in the sense that their lives are theirs alone, and for them alone to shape it whatever way they please. But neither does anyone's life belong to someone else for that person to determine the contours of the life of another person. For the stereotypical male in this story, the situation is different. Separateness is what he claims for himself. His autonomy pretends to consist of his exclusive ownership of himself and hence exclusive right of self-determination. But in order to make that claim at all plausible, he must act separate as far as that is possible and that means, in practice, playing an elaborate charade of separateness. 37 Thus Mr. Ramsay comes around, making a show of his separateness by being totally unaware, for instance, of his son's unhappiness at the cancelled outing to the lighthouse, deeply absorbed in his recitation of the Charge of the Light Brigade, but his performance of separateness works only because he does get the needs met which he is unwilling even to acknowledge. "It is the women's responsibility to supply the needs of the dominant group so that its members can continue to deny these feelings. "38 But the price he pays for this facade of separateness is, of course, alienation for he cannot participate in the relation to Mrs. Ramsayas an equal. He cannot acknowledge his needs and therefore cannot negotiate their fulfillment. He must be dependent on her. It is true then that autonomy alienates, but only if to be autonomous is to pretend, albeit not intentionally so, to be separate in the sense of being the exclusive owner of one's person. This kind of autonomy is alienating, in part, because it is always unconsciously put on and works only because others - women, usually - do not perform the same charade. It is also alienating because it deprives people of control over their lives because they cannot acknowledge their needs, and cannot share with others. They are, therefore, unable to think rationally about how they want to lead their lives. Autonomy, in that sense of separateness, would very obviously disrupt social life. But autonomy that rests on mutual recognition of distinctness, that acknowledges everyone's contribution to a relationship, builds on social life and

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overcomes alienation. Lacking autonomy in that sense is the very heart of alienation. The project of overcoming alienation must include the abolition of lack of autonomy in that sense. There are, then, two distinct senses of autonomy and hence two distinct senses of alienation. It is therefore legitimate for women whose distinctness is not acknowledged to demand autonomy in the sense of having their own role in their relationships - roles which they are full participants in shaping. It is equally legitimate, for men and women to work to put an end to the institutions that compel us to act as if we were separate persons, each exclusive owners of ourselves, and compel us to be distant from our own persons in order to be able to put a distance between ourselves and others. 39 , 40 It turns out to be true then, as we saw some people argue in section 4, that autonomy and long term commitments are compatible, but only if we understand correctly what autonomy is and what it means to be a person. The problem is, to begin with, a conceptual one. But concepts are the reflections of practices and a change in our thinking requires a change in our way of life. In order to gain autonomy and still be solidly in relation we must change the way we think about ourselves and the way we live. This struggle - to end the separation between ourselves and others - is a struggle to overcome different forms of alienation.
NOTES This paper has profited a great deal from careful reading and comments by Linda Alcoff, Lucy Candib, Lisa Feldman, Tom Moody and Iris Young. 1. Sandra Bartky, "Narcissism, Femininity and Alienation," Social Theory and Practice 8, (1982), 127-143. 2. Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York, 1978), 76. 3. Thoreau, in prison overnight for not paying his poll-tax, was nevertheless in control of his life. More or less temporary restraints do not necessarily produce alienation. Whether they do, or not, depends on the extent to which the restraint is, even if indirectly, chosen. 4. Jon Elster, Making Sense of Marx (Cambridge, 1985). 5. This is an oversimplified account of alienation. I have developed a much richer account in my book Alienation and Class (Cambridge: Schenkman 1983). But the conception of autonomy employed in that book tends to shift back and forth between the two different senses of autonomy distinguished later on in this paper. 6. Such an opening is likely to put the reader on guard against illegitimate generalizations, or partisan assertions, and rightly so: the lives of men and women vary widely; whatever generalizations we make, are certain to have all kinds of exceptions. The same stricture applies, of course, also to discussions of alienation. Each human being is unique, his or her life is different from that of every other person. General claims about alienation will fit some persons more completely than others. Similarly whatever we say about the different lives of men and women may fit the lives of some of them better than those of others. Such generalizations are important to the extent that they point out something important to us about the lives of many. 7. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (New York, 1927). 8. Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 159. 9. Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 126. 10. Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 75. 11. Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 306. 12. Alison Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature (Totowa, N.l., 1983), chapter 10. 13. Jean Baker Miller, Towards a New Psychology for Women (Boston, 1976), 86. 14. Miller, Towards a New Psychology for Women, 32-33.


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15. Miller, Towards a New Psychology for Women, 40. 16. Miller, Towards a New Psychology for Women, 51. 17. Jean Baker Miller, "The Developn1ent of Women's Sense of Self" Work in Progress 12, (1984), 1-15. 18. Sara Ruddick, & Pamela Daniels, ed., Working It Out (New York, 1977). 19. Nor is that worry totally neurotic. To the extent that her love is expected of her as a matter of fulfilling her socially ordained role, it is not freely given and thus he can, indeed, never be sure that she loves him. 20. John Benson, "Who is the Autonomous Man?" Philosophy 58, (1983), 5-17. 21. Arthur Kuflik, "The Inalienability of Autonomy" Philosophy and Public Affairs 13, (1984), 271-298. 22. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Oli'n (New York, 1929). 23. Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (New York, 1938). 24. Mary Gibson, "Consent and Autonomy" in To Breathe Freely: Risk, Consent and Air., ed. Mary Gibson, (Totowa, N.l., 1985), 150. 25. Martha C. Nussbaum, "Shame, Separateness and Political Unity: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato" in Essays in Aristotle's Ethics, ed. Amelie O. Rorty (Berkeley, 1980). 26. Richard Schmitt, Martin Heidegger on Being Human (Gloucester, M.A., 1976), 173. 27. Jean Grimshaw, Philosophy and Feminist Thinking (Minneapolis, 1986). 28. Iris Young, "'Review of Richard Schmitt, Alienation and Class"Human Studies 8, (1985), 397-401. 29. Naomi Scheman, "Individualism and the Objects of Psychology" in Discovering Reality ed. Sandra Harding and Merrill Hintikka (Dordrecht, 1983), 240. 30. Lawrence Haworth, Autonomy: An Essay in Philosophical Psychology and Ethics (New Haven,

31. Woolf, A Room afOne's Own, 56. 32. Scheman, "Individualism and the Objects of Psychology", 240. 33. Martha C. Nussbaum, "Shame, Separateness and Political Unity: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato". 34. John Locke, The Second Treatise of Govenunent (New York, 1952), 17. 35. This account of Mrs. Ramsay's connectedness blurs the important distinction between alienated and unalienated connectedness. That distinction must be developed elsewhere. 36. Marx, K., "Theses on Feuerbach" in Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy ed. Frederick Engels (New York, 1941). 37. The reasons for this persistent charade have not been discussed in this paper. I have tried to provide an explanation of this phenomenon in my book, Alienation and Class (Cambridge: Schenkman, 1983).

38. Miller, Toward a New Psychology for Women, 34. 39. Gibson, "Consent and Autonomy", 148.
40. Marjorie Weinzweig, "Should a Feminist Choose a Marriage-Like Relationship?" Hypatia

2, (1986), 139-160.