Is it possible to be a feminist if you don’t believe in progress? In Feminism Against Progress, I argue that women’s liberation was less the result of human moral advancement in some absolute sense, than an effect of the Industrial Revolution: a transformation that was just and necessary under the circumstances, if not without costs.
Now, though, we’ve left the industrial era for the age of AI, biotech and pervasive computing. And the industrial-era faith in progress, defined as the pursuit of ever more freedom, is turning against all but a tiny elite. Feminism Against Progress argues that the technological, economic and cultural changes which delivered advances in personal freedom we understand as progress were often presented as utopian, including by feminists. But what serves as liberation for elites in practice often delivers commodification for those less privileged. And as technology has liberated us from ever more of the embodied differences between men and women, so this asymmetrical liberation has created new ‘marketplaces’ that are now working to commodify human intimacy, women’s bodies and reproductive ability, and even our sense of embodied identity.
Feminism Against Progress sets out the dark future that’s coming, if women ignore these warning signs as we plunge further into the cyborg 21st century and go on fighting the feminist battles of the industrial era. Instead we need to re-evaluate the legacy of the women’s movement, salvage its benefits and seek a new settlement that enables men and women to live together today.
Feminism Against Progress will be published in late 2022 by Swift Books.