Feminist Next System Literature Review


Solidarity Research Cooperative, in partnership with the Next System Project, conducted a literature review of feminist theorists, activists, and experiments tied to next system design. It was not exhaustive; but, instead, focused on a few key areas. We looked, in particular, for feminists, feminist experiments, and theories that propose (or model) comprehensive system designs for a political economy radically different from contemporary capitalism. We broadened our search to include specific concepts or experiments that could potentially form one component of a new system design. All in all, we found few comprehensive system designs from feminist perspectives, especially in recent literature.

However, our deep dive into the material uncovered a number of writers and concepts that hold promise for future system design work. We also identified a few possible reasons for the lack of feminist next system designs.  We found some depth across the following areas of thought (many of these overlap in interesting ways) relevant for thinking about feminist next system design:
  • Feminist Socialism: Socialists and Marxists trained in the 1960’s and 1970’s grappled with what a feminist socialism or Marxism should look like. And grounded key concepts from socialist theory and practice into suggestions for change (e.g. focus on technology and communalism to address gender imbalances in the home). See: Nancy Holmstrom, Johanna Brenner, Lise Vogel, and Angela Davis
  • Eco-feminism: Variations of eco-feminist and utopian ideas have been adapted by movements around the Commons, “Take Back the Land” (MST, Via Campesina), Indigenous People’s movements, and anarchist traditions in Europe (especially in Spain and Italy) and Latin America. See: Silvia Federici, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, The Grand Domestic Revolution, Mujeres CreandoSilvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Gargalla Francesca
  • Solidarity Economy: A focus on the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) has emerged over the last twenty years (especially amongst economists, sociologists and political scientists), with next system concepts linked to what they promise are “already existing alternatives to capitalism.” Many of the examples of SSE are grounded in Latin American and other Third World practices and movements See: J.K. Gibson Graham, Emily Kawano, Julie Mathieu, Nancy Folbre
  • Place-based Practices: A tendency to privilege micro feminist experiments in place, at the grassroots level, in social movement organizing or in the practice of everyday life, but decentralized, democratic, and focused both on women’s autonomy and collectivity, their solidarity with one another and the planet. See: EcofeminismJ.K. Gibson GrahamMariarosa Dalla Costa, Solidarity Economy, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Hilary Wainwright
  • Domestic Labor: Continued interest in solving the problem of care and household labor, deep unease about the use of imported domestic labor in wealthy nations, but with serious tensions as to the solutions (technology, communal care, egalitarian structures in the home, the eradication of the nuclear family, eradication of gender, a queer ethics, good pay for domestic care, etc). See Barbara Ehrenreich, Nancy Folbre, Wages for Housework, Sarah Hoagland

A few potential reasons for the lack of feminist system designs:

  • Intense and continued debate over the sources of women’s oppression.
  • On the part of grassroots and labor movements, a continued counter-reaction to the widely documented, “patriarchy of the left.”
  • ​Hyper-specialization in the social sciences on specific issues (wages, care work, globalization, sex work, etc.).
  • An intentional turn away from macro economic theory and planning amongst academic feminists and grassroots activists because of problematic claims at representation, inherently patriarchal nature of system design, and because of the need for acknowledging and documenting “situated” knowledge and already existing alternatives to capitalism (see Place-based Practices above).
  • Amongst white feminist academics in the US and Europe, a deep postcolonial hesitancy to assert dominance over marginalized groups by proposing grand theory.

These pages, intentionally organized in a decentralized format but with embedded links and tags, aim to illustrate the breadth of content, the lack of clear categories or boundaries, the span of networks, linkages, contrasts, gaps. Gaps because, of course, this is only a small slice of the feminist literature relevant to questions of next system design. To begin exploring pages, click below:

Feminist Next System Entries