Women’s Suffrage



One of the most profound transformations in the study of political history in the last generation has been the collapse of determinist models that posited a straightforward connection between an individual’s life experiences and political attitudes. The work of Gareth Stedman Jones in particular forced historians to confront the fact that people do not interpret their experiences in a conceptual vacuum — they make sense of their lives using the linguistic resources available to them at a particular point in time. The idea that a particular set of experiences might give rise to particular forms of political consciousness — the idea that underpinned Marx’s theory of history — proved spectacularly vulnerable once one considered ‘the impossibility of abstracting experience from the language that structures its articulation’.1 The results of this ‘linguistic turn’ on social history and labour history are well known, but it has also fundamentally reshaped the study of gender politics in a way that is no less profound for having been accomplished more quietly. Connections that once seemed obvious between women’s experiences of oppression and the emergence of feminist protest no longer seem secure, because — just as working-class politics cannot be reduced to a set of material interests that exist prior to culture — women’s political consciousness could only take shape within the historically specific set of linguistic resources available to them.


Liberal Politics Daily News Linguistic Resource Plural Vote Parliamentary Debate 
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© Ben Griffin 2013

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