Nancy Fraser

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Nancy Fraser
Born (1947-05-20) 20 May 1947 (age 67)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Critical theory,
Feminist philosophy
Institutions The New School
Main interests
Political philosophy

Nancy Fraser (born 20 May 1947) is an American critical theorist, currently the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at The New School in New York City. Fraser earned her PhD in philosophy from the CUNY Graduate Center and taught in the philosophy department at Northwestern University for many years before moving to the New School.


Fraser is a noted feminist thinker concerned with conceptions of justice in the tradition of feminist thinkers like Martha Fineman. She argues that justice is a complex concept which must be understood from the standpoint of three separate yet interrelated dimensions: distribution (of resources), recognition (of the varying contributions of different groups), and representation (linguistic). She believes that as blank slate theory becomes increasingly marginalised by advances in genetics, Marxists should refocus their efforts on the espousal of blind redistribution over more equitable concepts of social justice such as those advocating the need for different groups to make concrete contributions to society.

In Fortunes of Feminism, 2013, Fraser regards Marxist theory as being concerned with distribution. In New Left Review, 86, March/April 2014, she rediscovers Marx’s definition of capital as a social relationship between those with means of production and those who can only gain access to means of production by selling their ability to work. But she does not incorporate production where different social relations prevail – in the household, the community, and the public sector – into the economy as a whole.

In keeping with her quest to avoid reductive conceptions of issues such as justice and democratic participation, she also argues that social theorists should synthesize elements of critical theory and post-structuralism, overcoming the "false antithesis" between the two,[2] in order to gain a fuller understanding of the social and political issues with which both approaches are concerned.

However, Fraser is not advocating a vague confusion of the two, but rather a pragmatic approach in which each school of thought is rigorously interrogated in order to separate its useful from its non-useful or detrimental elements for a democratic analysis of societal institutions and social movements. Thus Fraser is squarely in the tradition of left-democratic values while accommodating within this tradition the more recent insights of feminist theories, critical theory, and post-structuralism. In addition to her many publications and lectures, Fraser is a former Co-editor of Constellations, an international journal of critical and democratic theory, where she remains an active member of the Editorial Council.

Fraser was also one of the first English-speaking philosophers to do important work on Foucault.


  • Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (1989)
  • Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the "Postsocialist" Condition (1997)
  • The Radical Imagination: Between Redistribution and Recognition (2003)
  • Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange (co-authored with Axel Honneth, 2003)
  • Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World (2008)
  • Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (2013)
  • Transnationalizing the Public sphere (2014)
  • Domination et émancipation. Pour un renouveau de la critique sociale (co-authored in french with Luc Boltanski and Philippe Corcuff, Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2014)
Edited books and select contributions to edited volumes
  • Revaluing French Feminism: Critical Essays on Difference, Agency, and Culture (co-edited with Sandra Bartky, 1992)
  • Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange (with Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, and Drucilla Cornell, 1994)
  • Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser Debates Her Critics (edited by Kevin Olson, 2008)
  • Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique: Dialogues (edited by Gabriel Rockhill and Alfredo Gomez-Muller, 2011), 240 pp. ISBN 978-0-231-15187-0. (pb.)


  1. ^ Fraser, Nancy (1989), "Foucault on Modern Power: Empirical Insights and Normative Confusions" in N. Fraser, Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  2. ^ Fraser, Nancy (1997), "False Antitheses: A Response to Seyla Benhabib and Judith Butler", in N. Fraser, Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the "Postsocialist" Condition, New York: Routledge.

External links[edit]

Chhachhi, A. (2011), Nancy Fraser. Development and Change, 42: 297–314. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2011.01691.x