Carole Pateman


The dichotomy between the private and the public is central to almost two centuries of feminist writing and political struggle; it is, ultimately, what the feminist movement is about. —Carole Pateman

Carole Pateman is a British feminist and political theorist. She studied at the University of Oxford and now teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Read this for a summary of themes in Pateman's work.

Pateman, Carole. (1983). "Feminist Critiques of the Public/Private Dichotomy." Public and Private in Social Life. S.I. Benn and G.F. Gaus, eds. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press. pp. 281-303.

Despite its publication more than 25 years ago, Pateman's article, "Feminist Critiques of the Private/Public Dichotomy", continues to be widely cited in both political studies and feminist literature. In the article, she suggests that private/public dichotomy is a function of patriarchy, and as such, is the central focus of feminism. Pateman argues that the dichotomy serves specific patriarchal purposes. First, it fails to accurately describe the everyday experiences of women; the activities that women do are not easily divided into 'public' and 'private'. Second, public/private is a false dichotomy because the success of the (capitalist) public sphere is dependent on the labour done in the private sphere (household). Third, the dichotomy devalues women's work; a hierarchy inherent in the dichotomy places greater value on 'public' and often hides the value of the 'private'. Pateman's reassessment of the public/private dichotomy thus provides both a solid theoretical foundation for further exploration into the everyday experiences of woman and a starting point for challenging the rhetoric of the public sphere.

Pateman, Carole. (1989). The Disorder of Women: Democracy, Feminism, and Political Theory. Australia: Polity Press.

Carole Pateman's article, "Feminist Critiques of the Public/Private Dichotomy", was republished this compilation of her essays.