Substantive or Procedural Autonomy: Willing Slaves and Deferential Housewives




Autonomy, Feminism, Women, Oppression, Deference


Autonomy remains a central yet contested concept for contemporary feminism. In part, this results from a tension which is definitional to the concept of autonomy. Simply put, how can a concept of autonomy, of choice, explain the choice not to choose? In this paper, I argue that a consideration of procedural, content-neutral conditions of autonomy at work in the past, present and future of an agent allows insight into oppressive socialization without incorporating substantive limits within the concept of autonomy itself. This conception of autonomy promotes an evaluation of choice in terms of the conditions apparent in the act of choosing and sheds light on oppressive forces which diminish those conditions. Conceiving of autonomy as occurring across time and into the future also offers insight into the compatibility of deference and autonomy. This approach to autonomy best accommodates the multiplicities of human identities, values and goals.


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How to Cite

Walsh, M. B. (2023). Substantive or Procedural Autonomy: Willing Slaves and Deferential Housewives. Ethics, Politics & Society, 6(1), 1–26.



Original Articles