Feminists Theorize the State by Johanna Kantola (auth.)

By Johanna Kantola (auth.)

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While usefully theorizing institutions in the broad sense, the new institutionalist literature either fails to mention gender or reduces gender equality to the measure of women’s political participation (Mackay and Meier 2003: 3). The concerns of feminism and traditional institutionalism seemed incompatible due to epistemological differences, and institutionalism had little to offer feminists. 5 The diversity of approaches broadens the epistemological and ontological underpinnings of new institutionalism.

It is virtually impossible to find theoretical discussions on the problems, challenges and contributions of comparative discourse analysis (see, however, Howarth 2005: 332–5). In particular, comparative studies are often challenged for drawing comparisons when concepts have different meanings in different countries. A further difficulty is thought to arise from the fact that different years and time-intervals have different meanings for the countries and activities being compared (Bergman 2002: 62).

These are the grounds on which feminism and discourse analysis can make very specific and useful contributions to the new institutionalist literature. Again, rather than giving up on new 38 Feminists Theorize the State institutionalism, I find it productive, like Mackay and Meier, to engage with the approaches, to use their methodological insights and, at the same time, to possibly contribute to the new institutionalist debates. In conclusion, I have indicated that the shift to new institutionalism is a positive development.

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