Abstract

The Philosopher and Her Poor: Wollstonecraft, Rancière, and the Rights and Duties of Humanity

"The Philosopher and Her Poor: Wollstonecraft, Rancière, and the Rights and Duties of Humanity" argues that Wollstonecraft asserts rights not as the corrective of localized wrongs (and thus the mirror image of the dominant order), but as the necessary correlative of duties. By formulating women’s work as duty—a form of rational, voluntary obligation that entails reciprocal relations, including rights—Wollstonecraft recasts the ostensibly apolitical obligations of women as the actions of the political subjects they already are. By shifting focus from the entitlement to rights to the performance of duty,  Wollstonecraft ties rights to the realization of one’s human capacities rather than status (wealth, rank, sex, or even humanity as mere species membership). She thereby creates the basis for a revolutionary political order that does not simply extend the prerogatives of an unjust status quo to new claimants but overturns the very structures that disbar women from exercising their rights.