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De Beauvoir and The second sex :|ba Marxist interpretation

Shepherd, Angela




The Second Sex is Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal text. There have been numerous interpretations and critiques of this text since its inception in 1949. Most notable is the reading of her work as merely incorporating Sartrean existentialism and applying it to the social position of women. However recent theoretical discussion recognises her work as also an exploration of Marxism and this thesis follows that line of argument as, read in this context, the distinctiveness of her philosophical contribution can be made visible.

Chapter one, endorses Marx’s historical materialism. Historically variable material conditions lead to historically variable human characteristics. De Beauvoir’s focus is with regard to women. Chapter two introduces the One and Other as a feature of human consciousness and a feature of women’s social oppression. Her account of why this structure explains women’s oppression is inspired by Marx’s historical materialism. Chapter three concerns the myths of femininity which also contribute to women’s oppression and are ideological in the Marxist sense of the word. Myths are productive, yet distorting and false, with the aim being to promote the interests of the powerful at the expense of those who are powerless. Chapter four expresses de Beauvoir’s views on the body insisting that the experience of biology as oppressive is a consequence of what culture makes of the body, again, utilising Marx’s historical materialism. Chapter five describes women’s lives as conditioned by historical, economic and material conditions structured by ideological myths which distort women’s human potential. Chapter six suggests freedom for de Beauvoir differs from Sartre. The meaning and value which condition the lives of individuals are informed by social structures which humans create within an historical and discursive context. Freedom for de Beauvoir, incorporating Marxist insights, is only possible with structural, economic and ideological change.


Shepherd, A. (2015). De Beauvoir and The second sex :|ba Marxist interpretation. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 9, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Politics
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Politics, Philosophy and International Studies, The University of Hull
Award Date Dec 1, 2015


Thesis (2.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Shepherd, Angela. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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