Inside Agitators

Australian Femocrats and the State

Hester Eisenstein
Book Cover

PB: $35.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-388-1
Publication: Jan 96

HC: $90.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-387-4
Publication: Jan 96

312 pages
6 x 9
1 tables

A fiesty story of women entering Australia's government and successfully using state power for social change

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Is a "woman-friendly" state possible? Can women achieve full social citizenship? At a time when backlash against people of color, women, and the poor is accelerating, this account of the experiences of Australian feminists is illuminating: Australian feminists succeeded in making women's issues like child care and domestic violence part of the main stream political agenda. Inside Agitators is the first full-length study of the Australian femocrats published in the United States.

Hester Eisenstein (herself a former femocrat) chronicles the efforts of a cohort of women, feminist bureaucrats, who changed the gender landscape—from the initial invitation to enter government by Labor in 1973 to the rise of neo-liberalism and the contemporary attack on the public sector. Connecting the femocrats to specifically Australian features of political culture and political economy, this book analyzes the implicit political theory of the femocrats. Eisenstein addresses the issues of strategies for social change, class, race and racism, sexuality and sexual politics, "gendered" experience, and accountability to the women's movement.

This important study explores the possibilities and limits of the contemporary attempt by the women's movement to constitute women as a "gender interest," and to use state power as an instrument for social change.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Part I: The Femocratic Experiment
1. The Australian Social Compact
2. The Early Years
3. Establishing the Feminist Mafia
4. Milestones

Part II: A Distinctive Ideology
5. Using the State
6. Mandarins or Missionaries? Accountability to the Women's Movement
7. A Class-Conscious Agenda
8. Race, Ethnicity, and Racism

Part III: Gendered Experiences
9. Official Feminism and the Politics of Gender
10. Sexual Politics
11. Sisterhood is Fragile

Part IV: The Limits of Reform
12. Roadblocks
13. The Rise of Neo-Liberalism
14. The End of an Era?


About the Author(s)

Hester Eisenstein, professor in the Department of American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, held posts at both the Office of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment and the Education Department in New South Wales, Australia. She is the author of several books, including Contemporary Feminist Thought.


In the Series

  • Women in the Political Economy edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg

    No longer active. Women in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg, includes books on women and issues of work, family, social movements, politics, feminism, and empowerment. It emphasizes women's roles in society and the social construction of gender and also explores current policy issues like comparable worth, international development, job training, and parental leave.