Faculty Writing: On the Actuarial Self, and the Crisis of Zionist Feminism

BISR faculty Suzy Schneider, writing in Aeon magazine, examines risk in the contemporary world and who bears it. Noting a trend among politicians to offload social risk onto individuals and a trend among businesses to capitalize on this, Schneider asks: “what type of political subject is the actuarial self?” According to contemporary behavioral economists, “the main problem with the actuarial self is that most of us remain poor risk-calculators” in need of coaching into better decision-making. But “cultivating the actuarial self as a political subject,” Schneider counters, “shifts the conversation away from public, structural, effective solutions in favour of tips and hacks that can never address the root of problems.”

Then, writing in Salvage magazine, Sophie Lewis carefully parses an “ideology in crisis”—that of Zionist feminism. Reading avowed Ziofeminists past and present, Lewis zeros in on an imaginary of Israel as “a colonial gender utopia, “a place for women to spread their wings,” thus diminishing the real ethnonationalist thrust of the project.  Though “riven” internally, “much like ‘liberal Zionism’,” Lewis argues that every ideological facet of feminist Zionism must now also contend with “being accused of being the enemy – i.e., my enemy, and the enemy of all abolition feminisms – every waking minute, which is as it should be.”

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