The Fear of Alienation
Because Radin's theory is based on identification with the feminine object of desire, alienation is not merely deemphasized like possession, it is affirmatively denigrated. Indeed, to the extent pragmatically possible, market-alienation should be prohibited:
Since personal property is connected with the self, morally justifiably, in a self-constitutive way, to disconnect it from the person (from the self) harms or destroys the self. The more something takes on the indicia of an attribute or characteristic of the self, or at least the self as the person herself would wish, the more problematic it seems to alienate it, and the stronger the inclination toward some form of inalienability.
That is, she imagines that if we can just remove the object of desire from the symbolic order of law, we can more easily merge with it and reenter the real. Radin's theory of personhood as identification with the female body as object is therefore reminiscent of Lacan's psychoanalytic theory, which states that in the symbolic order, the Feminine is conceptualized as the object of desire and that the masculine subject constitutes himself through the exchange with other subjects of the object as the Feminine. If one views personhood not from the psychoanalytically masculine position of subjectivity but from the psychoanalytically feminine position of objectivity, then to be the object of commodification (exchange) is threatening. According to Radin, "[c]ommodification stresses separateness both between ourselves and our things and between ourselves and other people." Sale of the female body is not a right but an un-right that should be a legal wrong.
Actually, Radin is deeply ambivalent both as to the relative values of separateness and connection and as to property's role with respect to these values. In at least one place, Radin argues that her concept of personal property increases, rather than decreases, separation.
It may be shown that certain functionings can be served by a form of private property; individual separateness, in particular, and the need to live one's life in one's very own context. When property actually serves this function in a justifiable way, I have called it personal. . . . [T]his form of justification of private property is "contingent and controversial," since it will collapse as a justification if someone shows, to the contrary, that the context of noninterference required for human functioning does not include private property.
Following Martha Nussbaum, however, Radin considers individual separateness to be only one possible capability of humanness, and by no means the most elemental or important. Other human capabilities, which Radin seems to privilege, include affiliation with other humans and relatedness to other species and to nature. She insists that "[i]n human life as we know it, self-constitution includes connectedness with other human beings and also with things in the world. . . ." And so, Radin is on the one hand concerned that what she calls market-alienability or commodification of certain intimate objects will cause the over-separateness of radical individualism, and the resulting objectification and subordination of women, among others. On the other hand, since Radin concludes from the empirical fact that people are born as dependents in society that they start interconnected, she posits that we need property rights in intimate objects in order to achieve "proper" individuation.
Radin eventually comes to the conclusion I suggested at the beginning of this chapter. Feminine personhood requires the withdrawal from the intersubjectivity of society which the identification with, and enjoyment of, objects allows.
The conception of human flourishing we have been considering generates a basic requirement of "being able to live one's own life in one's very own surroundings and context." This requirement follows from the basic understanding that human beings are separate individuals; the idea is that separation from other human beings, individuation, is accomplished in part by particularized connection with things.
In other words, in this conception of human flourishing separation does not connote the idea of alienability of all of the self's attributes and possessions, but rather something like its opposite: it refers not to separation of the person from her environment, but rather to separation of one person from another person, with the premise being that for that kind of sep-
aration to be instantiated in the world, a certain kind of specific connection to one's environment may be needed.
In Hegel, we seek objects derivatively in order to interrelate with others. In Radin, we seek objects in order to become disentangled from others.