[OPE] horizontalism and the socialist intelligentsia

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Mon Apr 06 2009 - 19:56:49 EDT

Jerry, you wrote:

"I don't agree that culture has become "feminized". The dominant culture in every nation of the world today is strongly shaped by the institutions and ideologies associated with patriarchy."

Surely the two are, in principle, not mutually exclusive? Can't the patriarch also adopt or modify traditionally feminine ways in support of his dominant role? Can't masculine and feminine characteristics be culturally reallocated and reconfigured?

I think the feminization of culture is very visible, and, obviously, if as in the US, about 47% of the employed workforce are women, they can hardly be ignored anymore, if only because their income is essential to the household budget. At most women's roles are redefined, to fit in with the current justifications of socio-economic inequality. I think you underestimate the extent to which the consciousness of gender differences and sexuality issues has become fully integrated into management thinking. If Steve Marglin were to rewrite his essay "What do bosses do?" http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/marglin/Papers_Marglin he would surely pay attention to this?

Actually, I do not accept the leftist theory of patriarchy as a universal description. A theory of patriarchy makes sense, when you have clear male dominance in a kinship system.
There are countries, subcultures and regions in the world where you really do have such clear patriarchy, in that sense. In those countries, particularly, feminist ideology can play a progressive, radical role if it frees women to take charge of their own development, and assume control over their own lives and destiny.

But if women can control their own fertility, choose their own partners, schooling and jobs, have access to childcare, have equal legal rights, and have their own independent income and assets etc., then the foundations for a real patriarchy (in the sense of a structure or system) break down. Friedrich Engels had a sense of this.

You might still have some kind of "male dominance" nevertheless, but that is more cultural-associational than structural-institutional, or more related to class hierarchies than to some kind of decisive structural, systemic advantage that gives all men power over all women, or, it is based more on physical strength and threats of violence.

Of course, men can still have a structural advantage over emancipated women, insofar as women bear and raise children, and men do not, and insofar as men are more likely to be hired for certain jobs (which can be higher paid) and women for others (which can be lower paid or have lower status).

But point is, I don't think that sort of feature is sufficient for a real "patriarchy" because it is not evident that all men benefit in this system at the expense of all women, or that all men can systematically and structurally exercise power over all women. In fact, they don't. Of course women can wail about "patriarchy", but that doesn't mean it necessarily exists objectively, it could just mean they feel mistreated by men.

Politically, I think actually the "patriarchy theory" is mainly a theory of middleclass professional women about the power of "a club of men" who stand in the way of their career. It's often about status anxiety. It's the same women who also want to meddle in the personal and family lives of the men and women below them in the hierarchy, and tell them how to live. Patriarchy theory sounds radical, but it is often radical only in an elite sense, in the sense of women desiring social equality within the elite. Often this kind of feminism is actually deeply and thoroughly racist.

I think once you drop the New Left middleclass prejudices and base yourself very closely on real experience of working lives, the meaning of social equality and emancipation become very different. At least that is my own experience, through long, hard years of learning, and working under female bosses for about six years in my adult life.


I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

- Bob Dylan, "Maggie's Farm"

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Received on Mon Apr 6 19:58:58 2009

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