Is the Concept of Patriarchy Useful to Comparing the Gender Relations through the World?

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:00 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Eric MACE , Sociology, Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France

Is the concept of patriarchy useful to understanding and comparing the gender relations throughout history and the world? To answer this question affirmatively we must first consider patriarchy not as a system of male domination that imposes itself upon all human societies but instead, by adapting Erving Goffman’s concept, as a specific form of "gender arrangement". From this standpoint two things can be shown. First, that gender arrangements such as those that exist within the European Union are not patriarchal arrangements but post- patriarchal: they are the result of the internal contradictions of modern patriarchy, where the transformation of the family and the economy the and aspirations of individualism have dismantled the hierarchies of gender and sexuality in favor of equal rights and the fight against discrimination. However, our approach reveals that the post-patriarchal arrangement also contains contradictions, in particular between the values of equality and the social construction of inequality and between the values of personal uniqueness and social reproduction of cultural differences and gender hierarchies. Secondly, our approach also shows that in most non-Western societies, such gender arrangements are not just traditional patriarchal arrangements, but traditional patriarchal arrangements that have been modernized (by colonial hegemony) and re-remodernized (by glocalized hybridization). A major consequence is that these hybrid arrangements possess both the contradictions inherent in the modernization of traditional patriarchy and those specific to post-patriarchy. Recasting patriarchy in this way enables one to grasp the logic of action and internal contradictions of each type of arrangement by identifying their singularities without placing them hierarchically on an “axis of progress". Moreover, this analytical move also makes it possible to compare all gender arrangements according to their relationship to the principle of patriarchy.