From Patriarchy to Composite Gender Arrangements? Theorizing the Historicity of Social Relations of Gender

From Patriarchy to Composite Gender Arrangements? Theorizing the Historicity of Social Relations... Abstract While the concept of patriarchy is useful to describe gender as a power relation that shapes social reality, it becomes problematic when it defines gender as structural male dominance irrespective of historical changes. The concept of “gender arrangement” instead defines patriarchy as a specific kind of historical gender arrangement, where the asymmetry between masculinity and femininity is considered both legitimate and necessary. From this combinatory model, this article explores the growing contemporary contradictions of gender asymmetry. In both the Global North and the Global South, these tensions lead to composite gender arrangements, from patriarchy in crisis to post-patriarchy in crisis. Introduction The aim of this article is to put forth a new theoretical framework for a global analysis of contemporary gender relations. This kind of proposal is not obvious insofar as it raises the question of postcolonial criticisms of the western-centrism blindness of Northern social sciences (Bhambra 2007; Go 2016). Nevertheless, there is not a single human society without a gendered meaning of the world, which is what Northern anthropologists have called an “anthropological universalism.” Accordingly it exhibits many variations regarding what is masculine and what is feminine and what are the relations between them, what are the intersections between gender and other social relations, and what are the social consequences of this gendered institution of reality (Godelier 2011; Héritier 1999; Mead 2001). Within such a diversity of definitions of gender, we believe that the social sciences need their specific kind of definition, which cannot be founded on cosmological narratives (religious, symbolic, and nationalist) or on biological causes because the social sciences use social relations in their reasoning, including the understanding of entanglements between what we call cosmology, nature, or “society” (Latour 2005). That is why a sociological definition of gender can be regarded as a “sociological universal”: in every kind of society, we can describe gender as a social relation (linked with other social relations) that shapes, institutes, and transforms social figurations (Elias 1984), through the logics of action of a wide variety of actors. That being said, the main issue is to devise a sociology of gender which would be able to describe the variety of gender relations in the world without analyzing or comparing those figurations from Western-centric standards of gender status, gender identities, or gender roles (Connell and Pearse 2014; Mohanty 1984). My main argument is that we cannot think about contemporary social relations of gender without the concept of patriarchy. Formulated by northern feminist thinkers, this concept is useful to describe social relations of gender not in terms of differences but in terms of hierarchy, not in terms of sexual differences but in terms of social relations of power and domination (Walby 1990). In my opinion, this does not mean that all social relations of gender have been or have to be patriarchal. It means that all contemporary social relations of gender in the world have been shaped both by the Western type of patriarchy and by the “coloniality of gender” through Western colonization (Lugones 2008). Does this mean that all contemporary social relations of gender are henceforth patriarchal? Do we now have to think about contemporary social relations of gender only through patriarchy? If so, I will show in the first section of the paper what the theoretical consequences are and how they lead to many sociological difficulties—notably to a tautological definition of patriarchy and male dominance. In the second section, I propose to define patriarchy not as the expression of a structural social dominance but as a contingent, relative, and situated type of “gender arrangement,” i.e. a type of combination where the asymmetry between masculinity and femininity is both legitimate (from the hegemonic standpoint) and necessary (due to the type of social organization of the interdependency between individuals). This combinatory definition of patriarchy leads to a number of possible other figurations: patriarchy can sometimes be described as a coherent social structure, sometimes as a social figuration in crisis (when women no longer have the social obligation to be subordinate to men or when the legitimacy of gender equality is powerless to change the economic dependency of women on their family), and even as the condition for “post-patriarchal” types of gender arrangement—once it is recognized that, despite the ongoing process of gender inequalities and violence, the asymmetry between masculinity and femininity, between men and women, is neither legitimate nor necessary (Macé 2015). The objective of this article is not to deny the existence of violence, inequalities, and discrimination against women, subordinate masculinities, and sexual minorities, particularly when gender relations intersect with race, class, or other relations. On the contrary, the point is to better describe these inequalities and acts of violence by not tautologically imputing them to “patriarchy,” but rather observing what the global crisis of patriarchy—as we shall demonstrate below—is doing to contemporary gender relations. Lastly, the objective is to show that post-patriarchy or crisis of patriarchy throughout the world will not lead to the end of gender as a power relation, but to a heightened awareness of the tensions, contradictions, paradoxes, and action potential that characterize contemporary gender relations. In this sense, and this is the postcolonial challenge of this paper, the point is to show that while the historical trajectories of gender relations in Western and non-Western societies are at once intertwined and different, the current situation is not that of a divide between liberal egalitarian Western societies and patriarchal non-Western societies, but of a common disengagement, albeit in different forms, from patriarchy. The gender arrangements in the Global North and Global South remain intertwined as soon as they take part in the postcolonial reconfiguration of power relations (Connell 2014, 2016; Go 2013). Indeed, we observe that the dominant actors in the North and South, far from sharing a dynamic, intertwined, and composite conception of gender relations, have fashioned a “clash-of-civilizations” discourse that tends to separate the trajectories and horizons of societies in the North and South (McClintock, Mufti, and Shohat 2004). The Western societies that imposed their heteronationalist patriarchal model on the rest of the world (Dyer 1997) and were fervently anti-feminist up to the 1970s act as though gender equality were a mark of modern Western identity. The first consequence thereof is to underestimate that gender is less a question of difference than a question of power in Western societies now that they have established equality before the law. The second consequence is to ascribe sexism and male violence to immigrant populations and their descendants and to the “cultures” of a global South identified in turn as heteronationalist, patriarchal, and homophobic (Butler 2009; Delphy 2015; Guénif-Souilamas and Macé 2006; Puar 2007). Symmetrically, that kind of “sexual nationalism” (Jaunait, Le Renard, and Marteu 2013) leads to the observation that the identity-based ethnic and nationalist rhetoric of many actors in the global South associate principles of gender equality and sexual liberalism with Western cultural imperialism, even if that means, paradoxically, associating heteronationalist patriarchal and homophobic norms imported by colonizers with the most fundamental forms of cultural identity in the South (Pratt 2012; Dalacoura 2014). On the contrary, as I will show in the two last sections of the paper, the dimension of contemporary gender arrangements that is common to the Global North, the Global South, and the Global East is not patriarchal but “composite.” This means that now there are no longer coherent gender arrangements and that all gender arrangements have to face either the contradictions of patriarchy in crisis or the contradictions of post-patriarchy. I prefer to use the term “composite” here rather than “hybrid,” which has gained hegemony in the English-language social sciences, for several reasons. I do so, first, because biological metaphors are not necessarily pertinent in the social sciences. In this sense, Morin’s suggestion (2005) of using the term “syncretism,” which stems from anthropology, to describe the process of reciprocal acculturation seems more pertinent than the term “hybridity.” Furthermore, while “hybridity” suggests that sociocultural elements of different origins all fuse into a new reality, “composite,” a term drawn from architecture, implies that globalization does not lead to total integration, but articulates in a way that is not necessarily coherent with, and may even be contradictory to, elements which are themselves syncretic. It is precisely in this sense that the sociologist Pascon (1979) proposed the term “composite” to describe the effects of the reorganization and disruption of Moroccan society in the throes of postcolonial transformation. In my estimation, the same goes for all contemporary gender arrangements: they are long-term syncretic outgrowths of Western modern patriarchy and its crisis, colonial, and postcolonial nationalist modernization, shaped in contradictory ways by globalization and by national, ethnic, and religious identity narratives, unfurling all their dynamics and composite conflicts. Regarding the specificity of historical trajectories, the third section is dedicated to the historicity of the contemporary composite gender arrangement of European societies. The effects of modernity on traditional patriarchal gender arrangements has led to a new, modern gender arrangement, no less patriarchal but based not only on the racial colonial project, but also on nature and science rather than cosmology. This modern patriarchal arrangement is beset with internal contradictions and conflicts, however, which have given rise over the course of two centuries to a new post-patriarchal-type gender arrangement, which in turn also holds contradictions, tensions, and dynamics that are peculiar to it and need to be precisely described. The fourth and last section is dedicated to the specific historicity of contemporary composite gender arrangements in the Global South, which are different but have in common the legacy of the “coloniality of gender” (including the modernizing agenda of postcolonial nation-states) and the cultural dimensions of globalization—which have led to what we could call a general crisis of patriarchy. Patriarchy, Gender, and Structural Male Dominance: Theoretical Limits The concept of patriarchy, first formulated by feminist thinkers in the 1960s, sought to describe the inequalities and violence women are subjected to less as an expression of the will of “men” than as the product of a social and symbolic organization wholly rooted in history and institutions (Wilson 2000). In this sense, radical feminism maintained that gender is not a cultural way to express natural sex differences a posteriori, but the other way round: gender is itself the expression and product of a division and hierarchy between human beings originally imposed by men on women, sex differences serving merely to naturalize a difference rendered prominent by the very foundation of oppression such that it is gender that makes for patriarchal oppression and not sex that makes for gender (Delphy 1977). In this case, as long as gender exists as a social relation, it can only be defined as a relation of patriarchal domination and as a cause of inequalities, discrimination and violence against women. Many critics at the time stressed that such a definition of gender relations was at once tautological and not very descriptive (Pollert 1996). It is tautological because patriarchy here is both that which is to be explained and that which explains: the cause of the inequalities and violence women are subjected to is patriarchy, and the proof that patriarchy exists is that women are victims of inequalities and violence. Instead of defining gender as a structural system of male dominance (Bourdieu 2001; Delphy 1977), gender can rather be defined as a social relation of power among others (Scott 1986), inherent in social life, presiding over the organization of social relations and hierarchies—in a word, over the construction of frames of action and the establishment of reality. Power is not something one possesses, however, but exercises: this is why, owing to their interpersonal dimension, these power relations and frames of action are intrinsically vulnerable to passive or active resistance, to critiques, to events—to breaking the frame and reframing (Goffman 1974). In this paradigm of power, dominance, in turn, takes on a different meaning. It is no longer an objective force that subjugates, but on the contrary a subjective form that makes action possible through the experience of a “feeling of dominance.” This feeling can indeed lead to a reclassification and resignification of “ordinary” power relations through a critique of their unfair, humiliating, reductive, inegalitarian etc. nature, regarding the definition of situations, problems, identities (Becker 1963; Butler 1990; Hall 1996). Thus, there is nothing outside or overhanging power relations, but the ongoing and antagonistic work of exercising and critiquing these power relations within the frames of action through which social relations are objectified—this is the dynamic of their historicity. As Butler has shown (2004) in her queer rereading of Michel Foucault’s observations on gay sexuality (Foucault 2001), gender presents this dual aspect of social power relations: they establish norms that assign, orient, and legitimize hierarchies and the differential value of existences, and they are the fulcrum for resistance, for criticism, even for a transformation of the selfsame power relations (Macé 2014). At the same time, thinking gender as a structural male dominance is not very descriptive because such a definition of patriarchy obscures not only the diversity of historical and contemporary forms of gender relations, but also the transformative potential of actors via women’s, feminist, gay, and queer movements. That is why some seek to endow the concept of patriarchy with greater complexity by introducing elements of historicity proper: the point is not to show that there is a way out of patriarchy, but that forms and degrees of patriarchy exist that explain its various historical transformations, notably in its relations with various forms of capitalism and the state. Defining canonically patriarchy as “social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women” (Duncan 2002, 74; Walby 1990, 20), Walby (1990) shows that between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries Europe went from a “private patriarchy” centered on the omnipotence of the paterfamilias (including, metaphorically, in the exercise of political power) and on women’s exclusion from the public sphere, to a “public patriarchy” in which the bureaucratic state took the father’s place and the hierarchized segregation of women in gainful employment and the public sphere superseded their initial exclusion—including a “neoliberal” and a “social democracy” model (Walby 2009). Nevertheless, over the course of the 1990s, as political feminism in Europe was increasingly converted into the egalitarian public policies of gender mainstreaming through the entry of feminists and their agenda into academic, institutional, and political spheres at national and EU level, the critical concept of patriarchy gave way to the more pragmatic concept of “gender regimes” (Walby 1997). Even though Walby mentions that in her conceptual framework the words “patriarchy” and “gender regime” mean the same thing (1997, 5), the focus is now no longer on the domination and oppression of women but on the factors of production of gender inequalities and equalities according to the gendered effects of public policies to regulate the job market and care sector activity and according to cultural conceptions of the family (Lewis 1992; Orloff 1996; Pfau-Effinger 1998; Walby 2004). As a consequence of this European trajectory, the concept of patriarchy remains difficult to use: either it continues to be used as a feminist given, at the risk of being reduced to a non-descriptive tautology (gender is patriarchy), or it has ceased to be a theoretical reference in the comparative analysis of gender inequalities. The other main reason the concept of patriarchy is difficult to use is that the debate has shifted towards the question of the intersectionality of power relations. The first feminist way to address this issue in Europe was to hypothesize the intersectionality of social classes and gender (Walby 1990). However, the critique also stems from black and queer feminists in the United States (Butler 1990; Crenshaw 1991): the concept of patriarchy is one-dimensional and fails to encompass the totality of real-life gender relations—worse still, it contributes to concealing the dimensions situated outside white middle-class heterosexual hegemony. This introduction of the sexual question and of the intersectionality of gender with race and class relations and sexualities led to an extension of the subjects of feminism and epistemological viewpoints through which gender relations can be grasped. Limited at the outset to the analysis of intersectionalities peculiar to each national context, the analysis on intersectionality then sought to expand its scope to the transnational and historical scale of postcolonialism (Patil 2013) in order to show the relations that obtain between colonial patriarchy and contemporary nationalist and identity-based patriarchy in societies of the global South, just as relations obtain between colonial patriarchy and the postcolonial forms of legitimation of Western military interventions in the global South in the name of women’s rights (Butler 2009; Spivak 1988). However, the upshot of this radical critique of the concept of patriarchy through the theory of intersectionality is paradoxical (Davis 2008): the concept of patriarchy is no longer questioned, but integrated as a “given” of intersectionality through the purportedly self-evident equation: gender relations = patriarchy (Spelman 1988). It seems ironic that in the Global North the question of patriarchy was apparently no longer asked because it was no longer descriptive, whereas in the Global South patriarchy remained a constitutive element of multiform postcolonial oppression. In any case, in losing its analytical autonomy, the concept of patriarchy also lost its historicity. It seems to me, however, that social relations can only be analyzed through a study of the operating frameworks and rationales that contribute not only to their reproduction but also to their transformation. To understand contemporary gender relations in their transnational dimensions, it is necessary to fully restore the historicity of the concept of patriarchy. Patriarchal Gender Arrangements as a Contingent Combination If gender is defined as just another social power relation—i.e. at once unique in its attributes and analytically comparable to others—we need to describe the frameworks of its exercise, establishment, conflictuality, and historicity. As Goffman underscored (1977), since gender has no natural necessity, it is the product of power relations and it frames social conventions and cultural representations that vary from one human group to another—what can be called social and cultural “arrangements” concerning the association between sex, sexuality, and social gender identities and their connections with the organization of family, work, politics, etc., and the way these intersect with other social power relations. This Goffman-inspired concept of “gender arrangement” has already been broached by Kandiyoti (1988), when she sought to take into account the manner in which every form of patriarchy proceeds from a sort of “bargain” between men and women, which, while permitting its realization, exposes it to a profound vulnerability in the event of changes in social conditions. As Moghadam (2004) suggests, the “classic” patriarchal model based on the omnipotence of the head of the family, long common to the West, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and based, as Parsons and Goffman underscored, on a “protection-for-subordination” contract, was jeopardized when the development of gainful employment, followed by the jobs crisis, unraveled family dependencies, making it problematic for men to play the part of sole breadwinner. This left only the subordination side of the bargain intact without guaranteeing protection anymore. However, I am not going to use the concept of “gender arrangement” here to describe contemporary differences within patriarchy. Rather, in embracing a broader historical and sociological perspective, I will use it to describe patriarchy itself as a contingent form of gender arrangement, which implies that gender arrangements can obtain that are not, or are no longer, patriarchal. The drawback in adopting this combinatorial method on a historical scale is that it cannot be used to precisely describe the diversity of forms and degrees of these past and present gender arrangements. But it does seem to have the advantage of focusing the argument more effectively on the central hypothesis of the shift from patriarchal-type to composite-type gender arrangements all over the world since the mid-twentieth century. This proposition may seem at odds with what we know about the persistence of gender inequalities, including in European societies that claim to be egalitarian, and the persistence of the specific oppression and exploitation of women in the world, or what we know about the persistence of legal and/or cultural homophobia. Nonetheless, reducing patriarchy to the existence of gender inequalities, discrimination, or violence brings us back to the tautological weakness of the concept, which make it incapable of describing and understanding gender as a social relation undergoing constant—and often conflict-ridden—change. This is why the combinatorial analysis adopted here holds only if we adopt a conceptual definition of patriarchy capable of defining ideal types and interpreting observable historical and sociological changes. To this end, I propose to combine two classical sociological concepts that define most forms of social figurations (Elias 1984). On the one hand, following Weber, the legitimacy: there is no social cohesion without values and hegemonic standpoints that frame, direct, and legitimate social representations and social organization. On the other hand, following Durkheim, the necessity: all kinds of social figuration have to organize the interdependencies and the division of labor between individuals and groups. I propose therefore the following definition of patriarchy that does not reduce gender relations merely to relations between “men” and “women,” but takes up the wider anthropological dichotomy between masculinity and femininity: a patriarchal gender arrangement is defined as establishing a necessary and legitimate asymmetry between masculinity and femininity. This combinatorial definition allows other possible combinations that would no longer correspond to the ideal type of patriarchal gender arrangement. For instance, a case where there is a necessary but a less legitimate gender asymmetry, when the lack of mainstream gender policies reproduces family gender roles despite the principle of gender equality. Or a legitimate gender asymmetry that is no longer necessary, when the social and cultural autonomy of individuals is in contradiction with gender hierarchy. Or even a case where an asymmetry is neither necessary nor legitimate, when cultural values, the political system, and the economy promote gender mainstreaming and non-discrimination policy. And lastly, a case where the gender asymmetry whose necessity and legitimacy are in crisis and are both contested due to internal contradictions. By immersing the contingency of the traditional patriarchal gender arrangement in the turbulent historicity of social relations, we can establish two types of trajectories of gender arrangements, one of which is specific to European societies (particularly in the European Union), the other to Global South/Global East societies, and whose interpenetrations shape contemporary gender relations since Western coloniality, notably through the “coloniality of gender” (Lugones 2008). As Hall emphasizes (1996), postcolonialism is neither a reproduction of colonial relations nor a return to an ante-colonial order, but rather refers to the ways in which actors in the North and South handle the consequences of colonization, decolonization, and the forms taken by the global entanglement of social power relations (Bhambra 2014; Bilge 2014). In the next two sections, I describe the trajectory of such arrangements. Crucially, these two trajectories have the same starting point. In Europe as in most parts of the world, traditional-type patriarchal arrangements defined by a cosmological relationship to the world in the name of the symbolic gender order have been transformed since the sixteenth century by the revolutionary dimension of Western modernity. In Europe, these traditional patriarchal arrangements have turned into a modern patriarchal arrangement, this time defined by a naturalistic relationship to the world predicated on the scientific and medical truth of sex. This modern patriarchal arrangement, however, gives rise to such substantial internal contradictions that it is tending towards a post-patriarchy. The latter can be seen in terms of a constructivist relationship to the world in the name of the political contingency of gender relations, which is, in turn, fraught with substantial specific tensions of its own. In former colonial societies, and as diverse as traditional gender arrangements may be there, they were impacted by the coloniality of gender, then by postcolonial nationalism and hybridized by globalization. As a result, there are no traditional societies anymore, no traditional gender arrangements anymore, for they now take the form of what we could describe as composite-type gender arrangements which give rise to specific tensions. European Trajectories: Traditional Patriarchy, Modern Patriarchy, Post-Patriarchy in Crisis There is no necessity for the establishment of traditional patriarchy, but, with a few exceptions, it appears to have constituted the dominant arrangement in traditional societies, notably in the West (Lerner 1987). Indeed, setting up an asymmetry between male and female has often been considered legitimate for cosmological reasons of world equilibrium (Héritier 1999) and necessary for purposes of exchange—particularly the exchange of women—between social groups organized, above all, by ties of kinship (Rubin 1975). In this context, the division of labor and gender hierarchies are not viewed in terms of inequality or oppression but in terms of complementary differences and the legitimacy of authority. However, like all other traditional patriarchal gender arrangements in the world, the existing traditional patriarchy in Europe was transformed from the sixteenth century on by the revolutionary dimension of Western modernity, which broke up the world’s theological unity to enable a variety of rationalities and logics of action to develop (Touraine 1995). One of the effects of political and democratic rationality was to invent a society of individuals made up of citizens and stakeholders defined more by their trajectory than their birth. Another consequence of modernity was to substitute scientific explanations for theological explanations of the real world, thereby inventing nature as something independent from human cultures and having its own laws (Descola 2013). The effect on gender relations was paradoxical. On the one hand, the individual and the citizen became autonomous political beings, freed from traditional status assignment. On the other hand, the individual and the citizen were concrete beings embedded in social relations that limited their autonomy and freedom to the old boundaries of the Greek polis: the only ones concerned were rich white men (Fraser 1996; Scott 1996). As for the “others” in this modern figuration, gender hierarchies were no longer based on a cosmological or theological order but on the scientific laws of nature (Fausto-Sterling 2000; Laqueur 1992). Women and non-whites, because they were assigned by nature to certain functions and capacities, could only take part in this modernity in a subordinate capacity. Far from emancipating women and sexualities, modernity established a new gender arrangement: modern patriarchy, in which the asymmetry between male and female was both legitimate in the name of nature, science, and medicine, and necessary in the name of bourgeois family property, nation-state power and colonial interests. However, there was a two-fold internal contradiction in this modern patriarchy, whose development was to lead to its own unraveling within a few centuries. The first contradiction, pointed out by feminists such as Condorcet and Olympe de Gouges, was between a truly political definition of laws, citizenship, and individuals, and the capitulation of the sovereignty of these laws and politics to mere physical differences—gendered bodies, racialized bodies (Scott 1996). So feminists availed themselves of the principle of equality as a lever to abolish, through their struggles, what was no longer regarded as a legitimate hierarchy between the sexes but as inegalitarian and discriminatory gender oppression. After two centuries, this resulted not only in the delegitimization of any established asymmetry between male and female, but also in the penalization of sexist discrimination. Moreover, cultural, political, and intellectual queer and trans movements have drawn all the conclusions from the famous line by de Beauvoir (2011), who dismantled the causal relationship between sex and gender established by modern patriarchy and thereby founded the constructivist approach to gender. Indeed, “one is not born but rather becomes a woman” (or a man, or whatever gender identity). One is not destined to “become” the stereotype of femininity or heterosexual masculinity shaped by modern patriarchy. As in the case of Becker’s outsiders (1963), struggles develop within gender relations in order to undo assigned gender and sexuality (Butler 2004) and to explore and defend gender identities and sexual practices long wrongly considered as mental disorders (Bornstein 1994; Drescher 2009; Macé 2010). The second contradiction lay in the fact that although industrial society and capitalism used patriarchal hierarchies to exploit the unpaid housework and underpaid salaried work of women, they also had the reverse effect inasmuch as the dynamic of women’s proletarianization freed them from economic and social dependence on the patriarchal family (Beck 1992; Fraser 2013). In the wake of this economic empowerment combined with increasingly egalitarian access to school, occupations, and political and economic responsibilities, conditions gradually tended to even out for women. Coupled with new sexual and medical forms of autonomy over their own gendered bodies, this development made them individuals by the same token as men, thereby rendering male/female asymmetry not only no longer necessary but also at odds with the diversity and mobility of skills. The upshot of the development of modern patriarchy’s internal contradictions can be described as a new gender arrangement, that of post-patriarchy. This is not an “after patriarchy,” as though the interlude of patriarchy was over, but rather a gender arrangement defined by conflicting tensions resulting from the legal abolition of patriarchy (Macé 2015). Thus, this post-patriarchal arrangement is primarily composed of egalitarian values and norms that are deemed legitimate and necessary in the eyes of the law and of most individuals. But it simultaneously presents multiple forms of the social and cultural fabrication of gender inequalities inherited from modern patriarchy (Gordon and Hunter 1998). These tensions are expressed first of all in the sphere of socialization, taking the form of an ambivalence about the social experiences of gender. On the one hand, each child is supposed to become a unique individual (Martuccelli 2010). On the other hand, the persistence of gender-differentiated socialization is still observable, encouraging boys to be autonomous in their enterprises and girls to be amenable to others, thus endowing the former with a legitimate and untroubled self-centeredness and the latter with an obligatory and uneasy altruism (Gilligan 2011; Macé and Rui 2014). In these conditions, the process of becoming a unique individual comes up against limited gender repertoires and the inegalitarian consequences of this differentiated socialization—in terms of self-esteem, scholastic orientation, and expectations as to their degrees of commitment to professional and domestic duties. These tensions are also expressed in the organization of social life, in which the realms of family and work remain by and large gynocentric and androcentric, respectively (Jenson, Laufer, and Maruani 2000). Women are encouraged to move into every area of activity and skills even while facing constraints specific to these traditionally “female” and those “male” domains. As a result, women are saddled with the mental and physical burdens of a “double workday.” Men are likewise encouraged to reconcile male and female domains—though only to the extent that this does not compromise their personal and professional plans. In this sense, post-patriarchal hegemonic masculinity no longer has to depend on the stereotyped attributes of modern patriarchy’s hegemonic masculinity (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005) to preserve its privileges: it need only preserve its self-seeking capacity for planning and enterprise. In post-patriarchal-type arrangements, violence between intimate partners appears to be not so much the expression of male dominance, but, conversely, the stigmatized expression of a male inability to accept the contractual and negotiated dimension of new forms of conjugality between equal individuals (Giddens 1992). As the European Union constitutes the explicit meta-national space of a post-patriarchal gender arrangement by virtue of the egalitarian values and norms that are developing there (Walby 2004), the internal trajectories and issues within each EU member country exhibit a number of contrasts, whether in respect of equality in the workplace, career opportunities, sexuality, abortion, or preparedness to take the issues of violence and harassment seriously (Pfau-Effinger 1998; Roth 2008). More generally, since the detraditionalization of organizations and representations inherited from patriarchy has not been completed in the same way for each of the various gender regimes, these tensions lead to contentious rifts between three types of cultural movements typical of post-patriarchy. First of all, one can observe a reformist movement which insists that transitioning from de jure equality to de facto equality must be accompanied by a firm resolve to detraditionalize the organization of society and the representations inherited from patriarchy, one domain after another, one level after another (Fraser 2013; Mazur and McBride 2010). Second, one can observe a more conservative movement, certainly advocating equality of the sexes but failing to perceive gender relations as power relations that are ubiquitous in every domain of social life and in all cultural representations, thereby allowing the development of often unintentional mechanisms that give rise to gender inequalities (this movement is predominant notably within French state feminism: Lépinard and Mazur 2009). Finally, more recently, one can observe a reactionary movement advocating a return to male/female differentialism, heterosexual/homosexual normativity, and the division of labor between men and women in the name of religious, traditional, or nationalistic values (Kollman 2009; Kuhar and Paternotte 2017). With regard to conflicting tensions between the various conservative, reactionary, and reformist cultural movements that are played out not only through gender issues but through all the political and cultural issues in Europe, there is no reason not to think that certain gender arrangements tending towards a post-patriarchal model could turn into less egalitarian composite-type arrangements instead. Global South/Global East Trajectories: From Coloniality of Gender to Composite Gender Arrangements in Crisis In non-European contexts, traditional patriarchal arrangements have also been impacted, over various timelines and in various forms, by Western modernity through Western colonization’s influence on the world—including in nations that have only resisted Western colonization by rapidly and relentlessly appropriating Western modernization (Japan, Turkey, and Iran). Colonization is a social relation involving subordination and the creation of asymmetry on the modern bases of racialization, but it instills in colonized societies internal contradictions that are specific to Western modernity. This is true as regard the definition of individuals and citizens and as regards gender relations. On the one hand, colonization reinforced patriarchy wherever it was present in its traditional form (Kandiyoti 1988), even if that involved “modernizing” it by imposing the norms of modern European patriarchy (Oyewùmi 1997). On the other hand, it spread egalitarian ideals and feminist agendas particularly to élites that were already Westernized or had already launched egalitarian reform movements typical of “multiple modernities” (Eisenstadt 2002), especially in Middle East societies (Turkey, Egypt) and within the Muslim religion in the late nineteenth century (Badran 1995; Ahmed 1992). This tension was to be exacerbated when independence led to a juxtaposition between nationalist, even socialist, projects of modernization inspired by the modern Western patriarchal model (Patil 2009, 2013) and the maintenance of a “personal status” inherited from traditional patriarchy in private and family life (Sharabi 1988). Often enough, female and even feminist figures in the independence struggles gave way to figures of an “authentic” national womanhood validated by religious and family traditions that were reactivated in the nationalist and culturalist project of political rejection of the Western model. Thus, postcolonial gender arrangements no longer appear in the forms of traditional patriarchy, or even those of modern Western patriarchy or post-patriarchy, but in composite forms shaped by the coloniality of gender, by postcolonial nationalism and resulting from the hybridization borne of economic and cultural globalization (Appadurai 1998). Those composite gender arrangements contain the sum of tensions that define both patriarchy in crisis and post-patriarchy in crisis. One can observe a tension between the modern aspiration to egalitarian individuation and neo-traditional assignment to asymmetry. But also a tension between patriarchal ethno-nationalism and the modernizing access of women to higher education, the economy, professions, and healthcare. Moreover, one can observe a tension between patriarchal religious neo-fundamentalism and Islamic feminism. And finally, a tension between cultural hybridization and identity-driven neo-fundamentalism (Göle and Ammann 2006; Abou-Bakr 2015). As a result, we are now observing a conflict-ridden dynamic that is specific to these kinds of composite gender arrangements. On the one hand, one can observe reformist social and cultural depatriarchalization movements linked to egalitarian aspirations and to a certain leveling of conditions (Charrad 2001; Badran 2010). On the other hand, one can observe repatriarchalization movements linked to the benefits of sexism for men and to reactionary and conservative movements combining gender inequalities with national and/or cultural and religious identities (Awondo, Geschiere, and Reid 2012; Dalacoura 2014; Kandiyoti 2013; Pratt 2012). In a more empirical way, gender arrangements can be compared by showing their tremendous composite diversity. One example is the gender asymmetry which is no longer legitimate in Tunisia (under the new constitution, going beyond the legacy of already egalitarian postcolonial laws), but which remains necessary owing to an informal economy that does not allow women to break away from dependence on their families (Charrad and Zarrugh 2014). Conversely, gender asymmetry is becoming less and less necessary in Iran thanks to women’s scholastic and professional skills, but it remains legitimate—in spite of considerable feminist contestation—due to political and theological conservatives’ resistance to political and theological reforms (Bahramitash and Hooglund 2011; Roksana and Hooglund 2011; Karami et al. 2017). In Japan, this asymmetry is no longer necessary from a social and economic point of view and is becoming less and less legitimate in the opinion of young generations (Sechiyama 2013). Therefore the trajectories of patriarchy in the Global South, marked by the heterogeneous, even contradictory and conflict-ridden, effects and rationales of colonization, decolonization, and globalization, lead not so much to established “neo-patriarchies” (Sharabi 1988) as to gender arrangements that are themselves heterogeneous and contradictory, even anomic, and in which the necessary preconditions are no longer met to re-establish the principles of patriarchy, despite attempts at a “masculinist restoration” (Kandiyoti 2013). Gender arrangements in the Global South can no longer be described as patriarchal: the conditions underlying traditional patriarchy have long since ceased to obtain and the agendas of nationalist or identity-based neo-patriarchy are thwarted by the globalized post-patriarchal aspirations of many individuals. Conclusion: Toward a Comparative Sociology of Contemporary Gender Arrangements In this article, I have demonstrated the utility of the term “patriarchy,” once it is transformed into an analytical concept, for the purpose of sociologically describing forms of society in which the institution of asymmetry between male and female is both legitimate and necessary. On the one hand, most human societies in the world were patriarchal, in a cosmological or modern form, until the twentieth century. On the other hand, it appears less and less pertinent to continue to describe contemporary gender arrangements as patriarchal, notably in the European Union where societies not only achieved an anthropological upheaval in values—moving from the principle of gender hierarchy to that of gender equality—but which implement policies in law and, through the law, combat inequalities and discrimination against women and minority sexualities. Granted, this upheaval is not intrinsic to Western modernity. On the contrary, the principle of gender equality, championed by feminists since the eighteenth century, is the consequence of the internal contradictions in modern patriarchy. Likewise, it is not because the asymmetry between male and female within post-patriarchal gender arrangements is neither legitimate nor necessary anymore that the rationale that underlies and the instruments that produce gender inequalities have disappeared. Rather, as a social relation, gender remains a mode of exercising power that involves modalities, tensions, and contradictions specific to post-patriarchal gender arrangements. More broadly, no gender arrangement has divested itself of gender as a social power relation, and for the time being there is no prospect of overcoming gender as a power relation. All over the world, the front lines are constantly shifting between social and cultural movements that espouse depatriarchalization and detraditionalization and those that espouse repatriarchalization and retraditionalization. So it is the diversity of the trajectories, the intensity of the tensions and struggles, and the institutional forms of these rationales of asymmetry or symmetry that make comparative analyses possible between the various observable gender arrangements. One consequence is that a sociology of the historicity of gender arrangements seems more productive than the other approaches. For one thing, the critical or tautological use of the concept of “patriarchy” across the board eclipses the conflicting dynamic of gender relations, even when it is embedded in a line of reasoning that takes intersectionality and transnationalization into account. For another, while the concept of “gender regime” permits a definition of useful comparative typologies (Walby 2009), it focuses more on the reproduction of gender inequality than on conflicting and changing dimensions of gender arrangements. In short, seeing as the concept of patriarchy is no longer equal to the task of describing contemporary gender relations, we must be attentive to composite dynamics and rationales that make and break gender as a power relation all over the world. Eric Macé is a professor of sociology at the University of Bordeaux (France), and member of the Centre Emile Durkheim, a research center for Comparative Political Science and Sociology. He works on social power relations through a sociology of action, notably on gender issues, and leads a world network of sociologists on postcolonial challenges within social sciences, trying to articulate a common sociological reasoning with sociological situated standpoints. 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From Patriarchy to Composite Gender Arrangements? Theorizing the Historicity of Social Relations of Gender

Social Politics , Volume 25 (3) – Oct 1, 2018

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Abstract

Abstract While the concept of patriarchy is useful to describe gender as a power relation that shapes social reality, it becomes problematic when it defines gender as structural male dominance irrespective of historical changes. The concept of “gender arrangement” instead defines patriarchy as a specific kind of historical gender arrangement, where the asymmetry between masculinity and femininity is considered both legitimate and necessary. From this combinatory model, this article explores the growing contemporary contradictions of gender asymmetry. In both the Global North and the Global South, these tensions lead to composite gender arrangements, from patriarchy in crisis to post-patriarchy in crisis. Introduction The aim of this article is to put forth a new theoretical framework for a global analysis of contemporary gender relations. This kind of proposal is not obvious insofar as it raises the question of postcolonial criticisms of the western-centrism blindness of Northern social sciences (Bhambra 2007; Go 2016). Nevertheless, there is not a single human society without a gendered meaning of the world, which is what Northern anthropologists have called an “anthropological universalism.” Accordingly it exhibits many variations regarding what is masculine and what is feminine and what are the relations between them, what are the intersections between gender and other social relations, and what are the social consequences of this gendered institution of reality (Godelier 2011; Héritier 1999; Mead 2001). Within such a diversity of definitions of gender, we believe that the social sciences need their specific kind of definition, which cannot be founded on cosmological narratives (religious, symbolic, and nationalist) or on biological causes because the social sciences use social relations in their reasoning, including the understanding of entanglements between what we call cosmology, nature, or “society” (Latour 2005). That is why a sociological definition of gender can be regarded as a “sociological universal”: in every kind of society, we can describe gender as a social relation (linked with other social relations) that shapes, institutes, and transforms social figurations (Elias 1984), through the logics of action of a wide variety of actors. That being said, the main issue is to devise a sociology of gender which would be able to describe the variety of gender relations in the world without analyzing or comparing those figurations from Western-centric standards of gender status, gender identities, or gender roles (Connell and Pearse 2014; Mohanty 1984). My main argument is that we cannot think about contemporary social relations of gender without the concept of patriarchy. Formulated by northern feminist thinkers, this concept is useful to describe social relations of gender not in terms of differences but in terms of hierarchy, not in terms of sexual differences but in terms of social relations of power and domination (Walby 1990). In my opinion, this does not mean that all social relations of gender have been or have to be patriarchal. It means that all contemporary social relations of gender in the world have been shaped both by the Western type of patriarchy and by the “coloniality of gender” through Western colonization (Lugones 2008). Does this mean that all contemporary social relations of gender are henceforth patriarchal? Do we now have to think about contemporary social relations of gender only through patriarchy? If so, I will show in the first section of the paper what the theoretical consequences are and how they lead to many sociological difficulties—notably to a tautological definition of patriarchy and male dominance. In the second section, I propose to define patriarchy not as the expression of a structural social dominance but as a contingent, relative, and situated type of “gender arrangement,” i.e. a type of combination where the asymmetry between masculinity and femininity is both legitimate (from the hegemonic standpoint) and necessary (due to the type of social organization of the interdependency between individuals). This combinatory definition of patriarchy leads to a number of possible other figurations: patriarchy can sometimes be described as a coherent social structure, sometimes as a social figuration in crisis (when women no longer have the social obligation to be subordinate to men or when the legitimacy of gender equality is powerless to change the economic dependency of women on their family), and even as the condition for “post-patriarchal” types of gender arrangement—once it is recognized that, despite the ongoing process of gender inequalities and violence, the asymmetry between masculinity and femininity, between men and women, is neither legitimate nor necessary (Macé 2015). The objective of this article is not to deny the existence of violence, inequalities, and discrimination against women, subordinate masculinities, and sexual minorities, particularly when gender relations intersect with race, class, or other relations. On the contrary, the point is to better describe these inequalities and acts of violence by not tautologically imputing them to “patriarchy,” but rather observing what the global crisis of patriarchy—as we shall demonstrate below—is doing to contemporary gender relations. Lastly, the objective is to show that post-patriarchy or crisis of patriarchy throughout the world will not lead to the end of gender as a power relation, but to a heightened awareness of the tensions, contradictions, paradoxes, and action potential that characterize contemporary gender relations. In this sense, and this is the postcolonial challenge of this paper, the point is to show that while the historical trajectories of gender relations in Western and non-Western societies are at once intertwined and different, the current situation is not that of a divide between liberal egalitarian Western societies and patriarchal non-Western societies, but of a common disengagement, albeit in different forms, from patriarchy. The gender arrangements in the Global North and Global South remain intertwined as soon as they take part in the postcolonial reconfiguration of power relations (Connell 2014, 2016; Go 2013). Indeed, we observe that the dominant actors in the North and South, far from sharing a dynamic, intertwined, and composite conception of gender relations, have fashioned a “clash-of-civilizations” discourse that tends to separate the trajectories and horizons of societies in the North and South (McClintock, Mufti, and Shohat 2004). The Western societies that imposed their heteronationalist patriarchal model on the rest of the world (Dyer 1997) and were fervently anti-feminist up to the 1970s act as though gender equality were a mark of modern Western identity. The first consequence thereof is to underestimate that gender is less a question of difference than a question of power in Western societies now that they have established equality before the law. The second consequence is to ascribe sexism and male violence to immigrant populations and their descendants and to the “cultures” of a global South identified in turn as heteronationalist, patriarchal, and homophobic (Butler 2009; Delphy 2015; Guénif-Souilamas and Macé 2006; Puar 2007). Symmetrically, that kind of “sexual nationalism” (Jaunait, Le Renard, and Marteu 2013) leads to the observation that the identity-based ethnic and nationalist rhetoric of many actors in the global South associate principles of gender equality and sexual liberalism with Western cultural imperialism, even if that means, paradoxically, associating heteronationalist patriarchal and homophobic norms imported by colonizers with the most fundamental forms of cultural identity in the South (Pratt 2012; Dalacoura 2014). On the contrary, as I will show in the two last sections of the paper, the dimension of contemporary gender arrangements that is common to the Global North, the Global South, and the Global East is not patriarchal but “composite.” This means that now there are no longer coherent gender arrangements and that all gender arrangements have to face either the contradictions of patriarchy in crisis or the contradictions of post-patriarchy. I prefer to use the term “composite” here rather than “hybrid,” which has gained hegemony in the English-language social sciences, for several reasons. I do so, first, because biological metaphors are not necessarily pertinent in the social sciences. In this sense, Morin’s suggestion (2005) of using the term “syncretism,” which stems from anthropology, to describe the process of reciprocal acculturation seems more pertinent than the term “hybridity.” Furthermore, while “hybridity” suggests that sociocultural elements of different origins all fuse into a new reality, “composite,” a term drawn from architecture, implies that globalization does not lead to total integration, but articulates in a way that is not necessarily coherent with, and may even be contradictory to, elements which are themselves syncretic. It is precisely in this sense that the sociologist Pascon (1979) proposed the term “composite” to describe the effects of the reorganization and disruption of Moroccan society in the throes of postcolonial transformation. In my estimation, the same goes for all contemporary gender arrangements: they are long-term syncretic outgrowths of Western modern patriarchy and its crisis, colonial, and postcolonial nationalist modernization, shaped in contradictory ways by globalization and by national, ethnic, and religious identity narratives, unfurling all their dynamics and composite conflicts. Regarding the specificity of historical trajectories, the third section is dedicated to the historicity of the contemporary composite gender arrangement of European societies. The effects of modernity on traditional patriarchal gender arrangements has led to a new, modern gender arrangement, no less patriarchal but based not only on the racial colonial project, but also on nature and science rather than cosmology. This modern patriarchal arrangement is beset with internal contradictions and conflicts, however, which have given rise over the course of two centuries to a new post-patriarchal-type gender arrangement, which in turn also holds contradictions, tensions, and dynamics that are peculiar to it and need to be precisely described. The fourth and last section is dedicated to the specific historicity of contemporary composite gender arrangements in the Global South, which are different but have in common the legacy of the “coloniality of gender” (including the modernizing agenda of postcolonial nation-states) and the cultural dimensions of globalization—which have led to what we could call a general crisis of patriarchy. Patriarchy, Gender, and Structural Male Dominance: Theoretical Limits The concept of patriarchy, first formulated by feminist thinkers in the 1960s, sought to describe the inequalities and violence women are subjected to less as an expression of the will of “men” than as the product of a social and symbolic organization wholly rooted in history and institutions (Wilson 2000). In this sense, radical feminism maintained that gender is not a cultural way to express natural sex differences a posteriori, but the other way round: gender is itself the expression and product of a division and hierarchy between human beings originally imposed by men on women, sex differences serving merely to naturalize a difference rendered prominent by the very foundation of oppression such that it is gender that makes for patriarchal oppression and not sex that makes for gender (Delphy 1977). In this case, as long as gender exists as a social relation, it can only be defined as a relation of patriarchal domination and as a cause of inequalities, discrimination and violence against women. Many critics at the time stressed that such a definition of gender relations was at once tautological and not very descriptive (Pollert 1996). It is tautological because patriarchy here is both that which is to be explained and that which explains: the cause of the inequalities and violence women are subjected to is patriarchy, and the proof that patriarchy exists is that women are victims of inequalities and violence. Instead of defining gender as a structural system of male dominance (Bourdieu 2001; Delphy 1977), gender can rather be defined as a social relation of power among others (Scott 1986), inherent in social life, presiding over the organization of social relations and hierarchies—in a word, over the construction of frames of action and the establishment of reality. Power is not something one possesses, however, but exercises: this is why, owing to their interpersonal dimension, these power relations and frames of action are intrinsically vulnerable to passive or active resistance, to critiques, to events—to breaking the frame and reframing (Goffman 1974). In this paradigm of power, dominance, in turn, takes on a different meaning. It is no longer an objective force that subjugates, but on the contrary a subjective form that makes action possible through the experience of a “feeling of dominance.” This feeling can indeed lead to a reclassification and resignification of “ordinary” power relations through a critique of their unfair, humiliating, reductive, inegalitarian etc. nature, regarding the definition of situations, problems, identities (Becker 1963; Butler 1990; Hall 1996). Thus, there is nothing outside or overhanging power relations, but the ongoing and antagonistic work of exercising and critiquing these power relations within the frames of action through which social relations are objectified—this is the dynamic of their historicity. As Butler has shown (2004) in her queer rereading of Michel Foucault’s observations on gay sexuality (Foucault 2001), gender presents this dual aspect of social power relations: they establish norms that assign, orient, and legitimize hierarchies and the differential value of existences, and they are the fulcrum for resistance, for criticism, even for a transformation of the selfsame power relations (Macé 2014). At the same time, thinking gender as a structural male dominance is not very descriptive because such a definition of patriarchy obscures not only the diversity of historical and contemporary forms of gender relations, but also the transformative potential of actors via women’s, feminist, gay, and queer movements. That is why some seek to endow the concept of patriarchy with greater complexity by introducing elements of historicity proper: the point is not to show that there is a way out of patriarchy, but that forms and degrees of patriarchy exist that explain its various historical transformations, notably in its relations with various forms of capitalism and the state. Defining canonically patriarchy as “social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women” (Duncan 2002, 74; Walby 1990, 20), Walby (1990) shows that between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries Europe went from a “private patriarchy” centered on the omnipotence of the paterfamilias (including, metaphorically, in the exercise of political power) and on women’s exclusion from the public sphere, to a “public patriarchy” in which the bureaucratic state took the father’s place and the hierarchized segregation of women in gainful employment and the public sphere superseded their initial exclusion—including a “neoliberal” and a “social democracy” model (Walby 2009). Nevertheless, over the course of the 1990s, as political feminism in Europe was increasingly converted into the egalitarian public policies of gender mainstreaming through the entry of feminists and their agenda into academic, institutional, and political spheres at national and EU level, the critical concept of patriarchy gave way to the more pragmatic concept of “gender regimes” (Walby 1997). Even though Walby mentions that in her conceptual framework the words “patriarchy” and “gender regime” mean the same thing (1997, 5), the focus is now no longer on the domination and oppression of women but on the factors of production of gender inequalities and equalities according to the gendered effects of public policies to regulate the job market and care sector activity and according to cultural conceptions of the family (Lewis 1992; Orloff 1996; Pfau-Effinger 1998; Walby 2004). As a consequence of this European trajectory, the concept of patriarchy remains difficult to use: either it continues to be used as a feminist given, at the risk of being reduced to a non-descriptive tautology (gender is patriarchy), or it has ceased to be a theoretical reference in the comparative analysis of gender inequalities. The other main reason the concept of patriarchy is difficult to use is that the debate has shifted towards the question of the intersectionality of power relations. The first feminist way to address this issue in Europe was to hypothesize the intersectionality of social classes and gender (Walby 1990). However, the critique also stems from black and queer feminists in the United States (Butler 1990; Crenshaw 1991): the concept of patriarchy is one-dimensional and fails to encompass the totality of real-life gender relations—worse still, it contributes to concealing the dimensions situated outside white middle-class heterosexual hegemony. This introduction of the sexual question and of the intersectionality of gender with race and class relations and sexualities led to an extension of the subjects of feminism and epistemological viewpoints through which gender relations can be grasped. Limited at the outset to the analysis of intersectionalities peculiar to each national context, the analysis on intersectionality then sought to expand its scope to the transnational and historical scale of postcolonialism (Patil 2013) in order to show the relations that obtain between colonial patriarchy and contemporary nationalist and identity-based patriarchy in societies of the global South, just as relations obtain between colonial patriarchy and the postcolonial forms of legitimation of Western military interventions in the global South in the name of women’s rights (Butler 2009; Spivak 1988). However, the upshot of this radical critique of the concept of patriarchy through the theory of intersectionality is paradoxical (Davis 2008): the concept of patriarchy is no longer questioned, but integrated as a “given” of intersectionality through the purportedly self-evident equation: gender relations = patriarchy (Spelman 1988). It seems ironic that in the Global North the question of patriarchy was apparently no longer asked because it was no longer descriptive, whereas in the Global South patriarchy remained a constitutive element of multiform postcolonial oppression. In any case, in losing its analytical autonomy, the concept of patriarchy also lost its historicity. It seems to me, however, that social relations can only be analyzed through a study of the operating frameworks and rationales that contribute not only to their reproduction but also to their transformation. To understand contemporary gender relations in their transnational dimensions, it is necessary to fully restore the historicity of the concept of patriarchy. Patriarchal Gender Arrangements as a Contingent Combination If gender is defined as just another social power relation—i.e. at once unique in its attributes and analytically comparable to others—we need to describe the frameworks of its exercise, establishment, conflictuality, and historicity. As Goffman underscored (1977), since gender has no natural necessity, it is the product of power relations and it frames social conventions and cultural representations that vary from one human group to another—what can be called social and cultural “arrangements” concerning the association between sex, sexuality, and social gender identities and their connections with the organization of family, work, politics, etc., and the way these intersect with other social power relations. This Goffman-inspired concept of “gender arrangement” has already been broached by Kandiyoti (1988), when she sought to take into account the manner in which every form of patriarchy proceeds from a sort of “bargain” between men and women, which, while permitting its realization, exposes it to a profound vulnerability in the event of changes in social conditions. As Moghadam (2004) suggests, the “classic” patriarchal model based on the omnipotence of the head of the family, long common to the West, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and based, as Parsons and Goffman underscored, on a “protection-for-subordination” contract, was jeopardized when the development of gainful employment, followed by the jobs crisis, unraveled family dependencies, making it problematic for men to play the part of sole breadwinner. This left only the subordination side of the bargain intact without guaranteeing protection anymore. However, I am not going to use the concept of “gender arrangement” here to describe contemporary differences within patriarchy. Rather, in embracing a broader historical and sociological perspective, I will use it to describe patriarchy itself as a contingent form of gender arrangement, which implies that gender arrangements can obtain that are not, or are no longer, patriarchal. The drawback in adopting this combinatorial method on a historical scale is that it cannot be used to precisely describe the diversity of forms and degrees of these past and present gender arrangements. But it does seem to have the advantage of focusing the argument more effectively on the central hypothesis of the shift from patriarchal-type to composite-type gender arrangements all over the world since the mid-twentieth century. This proposition may seem at odds with what we know about the persistence of gender inequalities, including in European societies that claim to be egalitarian, and the persistence of the specific oppression and exploitation of women in the world, or what we know about the persistence of legal and/or cultural homophobia. Nonetheless, reducing patriarchy to the existence of gender inequalities, discrimination, or violence brings us back to the tautological weakness of the concept, which make it incapable of describing and understanding gender as a social relation undergoing constant—and often conflict-ridden—change. This is why the combinatorial analysis adopted here holds only if we adopt a conceptual definition of patriarchy capable of defining ideal types and interpreting observable historical and sociological changes. To this end, I propose to combine two classical sociological concepts that define most forms of social figurations (Elias 1984). On the one hand, following Weber, the legitimacy: there is no social cohesion without values and hegemonic standpoints that frame, direct, and legitimate social representations and social organization. On the other hand, following Durkheim, the necessity: all kinds of social figuration have to organize the interdependencies and the division of labor between individuals and groups. I propose therefore the following definition of patriarchy that does not reduce gender relations merely to relations between “men” and “women,” but takes up the wider anthropological dichotomy between masculinity and femininity: a patriarchal gender arrangement is defined as establishing a necessary and legitimate asymmetry between masculinity and femininity. This combinatorial definition allows other possible combinations that would no longer correspond to the ideal type of patriarchal gender arrangement. For instance, a case where there is a necessary but a less legitimate gender asymmetry, when the lack of mainstream gender policies reproduces family gender roles despite the principle of gender equality. Or a legitimate gender asymmetry that is no longer necessary, when the social and cultural autonomy of individuals is in contradiction with gender hierarchy. Or even a case where an asymmetry is neither necessary nor legitimate, when cultural values, the political system, and the economy promote gender mainstreaming and non-discrimination policy. And lastly, a case where the gender asymmetry whose necessity and legitimacy are in crisis and are both contested due to internal contradictions. By immersing the contingency of the traditional patriarchal gender arrangement in the turbulent historicity of social relations, we can establish two types of trajectories of gender arrangements, one of which is specific to European societies (particularly in the European Union), the other to Global South/Global East societies, and whose interpenetrations shape contemporary gender relations since Western coloniality, notably through the “coloniality of gender” (Lugones 2008). As Hall emphasizes (1996), postcolonialism is neither a reproduction of colonial relations nor a return to an ante-colonial order, but rather refers to the ways in which actors in the North and South handle the consequences of colonization, decolonization, and the forms taken by the global entanglement of social power relations (Bhambra 2014; Bilge 2014). In the next two sections, I describe the trajectory of such arrangements. Crucially, these two trajectories have the same starting point. In Europe as in most parts of the world, traditional-type patriarchal arrangements defined by a cosmological relationship to the world in the name of the symbolic gender order have been transformed since the sixteenth century by the revolutionary dimension of Western modernity. In Europe, these traditional patriarchal arrangements have turned into a modern patriarchal arrangement, this time defined by a naturalistic relationship to the world predicated on the scientific and medical truth of sex. This modern patriarchal arrangement, however, gives rise to such substantial internal contradictions that it is tending towards a post-patriarchy. The latter can be seen in terms of a constructivist relationship to the world in the name of the political contingency of gender relations, which is, in turn, fraught with substantial specific tensions of its own. In former colonial societies, and as diverse as traditional gender arrangements may be there, they were impacted by the coloniality of gender, then by postcolonial nationalism and hybridized by globalization. As a result, there are no traditional societies anymore, no traditional gender arrangements anymore, for they now take the form of what we could describe as composite-type gender arrangements which give rise to specific tensions. European Trajectories: Traditional Patriarchy, Modern Patriarchy, Post-Patriarchy in Crisis There is no necessity for the establishment of traditional patriarchy, but, with a few exceptions, it appears to have constituted the dominant arrangement in traditional societies, notably in the West (Lerner 1987). Indeed, setting up an asymmetry between male and female has often been considered legitimate for cosmological reasons of world equilibrium (Héritier 1999) and necessary for purposes of exchange—particularly the exchange of women—between social groups organized, above all, by ties of kinship (Rubin 1975). In this context, the division of labor and gender hierarchies are not viewed in terms of inequality or oppression but in terms of complementary differences and the legitimacy of authority. However, like all other traditional patriarchal gender arrangements in the world, the existing traditional patriarchy in Europe was transformed from the sixteenth century on by the revolutionary dimension of Western modernity, which broke up the world’s theological unity to enable a variety of rationalities and logics of action to develop (Touraine 1995). One of the effects of political and democratic rationality was to invent a society of individuals made up of citizens and stakeholders defined more by their trajectory than their birth. Another consequence of modernity was to substitute scientific explanations for theological explanations of the real world, thereby inventing nature as something independent from human cultures and having its own laws (Descola 2013). The effect on gender relations was paradoxical. On the one hand, the individual and the citizen became autonomous political beings, freed from traditional status assignment. On the other hand, the individual and the citizen were concrete beings embedded in social relations that limited their autonomy and freedom to the old boundaries of the Greek polis: the only ones concerned were rich white men (Fraser 1996; Scott 1996). As for the “others” in this modern figuration, gender hierarchies were no longer based on a cosmological or theological order but on the scientific laws of nature (Fausto-Sterling 2000; Laqueur 1992). Women and non-whites, because they were assigned by nature to certain functions and capacities, could only take part in this modernity in a subordinate capacity. Far from emancipating women and sexualities, modernity established a new gender arrangement: modern patriarchy, in which the asymmetry between male and female was both legitimate in the name of nature, science, and medicine, and necessary in the name of bourgeois family property, nation-state power and colonial interests. However, there was a two-fold internal contradiction in this modern patriarchy, whose development was to lead to its own unraveling within a few centuries. The first contradiction, pointed out by feminists such as Condorcet and Olympe de Gouges, was between a truly political definition of laws, citizenship, and individuals, and the capitulation of the sovereignty of these laws and politics to mere physical differences—gendered bodies, racialized bodies (Scott 1996). So feminists availed themselves of the principle of equality as a lever to abolish, through their struggles, what was no longer regarded as a legitimate hierarchy between the sexes but as inegalitarian and discriminatory gender oppression. After two centuries, this resulted not only in the delegitimization of any established asymmetry between male and female, but also in the penalization of sexist discrimination. Moreover, cultural, political, and intellectual queer and trans movements have drawn all the conclusions from the famous line by de Beauvoir (2011), who dismantled the causal relationship between sex and gender established by modern patriarchy and thereby founded the constructivist approach to gender. Indeed, “one is not born but rather becomes a woman” (or a man, or whatever gender identity). One is not destined to “become” the stereotype of femininity or heterosexual masculinity shaped by modern patriarchy. As in the case of Becker’s outsiders (1963), struggles develop within gender relations in order to undo assigned gender and sexuality (Butler 2004) and to explore and defend gender identities and sexual practices long wrongly considered as mental disorders (Bornstein 1994; Drescher 2009; Macé 2010). The second contradiction lay in the fact that although industrial society and capitalism used patriarchal hierarchies to exploit the unpaid housework and underpaid salaried work of women, they also had the reverse effect inasmuch as the dynamic of women’s proletarianization freed them from economic and social dependence on the patriarchal family (Beck 1992; Fraser 2013). In the wake of this economic empowerment combined with increasingly egalitarian access to school, occupations, and political and economic responsibilities, conditions gradually tended to even out for women. Coupled with new sexual and medical forms of autonomy over their own gendered bodies, this development made them individuals by the same token as men, thereby rendering male/female asymmetry not only no longer necessary but also at odds with the diversity and mobility of skills. The upshot of the development of modern patriarchy’s internal contradictions can be described as a new gender arrangement, that of post-patriarchy. This is not an “after patriarchy,” as though the interlude of patriarchy was over, but rather a gender arrangement defined by conflicting tensions resulting from the legal abolition of patriarchy (Macé 2015). Thus, this post-patriarchal arrangement is primarily composed of egalitarian values and norms that are deemed legitimate and necessary in the eyes of the law and of most individuals. But it simultaneously presents multiple forms of the social and cultural fabrication of gender inequalities inherited from modern patriarchy (Gordon and Hunter 1998). These tensions are expressed first of all in the sphere of socialization, taking the form of an ambivalence about the social experiences of gender. On the one hand, each child is supposed to become a unique individual (Martuccelli 2010). On the other hand, the persistence of gender-differentiated socialization is still observable, encouraging boys to be autonomous in their enterprises and girls to be amenable to others, thus endowing the former with a legitimate and untroubled self-centeredness and the latter with an obligatory and uneasy altruism (Gilligan 2011; Macé and Rui 2014). In these conditions, the process of becoming a unique individual comes up against limited gender repertoires and the inegalitarian consequences of this differentiated socialization—in terms of self-esteem, scholastic orientation, and expectations as to their degrees of commitment to professional and domestic duties. These tensions are also expressed in the organization of social life, in which the realms of family and work remain by and large gynocentric and androcentric, respectively (Jenson, Laufer, and Maruani 2000). Women are encouraged to move into every area of activity and skills even while facing constraints specific to these traditionally “female” and those “male” domains. As a result, women are saddled with the mental and physical burdens of a “double workday.” Men are likewise encouraged to reconcile male and female domains—though only to the extent that this does not compromise their personal and professional plans. In this sense, post-patriarchal hegemonic masculinity no longer has to depend on the stereotyped attributes of modern patriarchy’s hegemonic masculinity (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005) to preserve its privileges: it need only preserve its self-seeking capacity for planning and enterprise. In post-patriarchal-type arrangements, violence between intimate partners appears to be not so much the expression of male dominance, but, conversely, the stigmatized expression of a male inability to accept the contractual and negotiated dimension of new forms of conjugality between equal individuals (Giddens 1992). As the European Union constitutes the explicit meta-national space of a post-patriarchal gender arrangement by virtue of the egalitarian values and norms that are developing there (Walby 2004), the internal trajectories and issues within each EU member country exhibit a number of contrasts, whether in respect of equality in the workplace, career opportunities, sexuality, abortion, or preparedness to take the issues of violence and harassment seriously (Pfau-Effinger 1998; Roth 2008). More generally, since the detraditionalization of organizations and representations inherited from patriarchy has not been completed in the same way for each of the various gender regimes, these tensions lead to contentious rifts between three types of cultural movements typical of post-patriarchy. First of all, one can observe a reformist movement which insists that transitioning from de jure equality to de facto equality must be accompanied by a firm resolve to detraditionalize the organization of society and the representations inherited from patriarchy, one domain after another, one level after another (Fraser 2013; Mazur and McBride 2010). Second, one can observe a more conservative movement, certainly advocating equality of the sexes but failing to perceive gender relations as power relations that are ubiquitous in every domain of social life and in all cultural representations, thereby allowing the development of often unintentional mechanisms that give rise to gender inequalities (this movement is predominant notably within French state feminism: Lépinard and Mazur 2009). Finally, more recently, one can observe a reactionary movement advocating a return to male/female differentialism, heterosexual/homosexual normativity, and the division of labor between men and women in the name of religious, traditional, or nationalistic values (Kollman 2009; Kuhar and Paternotte 2017). With regard to conflicting tensions between the various conservative, reactionary, and reformist cultural movements that are played out not only through gender issues but through all the political and cultural issues in Europe, there is no reason not to think that certain gender arrangements tending towards a post-patriarchal model could turn into less egalitarian composite-type arrangements instead. Global South/Global East Trajectories: From Coloniality of Gender to Composite Gender Arrangements in Crisis In non-European contexts, traditional patriarchal arrangements have also been impacted, over various timelines and in various forms, by Western modernity through Western colonization’s influence on the world—including in nations that have only resisted Western colonization by rapidly and relentlessly appropriating Western modernization (Japan, Turkey, and Iran). Colonization is a social relation involving subordination and the creation of asymmetry on the modern bases of racialization, but it instills in colonized societies internal contradictions that are specific to Western modernity. This is true as regard the definition of individuals and citizens and as regards gender relations. On the one hand, colonization reinforced patriarchy wherever it was present in its traditional form (Kandiyoti 1988), even if that involved “modernizing” it by imposing the norms of modern European patriarchy (Oyewùmi 1997). On the other hand, it spread egalitarian ideals and feminist agendas particularly to élites that were already Westernized or had already launched egalitarian reform movements typical of “multiple modernities” (Eisenstadt 2002), especially in Middle East societies (Turkey, Egypt) and within the Muslim religion in the late nineteenth century (Badran 1995; Ahmed 1992). This tension was to be exacerbated when independence led to a juxtaposition between nationalist, even socialist, projects of modernization inspired by the modern Western patriarchal model (Patil 2009, 2013) and the maintenance of a “personal status” inherited from traditional patriarchy in private and family life (Sharabi 1988). Often enough, female and even feminist figures in the independence struggles gave way to figures of an “authentic” national womanhood validated by religious and family traditions that were reactivated in the nationalist and culturalist project of political rejection of the Western model. Thus, postcolonial gender arrangements no longer appear in the forms of traditional patriarchy, or even those of modern Western patriarchy or post-patriarchy, but in composite forms shaped by the coloniality of gender, by postcolonial nationalism and resulting from the hybridization borne of economic and cultural globalization (Appadurai 1998). Those composite gender arrangements contain the sum of tensions that define both patriarchy in crisis and post-patriarchy in crisis. One can observe a tension between the modern aspiration to egalitarian individuation and neo-traditional assignment to asymmetry. But also a tension between patriarchal ethno-nationalism and the modernizing access of women to higher education, the economy, professions, and healthcare. Moreover, one can observe a tension between patriarchal religious neo-fundamentalism and Islamic feminism. And finally, a tension between cultural hybridization and identity-driven neo-fundamentalism (Göle and Ammann 2006; Abou-Bakr 2015). As a result, we are now observing a conflict-ridden dynamic that is specific to these kinds of composite gender arrangements. On the one hand, one can observe reformist social and cultural depatriarchalization movements linked to egalitarian aspirations and to a certain leveling of conditions (Charrad 2001; Badran 2010). On the other hand, one can observe repatriarchalization movements linked to the benefits of sexism for men and to reactionary and conservative movements combining gender inequalities with national and/or cultural and religious identities (Awondo, Geschiere, and Reid 2012; Dalacoura 2014; Kandiyoti 2013; Pratt 2012). In a more empirical way, gender arrangements can be compared by showing their tremendous composite diversity. One example is the gender asymmetry which is no longer legitimate in Tunisia (under the new constitution, going beyond the legacy of already egalitarian postcolonial laws), but which remains necessary owing to an informal economy that does not allow women to break away from dependence on their families (Charrad and Zarrugh 2014). Conversely, gender asymmetry is becoming less and less necessary in Iran thanks to women’s scholastic and professional skills, but it remains legitimate—in spite of considerable feminist contestation—due to political and theological conservatives’ resistance to political and theological reforms (Bahramitash and Hooglund 2011; Roksana and Hooglund 2011; Karami et al. 2017). In Japan, this asymmetry is no longer necessary from a social and economic point of view and is becoming less and less legitimate in the opinion of young generations (Sechiyama 2013). Therefore the trajectories of patriarchy in the Global South, marked by the heterogeneous, even contradictory and conflict-ridden, effects and rationales of colonization, decolonization, and globalization, lead not so much to established “neo-patriarchies” (Sharabi 1988) as to gender arrangements that are themselves heterogeneous and contradictory, even anomic, and in which the necessary preconditions are no longer met to re-establish the principles of patriarchy, despite attempts at a “masculinist restoration” (Kandiyoti 2013). Gender arrangements in the Global South can no longer be described as patriarchal: the conditions underlying traditional patriarchy have long since ceased to obtain and the agendas of nationalist or identity-based neo-patriarchy are thwarted by the globalized post-patriarchal aspirations of many individuals. Conclusion: Toward a Comparative Sociology of Contemporary Gender Arrangements In this article, I have demonstrated the utility of the term “patriarchy,” once it is transformed into an analytical concept, for the purpose of sociologically describing forms of society in which the institution of asymmetry between male and female is both legitimate and necessary. On the one hand, most human societies in the world were patriarchal, in a cosmological or modern form, until the twentieth century. On the other hand, it appears less and less pertinent to continue to describe contemporary gender arrangements as patriarchal, notably in the European Union where societies not only achieved an anthropological upheaval in values—moving from the principle of gender hierarchy to that of gender equality—but which implement policies in law and, through the law, combat inequalities and discrimination against women and minority sexualities. Granted, this upheaval is not intrinsic to Western modernity. On the contrary, the principle of gender equality, championed by feminists since the eighteenth century, is the consequence of the internal contradictions in modern patriarchy. Likewise, it is not because the asymmetry between male and female within post-patriarchal gender arrangements is neither legitimate nor necessary anymore that the rationale that underlies and the instruments that produce gender inequalities have disappeared. Rather, as a social relation, gender remains a mode of exercising power that involves modalities, tensions, and contradictions specific to post-patriarchal gender arrangements. More broadly, no gender arrangement has divested itself of gender as a social power relation, and for the time being there is no prospect of overcoming gender as a power relation. All over the world, the front lines are constantly shifting between social and cultural movements that espouse depatriarchalization and detraditionalization and those that espouse repatriarchalization and retraditionalization. So it is the diversity of the trajectories, the intensity of the tensions and struggles, and the institutional forms of these rationales of asymmetry or symmetry that make comparative analyses possible between the various observable gender arrangements. One consequence is that a sociology of the historicity of gender arrangements seems more productive than the other approaches. For one thing, the critical or tautological use of the concept of “patriarchy” across the board eclipses the conflicting dynamic of gender relations, even when it is embedded in a line of reasoning that takes intersectionality and transnationalization into account. For another, while the concept of “gender regime” permits a definition of useful comparative typologies (Walby 2009), it focuses more on the reproduction of gender inequality than on conflicting and changing dimensions of gender arrangements. In short, seeing as the concept of patriarchy is no longer equal to the task of describing contemporary gender relations, we must be attentive to composite dynamics and rationales that make and break gender as a power relation all over the world. Eric Macé is a professor of sociology at the University of Bordeaux (France), and member of the Centre Emile Durkheim, a research center for Comparative Political Science and Sociology. He works on social power relations through a sociology of action, notably on gender issues, and leads a world network of sociologists on postcolonial challenges within social sciences, trying to articulate a common sociological reasoning with sociological situated standpoints. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Kanza Kassimi (University Ibnu Zohr at Agadir), who enlightened me on Paul Pascon’s concept of “composite”; she is also the translator into Arabic of my book (in French) L’après-patriarcat (Paris: Seuil, 2015). The possible weaknesses of this article are my responsibility, but I want to thank Çagla Aykac, Sui-Ting Kong, Barbara Risman, Andy Smith, and Sylvia Walby for their critical comments on previous versions of the paper. I also thank the reviewers and the editor for their constructive criticism. References Abou-Bakr Omaima. 2015 . Islamic feminism and the equivocation of political engagement. In Rethinking gender in revolutions and resistance. Lessons from the Arab World , ed. El Said M. , Meari L. , Pratt N. . London : Zed Books . Ahmed Leila. 1992 . Women and gender in Islam: Historical roots of a modern debate . New Haven : Yale University Press . Appadurai Arjun. 1998 . Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization . 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Social PoliticsOxford University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2018

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