Thursday, July 7, 2011

R.W. Connell – "Masculinities": The History of Masculinity - summary

In chapter eight of "Masculinities" R.W. Connell reasserts her previous proposition according to which masculinities are historical objects. In order to understand the present pattern of masculinity Connell wishes to go back to the time of its formation. For Connell, the origins of contemporary masculinity are found at the time of increasing European and American power and the rise of global imperialism and global capitalist economy. In other words, modern masculinity has had to do with global violence.

Early Modern Masculinity
When surveying the history of nowadays masculinity R.W. Connell starts with the 16th century, the undermining of the power of the Catholic Church and the spread of renaissance and protestant culture. On the one hand this period replaced the ideal of the ascetic monk with a cultural emphasis on institutionalized heterosexuality. On the other hand the rise of the idea of self expression brought about individuality, which according to Connell is fundamental for masculinity as it is for imperialism.

Another development of this age is colonial settlement. Connell argues that colonialism was gendered from its beginning, a product of the male-only occupations of maritime trade and soldiery. The first settlers of the west were for Connell the first examples of modern masculinity, characterized with violence and a search for gold and converted, and a tendency to be recalcitrant.

The third development in the 16th century is the growth of cities as centers of commercial capitalism. The gendered consequences of this development were only apparent later on, but the included individuality, rationalism and free enterprise. Capitalist culture according to Connell founded a form of masculinity which created a new type of gendered labor.     

 A fourth development followed from the 16th and 17th century religious wars. These wars according to Connell overthrow not just the existing class order but also the gender order. At this time patriarchal order was established with the aid of the new power of the nation state, with professional armies and a new relation between military violence and nationalistic patriotism.

see also:
history of masculinity 
present day masculinity 

Raewyn Connell – "Masculinities", 1995
Chapter 6: A Very Straight Gay
Chapter 7: Men of Reason