Thursday, July 7, 2011

R.W. Connell – "Masculinities": Relations within Masculinity

In chapter three of Masculinities ("The Social Organization of Masculinity") R.W. Connell is searching for a structure of gender that will incorporate three different types of relations: power relations, production relations and cathectic relations.

Power relations: the prime axis of power in contemporary western culture is the subordination of women to the rule of men, what the women liberation movement referred to as patriarchy.
Relations of production: the gendered division of labor turns capital into a gendered form; this is because the accumulation of capital is related for Connell to the field of reproduction,
Cathectic relations: following Freud Connell perceives passion is emotional energy invested in subjects, and the practices which shape passion are gendered and can raise difficult questions such as those regarding homosexuality.

Gender for Connell is not an isolated subject but one that is present in all aspects of society, and consequently all social practices are constructed, among other things such as race and ethnicity, through the prism of gender. Masculinity as a gender category therefore intersects with other power relation systems such as race and ethnicity. Connell concludes that gender and masculinity cannot therefore be understood in separation of other social arrays and structures, arrays and structures which in turn cannot be understood without appealing to gender. 

Relations between masculinities
In light of the aforesaid, Connell holds that one should not talk about masculinity but rather about masculinities. Connell is not concerned with identifying white masculinity or black masculinity, bourgeois masculinity of blue collar masculinity, but to examine the relation between these masculinities and to avoid a fixed typology of masculinities.

Connell examines the main practices which structure masculinity in western modern culture: hegemony, subordination, cooperation and marginalization.

Hegemony: the concept of hegemony of taken from the works of Antonio Gramsci, and in its adaptation in Connell's theory one form of masculinity takes precedence as the preferred type over other masculinities and aims at maintaining its privileged status. The existence of hegemonic masculinity is sustained on condition of some overlapping between a cultural ideal and institutional power. The nature of Hegemony as suggested by Gramsci is dynamic, and it can be challenged by other forms of masculinity that in time gain or lose hegemonic power.

Subordination: hegemony warrants the subordination of one group to the rule of another, in the field of masculinity Connell argues that the predominant subordination of our age is the subordination of homosexual masculinity to heterosexual masculinity through a number of material practices. 

Cooperation: few are the men who actually completely meet the definition of hegemonic masculinity, but many of them nevertheless enjoy its benefits. Connell therefore suggests that relations of cooperation exist between hegemonic masculinity and different groups that take part in it and sustain it without completely belonging to it.

Marginalization: this type of relationship characterizes a situation in which one masculinity is oppressed by another (usually the hegemonic masculinity) or alternatively empowered by it (like black athletes that are turned into of model of hegemonic masculinity).

This system of hegemony/subordination, cooperation and marginalization/empowerment is according to Connell a dynamic system of practices, not identities, and any gender oriented analysis must therefore account for developments in these relationships.