Masculinities, Change, and Conflict in Global Society: Thinking About the Future of Men's Studies

Citation:

Connell, Robert W. 2003. "Masculinities, Change, and Conflict in Global Society: Thinking About the Future of Men's Studies." The Journal of Men's Studies 11 (3): 249-66.

Author: Robert W. Connell

Abstract:

Discussions about the nature of masculinity, the character of men as a specific group, and men in a context of gender relations have a history of a little more than a hundred years. Though the word "masculine" as a synomym for "male" is a very old word (it was used by Chaucer in the 14th century), the terms "masculinity," "masculinize," "masculinism," etc. only came into common use in English in the last two decades of the 19th and the first two decades of the 20th century. Simple notions of masculinity and femininity were also contested from within European medicine, especially from the developing field of psychiatry. Sigmund Freud, who insisted that notions of "masculinity" and "femininity" were among the most obscure in science, showed the internal complexity of personality, the co-existence of contradictory desires, and the dialectic between conscious and unconscious process. Alfred Adler, in the first important synthesis of psychoanalysis and feminism, showed how social power relations structured the development of personality and embedded gender hierarchy in individual desire. His notion of the "masculine protest" as a source of neurosis and social conflict is eerily relevant in the era of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Over time, however, psychoanalysis became more conservative, increasingly committed to conventional concepts of masculinity and femininity as markers of mental health. To make this approach systematic requires an understanding of the globalization of gender. Most theories of globalization have little or nothing to say about gender; but Sklair's (1995) concept of "transnational practices" gives an indication of how the problem can be approached. As Smith (1998) argues in relation to international politics, the key is to shift our focus from individual-level gender differences to "the patterns of socially constructed gender relations." If we recognize that very large-scale institutions such as the state and corporations are gendered, and that international relations, international trade, and global markets are inherently an arena of gender politics, then we can recognize the existence of a world gender order.

Keywords: gender, masculinity, men's studies, globalization, violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Globalization

Year: 2003

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