Theme 3: Distinctions and Authority
By Stine Adrian on 27 Aug | 0 comments
In recent years the study of material conditions and socioeconomic change has gained new urgency for gender research as the world is undergoing a rapid integration of economies and cultures, alongside a shift in labor conditions and in the character and allocation of the most commonly available types of work. This in turn has given rise to new social divisions and shifts in power between, as well as within, nations and regions. Increased migration has also contributed to an acutely felt need to study how different distinctions and ideas about distinctions, such as gender, class, ethnicity, generation, age, etc interact in the creation of new value hierarchies, where the outcome will vary according to context.
The emerging new global division of labor is both gendered and based on ethnic divisions. Simultaneously it is creating new class structures which are complicated by regional difference and educational stratification, as well as the gender division of labor. This development coincides with the tertiarization of work and new employment arrangements that may be connected to the shift in power relations between socioeconomic groups. A new division has been noted between the mobile, highly educated and less exchangeable so-called creative class and the lower paid, less educated, exchangeable and more stationary service and care workers. We may however also distinguish an even more vulnerable stratum of internationally mobile and exchangeable service workers, mostly women (see for instance Florida 2005, Sassen 2002).
This development calls for a more intensive discussion of the new distinctions or social categories of various kinds and how to study them. The analytical value of the gender concept has increasingly been problematized in gender research and debate. In many social sciences such as history and anthropology, gender relations have always been historicized, relativized and compared. They have been situated in a specific time and a specific social and geographical space. Today this relativizing may be said to have reached new depths in the call for the systematic analysis of intersectionalities and of contextualities.
From a rather uncomplicated distinction between the meanings and materialities of gender in different classes and social strata (primarily in European research) and gender and race (in North American research), the focus has gradually moved on to a more sophisticated systematic scrutiny of the effects and functioning of combinations of all sorts of distinctions, real and/or ascribed, concerning gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, generation, age, etc. Institutional arrangements and cultural histories have produced distinctions in the form of national gender regimes that may be distinguished and compared (Ferrée & Tripp 2006, Crenshaw 1995, Lykke 2003, McCall 2005, Walby 2007).
In practice these distinctions are always inseparable aspects of an individual’s total personality, of his or her habitus if you like (Bourdieu 1977). But in the methodological and theoretical debate about how they should be analyzed and the theoretical implications of.different methods, several types of analysis may be observed.
Should the distinctions be treated as connected to different value hierarchies/orders of distinction, or should they be ignored so as not to reproduce boundaries that we would not acknowledge as such? An individual is often differently positioned in different value hierarchies; for instance, at the same time belonging to a higher valued gender but a lower valued class and a lower valued ethnicity. How will these positions affect one another? And which one – if any - will dominate the other ones? Recent research has shown that this will most likely depend on the context and the logic that dominates the context ( García de León et al 2000, Vianello & Moore 2000, Göransson 1998, 2005 and 2007).
The distinctions may differ in scope, force and hierarchy as has been suggested by Thurén (1996 and 2008). These concepts may be used for a comparison of for instance organizations, cultures, or regions. Thus in one country the scope of the gender order may be larger or more narrow than in another country. There may be greater or smaller societal areas that are gender-neutral. Furthermore, the force of the gender order (or gender division or regime) may differ, so that in one culture (for instance in southern Europe) doing something that is traditionally coded as the prerogative of the other gender may be more heavily punished than in other cultures (for instance, northern Europe). The hierarchy between male and female may also vary between countries, organizations,etc so that the hierarchy is sharper in some areas and not so strong in other ones. These three concepts make it possible to find finer distinctions and may therefore contribute to a sharper analysis and a better understanding.
Will the field logic determine the scope, force and hierarchy of male dominance in a field? Politics is the most gender-balanced social field in the Nordic countries. But it seems to be the least gender-balanced field in many other countries. On the other hand, big business has very few female top leaders in the Nordic countries, while there are more in, for instance, France or the US. In other words, why are women excluded from some fields almost entirely but hardly at all in other fields? Is the degree of gender-balance in politics connected with the relative importance of the political field, and/or the existence and character of possibly competing fields?
Thus, it seems that the variations may be found to be connected with the logics, requirements and values of the respective contexts. Genders, social backgrounds, ethnicities, educations etc will be valued differently in different contexts. As an example, being a woman or having a Middle Eastern background may be a negatively valued symbolic capital in a top career in contemporary Swedish public administration or in big business, but the same background may be a highly positive asset in politics and in mass media, where it is politically important that all groups in society be represented and many voices heard (Göransson 2005 and 2007).
The societal context has been problematized, for instance by Juliet Mitchell who distinguished between different societal spheres, such as production, reproduction, sexuality and socialization (Mitchell 1966). More recently gender scholars have used Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of social fields, capitals and habitus in order to facilitate finer and more fruitful analytical distinction and precision (Bourdieu 1977, Skeggs 1997, Moi 1991 and 1999, Göransson 2007 ).
Possible sub-themes in the research program include:
1) The new social, ethnic and gender stratifications based on the development of work and on current changes in work organization and allocation of jobs. What interconnections are there between the evaluation of positions in different power orders (such as gender etc), and the change in organizational structures and institutional arrangements?
2) Shifts in power, leadership and authority structures and the effects on gender orders, class structures, and ethnic and migration patterns. The increased power of upper strata and middle classes, and its effect on the gender and ethnic divisions of labor. The interconnections between, for instance, income possibilities for migrants in one country and the effects of their economic and cultural transfers for their families and the class structure in their country of origin.
3) The role of kinship and other networks for job allocation and leadership recruitment in different contexts. The more systematic emergence of professional dynasties, especially in top jobs, and the role of gender and ethnicity in this process. In research on elites it has been noted that there is an increasing dynastic dimension of power allotment, as well as an increasing separation between different fields of power. In the Nordic countries it is now less common than before for a leader to change fields during his or her career. Thus for instance top leaders in politics are not recruited from big business, as may be the case in for instance the US. What are the effects of networks for democracy, meritocracy and representation in important positions?
4) In all sub-themes there should be conscious reflection on theoretical ramifications and on the effects of different methodological approaches on theory, as well as on the possible interpretations of results. Do we need a new understanding of the class concept adapted to today´s multicultural, gendered and service dominated information society? Have life styles and consumption become so important as to affect our evaluation of social groups and strata - more or as much as the occupational position, position in the society´s authority structure, education, and the economic possibilities of a person or group of persons? In the comparison of countries or regions, what use if any, may we have of the concepts of force, scope and hierarchy? Could they also be applied in the comparison of differences and similarities between other orders of distinction, such as class and ethnicity? Could they be connected to Bourdieu´s field concept?
Click here for more details on the October 2009 two-day Symposium
Bourdieu Pierre (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Crenshaw Kimberlé (1995) Critical Race Theory: the Key Writings That Formed the Movement. New York: New Press. Crompton Rosemary & Michael Mann, eds (1986) Gender and Stratification. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Crompton Rosemary (1993, 1998) Class and Stratification. An Introduction to Current Debates. Cambridge & Blackwell: Polity Press.
Devine Fiona (2004) Class Practices. How Parents Help Their Children Get Good Jobs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Epstein Cynthia Fuchs & Coser R L, eds (1981) Access to Power. Cross-National Studies of Women and Elites. London: George Allen & Unwin.
Epstein Cynthia Fuchs (2007) Great Divides: the Cultural, Cognitive and Social Bases of the Global Subordination of Women. In: American Sociological Review 72:1.
Ferrée Marx Myra & Aili Mari Tripp (2006) Global feminism: transnational women´s activism, organizing and human rights. New York: University Press.
Florida Richard (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.
García de León María Antonia et al (2000) The Elites´cultural capital. In: Vianello Mino & Moore Gwen, Gendering elites. Economic and political leadership in 27 industrialised societies. Basingstoke, London & New York: Macmillan Press Ltd & St Martin’s Press Lld.
Göransson Anita (1998) ”Mening, makt och materialitet. Ett försök att förena realistiska och poststrukturalistiska positioner.” (”Meaning, Power and Materiality. An Attempt to Reconcile Realist and Poststructuralist Positions.”) In: Häften för kritiska studier no 4.
Göransson Anita, ed (2005) Makten och mångfalden. Eliter och etnicitet i Sverige. (”Power and Diversity.. Elites and Ethnicity in Sweden”). Ds-rapport från Integrationspolitiska maktutredningens forskningsprogram 2005: 12. (Report from the Integration Political Power Investigation Research Program, Ds 2005:12. Justice Department.) Stockholm: Justitiedepartementet/Fritzes.
Göransson Anita, ed (2007) Maktens kön. Kvinnor och män i den svenska makteliten på 2000-talet. (The Gender of Power. Women and Men in the Swedish Power Elite in the 21st Century). Nora: Nya Doxa Bokförlag. Statens offentliga utredningar 2007:108 ”Kön, makt och statistik” (A Göransson, ed) (Government Official Investigations: ”Gender, Power and Statistics”) . Stockholm: Fritzes.
Haavind Hanne (1982) “Makt og kjaerlighet i ekteskapet”. (”Power and love in marriage”.) In: Kvinneforskning. Bidrag til samfunnsteori: Festskrift til Harriet Holter. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Haavind Hanne (1985) ”Förändringar i förhållandet mellan kvinnor och män” (”Changes in the relationship between women and men”). In: Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift, Vol 6, No 3.
Lykke Nina (2003), ” Intersektionalitet – ett användbart begrepp i genusforskningen.” In: Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift 24:1.
McCall Leslie (2005) The Complexity of Intersectionality. In: Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society,Vol 30, No 3 (Published in Swedish as: “Intersektionalitetens komplexitet.” In: Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift, Vol 16, No 2-3.)
Mitchell Juliet (1971, 1966) Woman’s Estate. Harmondsworth, England & Baltimore, MA: Pelican/Penguin Books.
Moi Toril (1991) Appropriating Bourdieu: feminist theory and Pierre Bourdieu´s sociology of culture. In: New Literary History 22:4. Moi Toril (1999) What Is a Woman? and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rothkopf David (2008) Superclass. The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making. London: Little, Brown.
Sassen Saskia (2006) Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages. Princeton: Princeton University Press...
Sassen Saskia (2006) A Sociology of Globalization, New York: W W Norton.
Sassen Saskia (2002) “Global cities and survival circuits”. In: Barbara Ehrenreich & Arlie Russel Hochschild (eds) Global woman: Nannies, maids and sex workers n the new economy. Skeggs Beverly (1997) Formations of class and gender: becoming respectable. London: Sage.
Thurén Britt-Marie (1996) ”Om styrka, räckvidd och hierarki samt andra genusteoretiska begrepp”. (“On force, scope and hierarchy and other gender theoretical concepts”) Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift no 3-4.
Thurén Britt-Marie (2008) “On Force, Scope, Hierarchy. Concepts and Questions for a Cross-Theorization of Gender”. Downloaded from: http://www.women.it/guarta/workshops/re-figuring3/thuren.htm
Vianello Mino & Gwen Moore (2000) Gendering Elites. Economic and political leadership in 27 industrialised societies. Basingstoke, London & New York: Macmillan Press Ltd & St Martin’s Press Lld.
Walby Sylvia (2007) Complexity Theory, Systems Theory, and Multiple Intersecting Social Inequalities. In: Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Vol 37, No 4. Downloaded from httpp://pos.sagepub.com at Lancaster University on April 14, 2008.
Persons involved with this theme: