02: History cont’d

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The second book I’m going to look at that exemplifies the way the Masculinity Conspiracy mobilizes history is Ken Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, first published in 1995. Wilber is seen by some as a “new age” writer, although he doesn’t employ the rainbows and crystals brought to mind by this orientation. He is seen by others as “the most widely translated academic writer in America,” although he doesn’t tick the boxes one might expect of an academic, such as having a Ph.D. or routinely publishing with academic journals and presses. Whichever way, he is widely known as the preeminent advocate of “integral theory,” which is a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought combined with the evolution of consciousness.

The subtitle of Wilber’s book “the spirit of evolution” offers an immediate insight into the historical framework of Wilber’s thought. Wilber adopts a developmental model where humanity (either collectively or individually) progresses through various stages, spanning history and each person’s lifetime. As we develop, we “transcend and include” the previous level of development, so those historical levels remain of crucial—albeit transcended—importance. It is Wilber’s presentation of the distinct evolution and character of men and women that is pertinent to the chapter at hand.

Wilber argues that men and women are generally defined by certain characteristics, and that these are shaped and confirmed by the roles men and women have taken on throughout history. In many ways, this is similar to the argument presented by Mansfield, but it speaks more directly to the notion of development and consciousness and, as we shall see, not only history, but also the unfolding of future time.

Wilber sees people as having either a masculine or feminine “type.” These types are largely based on Wilber’s reading of Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice, which was influential in the development of women and gender studies back in the 1980s. In short, the masculine type results in men focusing on agency and ranking; the feminine type results in women focusing on communion and linking. Mansfield also happens to make similar use of Gilligan.

Wilber views the differences between the masculine and feminine type as being based on age-old historical precedents that reflect the practical realities of being a man or a woman. He identifies a divergence of roles for men and women way back at the beginning of the agricultural period. Specifically, the introduction of the animal-drawn plow (over the hand-held hoe) meant that men’s strength advantage made them the natural choice for taking on the role of “productive work” in the public domain. Women, on the other hand, retreated into the domestic labor of the private domain. While productive work (and consequently men) was assigned greater significance, Wilber argues this arrangement was reached by both men and women, “in the face of a set of natural givens.”

This historical fact has significant ramifications for contemporary gender politics. Wilber argues that the whole notion of patriarchy—the oppression of women by men—makes no sense in this understanding of history. Instead, we should see society as patrifocal, with men’s allegedly “privileged” position in the public domain not being the result of men oppressing women into the private domain, rather a joint decision by both men and women. For Wilber, any other understanding of power or focus in society would result in “the sheepification of women and the pigification of men,” which he simply does not find representative of the truth.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

June 5, 2010 at 11:23 am

One Response

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  1. The ‘sheepification of women and the pigification of men’ is in fact the the result of current misandric law and social practice. Women invite the state to regulate all aspects of the private sphere and aggressively promote such intrusion, while men are steadily pushed out of the mainstream and lose contact with their formerly virtuous and socially-valued ethics and morality.
    Witness the riot society extant in Britain and Philadelphia, to cite a couple of obvious examples.


    January 13, 2012 at 8:30 am

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