08: Conclusion cont’d

with 2 comments

Clearly, if patriarchy is not the conspiracy then there must be some higher—overarching—force (maybe even, according to Barkun’s original conspiratorial formula, a “demonic force”). There are plenty of people I speak to who, having agreed that patriarchy is not the conspiracy, then swiftly move on to the conclusion that it is capitalism that is the conspiracy. There is, after all, a long-standing Marxist tradition that shows how capitalism is the driving oppressive force in society, and it is easy to imagine that it is this that mobilizes patriarchy in the way described above. There are other contenders too: classism, racism, and so on. All these contenders either mobilize patriarchy in some way, or we can imagine how the conspiracy is using them as a vehicle for perpetuating its prescriptive vision for masculinity.

All these contenders are reasonable, but the conspiracy ultimately works on a broader level still. And it’s nothing obscure or esoteric, nothing that requires a PhD in developmental psychology or political science to understand. The conspiracy is simply power and domination. A good place to get a description of this is Walter Wink’s Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (a quick nod to Luke Devlin, whose comments on earlier online chapters drew the Wink connection). Wink is a theologian, so genuinely tends towards the forces at hand being “demonic” and our salvation from them being of the literal variety. However, the way he describes power and domination is also largely valid from an atheistic point of view.

Wink argues there has been a domination myth at the heart of humanity that dates back thousands of years in which “might makes right.” Quite early in his book, Wink also tables a version of the masculinity conspiracy, stating “this myth also inadvertently reveals the price men have paid for power they acquired over women: complete servitude to their earthly rules and gods. Women for their part were identified with inertia, chaos, and anarchy.”

So the conspiracy is an abstract assertion of power and domination over people at an individual, institutional and systemic level (in other words, at every level). In our present context, the conspiracy demands a particular form of masculinity that lends itself towards domination (think again of all the references we’ve heard about aggression, assertiveness, warriors, and so on) and mobilizes men to put that domination to work against women and other men via various methods such as patriarchy.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. “So the conspiracy is an abstract assertion of power and domination over people at an individual, institutional and systemic level (in other words, at every level).”

    I’ve heard this concept expressed using the word Kyriarchy. I agree. It’s not gender, it’s not class, it’s not race. It’s the mindset of domination itself, which co-opts all those things.

    The Nerd

    October 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    • Yes, kyriarchy is another good way of talking about this.


      October 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm

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