The Nature of the Right: Feminist Analysis of Order Patterns

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As a result, sociology as a discipline did not have much to say about women. While each of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim did have some comments on women and family, these were generally limited comments and their sociological models would be little different if women did not exist. Classical sociologists appear to have thought that there were natural differences between men and women. This could be biological differences or socially developed differences that were not analyzed by sociologists. Biological differ ence such as strength or the ability to bear children might have been assumed.


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Or they may have assumed that there was an essential difference in human nature between men and women. While all people may have been regarded as rational human beings, with no difference between men and women, most of the classical sociologists thought of men and women as being somewhat different in their natures. Sydie notes that "the female is associated with the world of nature" while men were associated with culture p.

Or women were regarded as emotional or passionate, while men were rational in their thought and activities. For Durkheim this was especially ironic, given that he regarded human interaction as social, and as a sociologist he considered biological aspect s to have no direct connection with the social — yet women were somehow natural and connected to nature. Classical sociologists generally focussed on differences and inequality. Marx was most explicit in this, but Durkheim and Weber also developed various ways of examining difference and inequality.

Issues such as the division of l abour, exploitation, and power, domination, and authority emphasize difference and inequality. Feminists have identified patriarchy as a social syste m of inequality, but classical sociology had only limited analysis of this. Discussion of Men, Women and Family in Suicide. Sydie discusses Durkheim's claims concerning male and female suicide rates, and his arguments about the broader issue of the dualism of human nature. With respect to suicide rates, Durkheim examine d male-female differences in suicide rates, and rates for married, divorced, widowed, single, etc.

In general, he finds that women have lower suicide rates than do men, although there are different rates associated with different marital statuses and in different countries.

Single males and male divorcees are particularly subject to suicide. Sydie argues that this is based on Durkheim's view that marriage is better for men than for women. For men, marriage provides moral calmness and tranquillity, and in order to reduce the suicide rate of men, the institution of marriage should be strengthened.

In contrast, women tend to be negatively affected by marriage. This is because their sexual needs are more biological and less mental than men's, the mental life of women is less developed, females are more instinctive, and females do not require the same degree of social regulation that men do.

Stronger marriage institutions would increase the female suicide rate and reduce the male rate. Domestic Anomie. Suicides of divorced people are greater than those for other parts of the population, even more than for widows. The cause though is not divorce, but "the family condition predisposing to suicide" Suicide , p. Durkheim then goes on to examine what family condition creates this. He argues that "marriage is more favorable to the wife the more widely practiced divorce is. Thus, it is husbands who contribute to the rise in the suicide rate in societies as divorce becomes more common.


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  6. The cause of this is changes in the institution of marriage, and not the family itself. Where divorce is common, this weakens matrimonial regulation generally, not just the dissolution of the marriage. This has a negative effect on men, making them less calm and tranquil, and men become more uneasy.

    In contrast, women' sexual needs are less mental because her mental life is less developed. Women are more instinctive and do not require as much social regulation in the form of marriage as do men.

    1. Historical Background

    For women, marriage is less useful and the regulation of marriage does not have advantages for her. As a result, divorce protects women, and women have frequent recourse to it. As the divorce rate increases, the increase in suicides of men is not the result of bad husbands, bad wives, or unhappy households. Rather, this increase results from a change in the moral structure of society -- a weakening of matrimonial regulation.

    Division of Labour. Sydie notes that Durkheim does not view men and women as sharing equally in social life as society and the division of labour develop. Women tend to be in positions where it is their natural and biological impulses are imp ortant to filling the position, and mental and other characteristics may be less well developed. That is, women are more suited to domestic and aesthetic occupations and roles. In contrast, it is men who benefit from social life and moral regulation. Men' s mental capacities are better developed and they more clearly realize the difference between natural impulses and sensory perception on the one hand, and moral forces and activities on the other.

    Sydie argues that Durkheim's attempt to provide a sociolog ical explanation for the change in sex roles ultimately failed. In her view, Durkheim fell back on a biological argument, that males and females are inherently and biologically different -- and that this difference is socially expressed. This represents a failure in the sociological imagination for Durkheim, who was concerned to always explain the social causes of societal phenomena.

    Dualistic View. Sydie argues that there is a more general problem here. Durkheim had a dualistic view of human nature, looking on the soul as sacred and as regulated by the collectivity. The body is profane or secular and is not regulated b y society.

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    The body is composed of sensations and is egoistic and personal. This duality is reflected in society, with society representing solidarity, the moral imperative, and regulation. Within modern society, each person has a double life, with indivi duality and personality, but with a greater need for collective coordination and constraint. This parallels the division in sex roles. Men tend to become more aware of the conflict between the two, because men occupy positions within the division of labou r outside the household.

    This leads to a greater development of men's mental capacities, and men become more aware than do women of the nature of this duality. For men roles become more complex, and the institution of marriage as a means of moral regulati on is necessary. For women, the dualism is not as severe.


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    6. Because their roles are more natural, and ones they are more naturally suited for, and because women have fewer needs, they have less need for regulation. Sydie notes how this view of women as connected to nature and biology, with men more connected to a rational, regulated culture, is common to many writers in sociology. Many sociological models are built on social explanations of society, culture, econ omy, politics, etc.

      While Sydie is generally critical of Durkheim, there are a few positive points concerning sex roles that emerge from Durkheim's writings. First, Durkheim looked on early society as having men and women in relatively equal roles, or at least considerabl y less differentiated that they later became. He states that women did participate in war and politics, and considered some form of matriarchy to have been one of the original forms of kinship.

      Durkheim did not think that patriarchy always existed, or was a fundamental form. Second, Durkheim looked on the natural or historical development of the division of labour as affecting sex roles as well. The manner in which the division of labour developed led to greater specialization on the part of men and women. In that sense, he did not view the sex roles of his time as completely natural or fixed but they were as a result of specific historical developments.

      In some ways, Durkheim seemed to look on these historical developments as natural -- but this is not nature in the strictly biological sense.

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      Third, he evaluated the forms in which the institution of marriage developed as generally being of greater benefit to the male than to the female. Fourth, he did envision the possibility of changes in sex roles, b ut did not view these as likely to occur for a long time. In the society of his time, Durkheim argued that society required the division of labour between the sexes that had developed. Durkheim's legacy on these issues are then mixed.

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      In some ways he was an acute observer, but in the end he failed to develop a sociological explanation for sex roles. Like so many other writers, he fell back on natural differences between males and fem ales as an explanation for modern sex roles. As with the other major theorists, Durkheim makes little mention of women and their role in the division of labour. For Durkheim, the division of labour is that within the economy, for people with occupations in paid jobs or busin esses.

      There is little mention of what happens outside this division of labour, how it affects the division of labour and society as a whole, and what changes can result as more of household activities become part of the economy. Whether Durkheim's analys is can be extended to include the household and non-economic activities of this type is not clear. The Marxian tradition provides an analysis of the family and of sex and gender inequalities. For Marxists, class inequalities and class struggles are the primary feature of the structure of any society, and play a key role in the d evelopment of these structures.

      At the same time, many Marxists recognize that women and men have not usually been equal in society, with women have a position inferior to that of men through much of history and in modern society. For some Marxists, this inequality is not just a byproduct of class inequality, but has its own separate explanation.

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      Marx also argued that for women and men to be fully equal, private property would have to be abolished, and an egalitarian, socialist society created Sydie, p. Marxists have often considered class struggle, the working class, and a political program to attain socialism to be the primary goal of a socialist movement. The inequality of men and women may be considered secondary in importance to class inequality and oppression, and contradictions related to reproduction and gender relations play a secondary role in explaining social change.

      Women's struggles to attain equality with men have often had to take a secondary place to the struggles of the working class. At the same time, as Tong notes p. Marxists have sometimes used this negatively, arguing that the responsibility of women within the family has a conservatizing effect, and may help explain the problem of developing working class consciousness. More recently, Marxist feminists have attempted to combine the classical Marxian view that class inequality is rooted in the control of material forces by a few, with an understanding of the roots of women's oppression and an examination of feminist so cial protest.

      Sydie notes that this may be an "unhappy marriage" of Marxism and feminism p.