SOC203 Week 5 Feb.-4-13
(correction from last week: Armanian genocide started in 1915)
Engels on Gender Inequality
1. Gender inequality in Canada today
2. Engles (origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, 1884):
o The centrality of productions and reproduction
o Gender under primitive communism
o Private property and gender inequality
The ermergence of private property came with the domestication of animal and
the want to pass on their herds to their sons
The transformation of matrilineal to patrilineal causes women to lose their
o Socialism and gender relations: the claim
Inequalities in private quality and gender inequality would disappear with
changes to a social society
3. Critical comments:
o A sociological phenomenon
If diffs were rooted in biology we would have to believe the inequality cannot
change same with psychology but Engle’s argues not sustaining certain
differences b/w humans in the end Engle’s says social diffs are a sociological
i.e pregnancy is a biological reality men will never know, this does not mean
that pregnancy should separate women in the workplace.
In some societies women can be penalized in terms of career advancement b/c
of pregnancy and other societies can ensure there are acts in place to not
penalize pregnancy or child rearing.
Example for the ways in which sociological thinking about gender as empligfied
by Engles is fundamental.
o A historical phenomenon
We know there is variation in gender inequality, societies where the gap b/w
men and women can be greater/narrower
There is historical variation
This and sociological phenomenon point to positives in Engle’s view
o The meaning of property
This is a weakness of Engle’s
Engle’s takes it for granted that men would want to transfer property to their
Why the male heirs? Why not to the village in general?
He assumes men would want to hoard property to pass it on to their lineage –
this is a cultural thing. This dimension is not covered by Engle
o Politics matter
Think of soviet union that did away with large diffs in private property
We think they got rid of gender inequality but in the 1930s the regime decided
the population was too low and policies had to be put in place to increase fertility of soviet population – did this by encouraging women to fall back on
It may be that where there are great diffs in private property that there is a
bigger gap b/w gender, but getting rid of private property may not be so great
Changes in state policy have a great deal to do with gender inequality
o Gender equality and capitalism
Think of economics such as Canada – we know there have been changes when it
comes to gender inequality
Holding the economic system constant there has still been diffs in inequality
Upshot: surely Engle’s did a favour by saying we cannot take gender inequality as natural
phenomenon, the meaning of property there is a culture dimension, and in gender inequality
and capitalism shows apart from socially, economics and state policies matter as well.
Simmel’s Sociology of Power: The architecture of Politics: by: EV Walter.
Pg. 139-166 in Kurt H. Wolff (ed.), Essays on Sociology, Philosophy, and Aesthetics (New York:
Harper and Row, 1965).
1960s – sociology was a thing radical students were into
o Sociology in the 1960s is a radical Marxist discipline
o A Marxist sociologist would have been somewhat uneasy with Simmel
o Simmel describes power relations as a dance between 2 partners and Marx says it is
more a boxing match. Simmel says it involves negotiation and Marx says it is about
power and blood.
A. Thematic Key: cohesion vs. division
o Simmel: In a traditional society – a village that everyone knows everyone, they do things
together, there’s gossip and a lot of social monitoring so social forces create greater
pressure for conformity. Opposed to a modern society, you interact with all different
people, with many discrete (not interconnected) social groups. The world of school and
church is different.
o Simmel then connects this portrait for social structure with the consequences of
identity: the claim he make is that in a small scale traditional society, the pressure of
society will channel us in a direction of more consistency during the day. Contrast this to
a modern society, where in every situation you act different.
o We play different roles as we move thru these different circles.
o Does this create new challenges for the person in terms of integrity?
Integral – whole complete, not fragmented. Simmel saying if we slightly
changing our demeanor where is the unity of the person, where is the core that
make us the person?
Second sense of integrity has to be morally upstanding, in our society is
someone is 2 faced they lack integrity, this is what Simmel is saying, what about
our backbone and moral integrity?
o Superficially we think that modern society would be liberating but in fact modern
society presents us with new challenges when it comes to our personality. Core in terms
of identity and standards. We all value a person who changes with situations, but
pushed to the limit we say a person that bends too much to different situations is a
hypocrite or lacks character.
o Question of balance and remaining firm in certain situations – this is a conundrum o Problem of maintaining cohesion
o Within the individual
o Within society’s horizontal relations
Cliché in our knowledge of how people work
Nothing better than pulling people together than having an outside enemy
This is an example of cohesion vs. division when it comes to horizontal relations
Whether or not there is a common enemy people can be either disunited and
then pulled together
Horizontal – social relations between relative equals
o Within society’s vertical relations
Vertical – social relations between people who are relatively unequal
Simmel is talking about division, but true to his nature he talks about the
cohesion and ways these people get along
Talks about negotiation b/w parties involved based on equal relations
Truce found b/w certain parties when they work things out
o Simmel says cohesion and division are always present and if we miss one we are
providing a misleading view of social reality.
o Raymond ARON speaking about Simmel , he says “Simmel has many admirers and
o It’s easy to classify certain sociologists as neo Marxist, few followers of Simmel.
o He is brilliant but does not offer a system
B. Critical Observations
What it social realist? Social realist what is real?
Realist is a sociologist who believes supra-individual phenomena have properties independent
of their constituent parts.
How did Durkheim make this case in the study of suicide?
What was the supra individual phenomenon?
o He states there are certain characteristics in society outside of individual characteristics
that influence suicide rate.
o He is interested in the rate of suicide across social groups and the independent variables
he looks at are all supra-individual as well
Durkheim is a realist.
Example – water has different properties, but the parts of water Hydrogen and oxygen you
would not use to put out fire/satiate thirst
Girls blocking the cross walk
Other example people protesting to block the train – they stopped the train – made a new
reality compared to if there was just one person.
New realities are created when people come together
Supra-individual is a social realism
o Simmel’s “brilliance” (what about few disciples?)
o Methodological individualism (what about social realism?)
Opposite of social realism
Individual people are real and to talk about supra individual phenomena is to
engage in a pointless philosophical conversation that has nothing to do with