SOSC – Lecture # 5
Instructor: L. Wiggins
October 5 , 2011
Gender as socially constructed: Macro level explanations
• Focus on broader patterns of human behaviour & thinking, emphasizingsocietal level
structural and/or ideological factors (instead of individual level) as the main influences in
shaping and determining our social attitudes and behaviours.
• Do provide insights into individuals but emphasis is on the “big picture” so social,
political, economic & environmental factors & their influence on dominant ideology
and/or material organization of society.
• Not interested in examining individual development as a facet of individual level factors
• Gender/gender roles are not seen as the property of the individual or as resulting from
individual level development (whether biological, psychological, or social) but as part of a
cultural, historical, ideological & structural influences & interactions.
Historical Materialism/Conflict theory:
- Focus on what people produce & how they produce it, emphasizes material
- Not a theory that demonstrates the explanation of things that works in any time
period anywhere in the world
- Says that we need to be historically, geographically specific because things
- The focus is on how and where somethingis produced
- Macro-level structural theory: how people are coming together in organization
in order to survive shapingour cultural and structural lives
- Creating the dominant ideas
Material conditions = the concrete variables or factors that make up a society so the available
resources, environment, the means of production or economy, technology & scientific knowledge.
- looks at society as a whole & differences within a society due to different
relations to mode of production. Initial focus on class as critical to status & power 2
relations (via relations to mode of production). A conflict approach, emphasizes class
conflict based on who controls the means of production
- These groups in society struggle to keep their positions
- OR, they struggle to move up a class
- A lot of focus around class diff. class in society are going to be in conflict/
compete with each other
- Higher classes get more privileges, and power
- Structural potential for conflict unequal distribution for power, status
- central theorists are Marx and Engels ---- importance of private property,
paternity &inheritance in establishingstratified class & sex/gender relations.
- Emphasizes problems
- Early theorists focused on early economies (subsistent levels) ; trying to meet
your basic needs, enough to eat, shelter from elements, findingwater, staying alive
- Low level of technology lower standings, all about survival on a daily basis
- Early gathering societies set up in an environment where there is food
- Production, reproduction
- Child at a young age are already seen as contributors dependent
- importance of historical changes in material conditions resulting in movement
from subsistence to exchange to expansion economy.
- Family based economy
- development of more stratified societies tied to exchange & later to expansion
economies (private property &personal wealth)
- emphasizes the importance of dominance of exchange value labour (for wages)
over use value. Men = wage labour in the public sphere & women = use value or
unwaged labour in the home.
- children &women seen as dependents; women function as reserve army of
labour when needed.
- different work = different ideas and consciousness. So the material conditions
(especially the economy) determine dominant ideology at a particular time &place. Since
the material conditions change historically & cross-culturally, this explains differences in
culture & dominant ideas.
- Systematic approach – change in one system will affect the entire system
- understands relationship between ideas & material conditions as dynamic,
changing & negotiated by individuals. But conditions of life determine which ideas
become dominant at a particular time & place. Emphasis placed on the causal role of
- Women experience workplace discrimination ra