Pierre Bourdieu's and Robert W. Connell's Construction of Masculinity. Male Domination and Hegemonic Masculinity

A Comparison

Seminar Paper, 2011

22 Pages, Grade: 1.0 (Excellent)


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Construction of Masculinity – Bourdieu and Connell
2.1 Pierre Bourdieu: Male rule
2.1.1 Construction of body, incorporation of domination and masculinity
2.1.2 Male habitus, male domination, violence and female complicity
2.2 Robert W. Connell: Hegemonic masculinity
2.2.1 Social construction of gender and masculinity

3 Comparison and summary

4 Criticism, reference and discussion

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography

1 Introduction

"You're not born a woman, you're going to be," said feminist Simone de Beauvoir. This statement is vice versa true to the man, because also the man is "made" to what traditionally means man or masculinity. What the man is or seems to be is socially constructed and follows a (constructed) social order. As a human being, he is born into the world, socialized, conditioned to certain social practices that lead to incorporation and appear to be natural. Accordingly, "[...] the practice is the place of the dialectic of opus operatum and modus operandi, of objective and incorporated results of historical practice, of structure and habitus forms [...]."1 (Bourdieu, 1993, p.98). The curriculum vitae is characterized by different phases of socialization, all of which have institutional backgrounds and which set an example and incorporate the practices to the human being: Family, school, marriage, working environment, etc..

We are in a male-dominated society in which men are advantaged by the social and gender-specific structures that he has constructed. This becomes explicitly apparent when we look into economic, political and sexual playing fields. Advantages for the man mean disadvantages for the woman: Inequalities that have existed for centuries, because "it is men who control the state, large corporations and the means of violence." (Connell, 1999, p.13).

Many scientists have mainly dealt with "women's issues". If we look at the "women's issues", we also see "men's issues". Gender, explicitly the male as a social and societal construction, is at the center of this work, because it is stated that gender is a central dimension of social disparities (cf. Meuser, 1998, p.105). The disparity of the shape of the dichotomous sex has an origin and is considered to need to be explained, because the unequal treatment of it is unclear. This work refers in particular to the concepts of male rule of Pierre Bourdieu and the hegemonic masculinity of Robert W. Connell. The background of the comparison presented here is aimed at the assumption of a connection of theoretical views.

This assumption of the connection exists because the two approaches seem compatible in your basic statements: Both approaches exclude the biological entity of the sexes and claim that gender is a social construction that follows a constructed social order. Both thinkers observe a manifestation of constructed masculinity in social practice. This is reflected in language, action, body language and sexuality. Social practice is physical and socially structured practice. Thus, it can be said that masculinity is an expression of male practice. Both assume a variability of this practice. Bourdieu, however, illustrates more the functional relation of objective structures and subjective inequalities; however, it does not exclude changes per se. Masculinity (and its different forms and patterns) are considered by both culturally and/or milieu-related. They presuppose that gender, as a socio-structural category, has an effect on the relationship between men and women on the one hand and contributes to differentiation on the other. The main aspect of both is that they basically start from a patriarchally structured society in the sense of a male hegemony.

Some central questions are to be clarified with this term paper:

- How did male hegemony arise or be constructed?
- How have these structures been able to secure their self-evidentness and legitimacy for centuries?
- Why are patriarchal structures still ubiquitous today?
- How can the structures of male hegemony or male rule be changed or ended at all?

In order to answer these questions, both concepts are considered individually in the method and theory in the following, in order to then analyze them together. In the last part of the work, the concepts are critically examined, discussed and included in current references.

2 Construction of Masculinity – Bourdieu and Connell

2.1 Pierre Bourdieu: Male rule

In his essay "The Male Rule", the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu posed the question of why forms of male rule could hold their own to this day and why analogous forms of rule can be found in different cultures. Bourdieu uses his methodological trick to try2 to analyze and explain how the world was divided into male and female in the first place, how a form of male dominance continues to occur and how it can continuously assert itself. He observed Kabyle society in Algeria for years, analyzed its behavior and transferred it to Western society ("An enlarged picture") or tried to show parallels. His main focus was on the practices by which women suggested to women the naturalness of man's rule, how they were incorporated into them, and which led to women even supporting male rule. In this structure, he addresses the "symbolic violence", which does not imply any physical violence, but is enforced by the patterns of domination, which in turn involuntarily internalize women. They are regarded as natural and legitimate and are not questioned by either women or men in a reflective way. Bourdieu's constituent concepts such as habitus, social space, field, doxa, incorporation, hexis are the foundations for developing a concept of a "systematic and coherent construction" (Dölling, 2009, p.173) of male domination. Bourdieu said that the patterns of domination pass into the habitus and thus into the evaluation, action and perception patterns of each individual. In doing so, he explains that male rule is unquestionably reflected in the actions and behavior of men and women. Bourdieu does not only portray women as victims. He also regards the man as such, who feels an unease with regard to the gender order, because the man has also internalized the pattern of domination in his habitus and is thus forced to continue to live out this pattern. He is, so to speak, ruler, but also subject to the prevailing ideas. In the following it is shown that Bourdieu with his concept of male domination in connection with the habitus concept, provides a methodical superstructure for gender inequalities.

2.1.1 Construction of body, incorporation of domination and masculinity

"In reality, everything is completely different" (Proust)

Kabyle society knows the social differentiation and domination only according to gender (cf. Rademacher, 2002, p.146). For them, sexuality is not constituted and the gender order is divided into dichotomies. Bourdieu describes that these dichotomies are natural and homologous opposites: high/low, up/down, hot/cold, indoor(private)/outside(public), active/passive etc. (cf. Bourdieu, 2005, p.18, Flashar, 2006, p.315, Gottschalch, 1997, p.32 ff.). These dichotomies of the sexes can be traced back to antiquity. In them lies the origin of the sexual assignment of homologous opposites. Due to the physical differences between the sexes, the assignments seem natural and normal. Male and female represent a contrast, are unequal and corresponding connotations can be attributed. "They are alike [...] present throughout the social world – in incorporated state – in the bodies, in the habitus of the actors, which function as systematic schemes of perception, thought and commerce." (Bourdieu, 2005, p.20). Consequently, the body is a gender-different fact that allows gender-dissenting principles and thus creates a "real" relationship with the world and makes the practice of the sexes appear natural and natural. Unquestioned and legitimate remains the power of the male order. As a result, the androcentric view achieves neutrality. Bourdieu addresses in the same way the social order, which is related to social practice (practical sense3 ) and which has androcentric structures. From the social order4 follows the gender division of labor, namely the distributions of the works by place, time, space and means. Thus, the men are responsible for the outside (meetings or the market), for the women the inside (the house). The body with its biological differences serves as a legitimation of the "[...] socially constructed difference between the sexes [...]" (Bourdieu, 2005, p.23). Furthermore, the phallus acquires a symbolically outstanding importance. Virility, the idea of the perfect procreation power, gives rise to conceptions of finding a connection between the fertilization of the earth, in the form of plowing and fertilizing the woman, in the form of the sexual act. Bourdieu refers in his explanation of the legitimacy of male rule to an origin myth5 who explains the sexual division of labor in Kabyle society through the division of reproduction and production works (cf. 2005, p.36, Flashar, 2006, p.315, Trallori, 1990, p.6 ff.). In Bourdieu's work, sexuality is equated with power/power relations.


1 Opus operatum and modus operandi are bourdieu's dimensions of habitus. Opus operatum is the result of incorporated individual and collective history, forgetting, gendered habitus (Dölling, 2009, p.173) and modus operandi of the sexually sexual habitus.

2 Bourdieu draws on his own ethnological research in order to prevent the explanation of male rule from resorting to the ways of thinking that are themselves the result of this rule (cf. Bourdieu, 2005, p.14).

3 "The classifications (themselves the expression of a collective unconscious) are used unconsciously by the acting individuals, and they are – as the embodied existence of gender classifications – "removed from the grasp of consciousness and rational argumentation" (Dölling, 2009, p.174)

4 The function of the social order lies in the allocation of the advantageous division of labor for men. Accordingly, it must be preserved from an androcentric point of view. In addition, the social order not only provides social benefits, but also and especially economic advantages. Aspects such as accumulation of private wealth, inheritance, patern legal advantages, etc. play a role here. (cf. Bourdieu, 2005, p.20 ff.)

5 The woman in this is a sexual teacher of the man and climbs on him. Later, the man ascends to the woman with the words to bring out his position (above): ́At the well it is you [who has the say] in the house I am it. ́ (cf. Bourdieu, 2005, p.36). Here the founding myth of the male-dominated social order is to become visible. In addition, the dichotomy of outside (well) and inside (house) and the gender assignment of the man to the sexes as well as the dichotomies, which represent the sexual act as a relationship of domination (top/bottom, active/passive) are shown.

Excerpt out of 22 pages


Pierre Bourdieu's and Robert W. Connell's Construction of Masculinity. Male Domination and Hegemonic Masculinity
A Comparison
University of Rostock
1.0 (Excellent)
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ISBN (eBook)
Pierre Bourdieu, Robert W. Connell, male domination, hegemonic masculinity
Quote paper
Stefanie Neidhart (Author), 2011, Pierre Bourdieu's and Robert W. Connell's Construction of Masculinity. Male Domination and Hegemonic Masculinity, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1156939


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