The Decline of Work and the Trouble with Masculinity

While feminists have long argued for the importance of gender in the analysis of political economy – for example that the (heterosexual) family should not be assumed to be a unit, that men and women have different power relations within the family, and that they have different relationships to the labor market — studies of political economy and the political economy of gender have simply not come together often enough. When they have done so, the focus has been on women’s experience of the economy. The failure to understand capitalism globally, as always already marked by the analytical category of gender (and race/caste/religion where relevant) has led, in the wake of global changes in men’s work, to an inadequate understanding of the complexity of the resentments wrought by these changes. This paper joins a burgeoning conversation about masculinity when men are faced with structural irrelevance in the workplace. In this paper, I consider men who do not have class advantage, and who are increasingly seen as those the new economy has left behind – the losers in the new global order who pose a threat to society at large. What becomes of men in the absence of work? What possibilities beyond attraction to popular authoritarianism and fundamentalisms are there for men to inhabit during unsettled times?

Raka Ray is an American sociologist and academic. She is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the departments of Sociology and Southeast Asian Studies, and recently appointed the Dean of Social Sciences at UC-Berkeley.

She researches and has published on gender, postcolonial sociology, emerging middle classes, South Asia, inequality, qualitative research methods and social movements.