Clinging to the wreckage? Gender and the legacy of class
Sociology, 32, (3), . (doi:10.1177/0038038598032003004).
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The paper argues that the class legacy has had profoundly negative consequences for accounts of material gender inequality, and that even where gender theorists have attempted to move beyond class, they have been hampered by the fragments of class theory. It will be argued that whilst gender has posed a fundamental challenge to class analysis, the reconstructions which have been attempted have not escaped the central assumptions of class theory. The weakness of such reconstructions – hindered by flaws inherited from both the Marxian and neo-Weberian traditions of class analysis – has led some post-modern writers to question the very idea of a determinate, structural account of gender. At the time of writing, deconstruction – rather than reconstruction – is in the ascendant. However, whilst a structural account of gender can and should be defended, past attempts show that this cannot be achieved by clinging to the assumptions of class analysis, or by developing additive ‘class-plus-gender’ explanations. Only those approaches which reject the economistic assumptions of class, by placing emphasis on the social space as a differentiated and determinate social whole, can overcome the limitations of current accounts of gender.
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