<B>The IASOM Newsletter Vol 2 No 1 Spring 1994</B>

This newsletter is published by IASOM, The International Association for Studies of Men. IASOM is a new interdisciplinary organisation for studies of men and masculinities. The organisation is open to female and male researchers who want to develop this field internationally. IASOM supports the broad effort to create equal gender status and the research focusing on men with in this perspective.

Editor: Øystein Gullvåg Holter, The Work Research Institute, Oslo, with Lars Jalmert, the Department of Education at Stockholm University; Knut Oftung, The Equal Status Council, Oslo; Jørgen Lorenzen, The Institute for Comparative Literature, The University of Oslo, presently at Berkeley, California; Søren Carlsen, The Danish Equal Status Council, Copenhagen, and Rudi Rusfort, Roskilde University Center.

IASOM now has support from research organisations or individuals in  the following countries: Canada, US, Mexico, Germany, UK, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Netherland, Australia and New Zealand.

Organisations supporting the IASOM initiative include The Network for Men’s Studies, Denmark; The Network for Studies of Men, Sweden. The Network for Studies of Men, Norway. The Men’s Studies Association, US. Other contacts include: Canada - Michael Kaufman; Germany - Georg Brzoska, Stefan Beier and Willibald Walter; New Zealand - Rex McCann; UK - Jeff Hearn, Italy - Alessandro Notargiovanni, CGIL;  Mexico - Eduardo Liendro, The Masculinity Studies Project, PUEG, Universidad Nacional Aut. de Mexico; Netherland - Paul van Gelder.

Tell us more about yourself

We ask IASOM members generally, and some of you especially, to introduce yourself and your work. If you belong to the category who don’t like advertising yourself, forget this modesty for now. Do it, instead - if not here, where? This is your forum, use it. We want IASOM to be a functioning international association. For that to work out, we must get to know each other, and since we don’t have too much travel money, we’ll have to use other means, like our newsletter.

You should also be aware that many of the readers of this newsletter don’t know much about international studies of men. They want all the information they can get:

They ask questions like:

In our Network here in Norway we get a steady stream of this kind of inquiry, and probably many of you do, too. So send us a page or two about your work and yourself; if possible with a diskette as well as the paper copy.

“Postcard from Lillehammer...”

Our p.t. Berkeley correspondent, Jørgen Lorenzen of the Norwegain network, has sent a few clips from  US papers covering the Olympics at Lillehammer. There is no doubt the Lillehammer Olympics was a success for Norway internationally, and there seems to have been two “meta-messages” that helped create this success - an amazing public that supported everyone, not just the winners, and a subtle but noticeable emphasis on children (children introducing the events, etc.) and on wider peace and ecology issues. Many people here in Norway were sceptical to the arrangement beforehand, but their attitude changed during the events. There have been attempts to uncover the “hidden” side of the arrangement, like prostitution, but is seems that the positive picture presented to the world was fairly realistic. An great number of people, mostly young men and women, put in an amazing amount of unpaid voluntary work to help create this success.

For studies of men, the Olympics once again emphasises sports as a main area of men’s identity. Especially, the new “competitive profile”,  which is elitistic but also seems to contain new elements, emerges as a subject of further study.

In Norway, the ideal masculinity, primarily represented by sportsmen like Johan Koss and Vegard Ulvang, is a  man who even if he wins rises above the competition and uses it for larger purposes. The ideal is more competitive than ever, yet also less so, for the competition is only a game, and it is the world at large that matter. This seems to become a more common attitude. Koss and others have been active in this respect, and Koss for example has donated a large sum of money for humanitarian purposes.

Errors in the #1 Newsletter

At the moment, the IASOM newsletter is a late-night no-pay undertaking made by people who probably should rather look to their careers, und so weiter... “Revision A” of the first issue had quite a lot of typographical errors, and since there was quite a demand, we made a revision B - better - and a revision C, even (getting good it was). So if you want a typo-free Volume 1, 1 of this historic writing on the wall please contact us for the C version!

Funding of IASOM activities

In Norway as elsewhere, we are in a continuing dialogue with the research funding authorities in order to create a better financial base for the field. So far, we have not succeeded in creating a permanent funding arrangement.

The Norwegian Network has taken an initiative asking the Research Council to create an administrative post with a focus on developing studies of men, and this application has recieved support from the Council’s Secretariat for Women’s Studies and others. The Network has also recieved political support from the Norwegian confederation of trade unions (see below). The outcome of the initiative is however yet unclear.

We ask readers to have this situation in mind, and continue to contribute on a voluntary basis.

Name searching

Our newsletter needs a better name than the rather boring “IASOM newsletter”. Please forward your suggestions.

Øystein Gullvåg Holter

Focusing on men and social equality

IASOM supports interdisciplinary research on men in an equal gender status perspective. We believe this perspective is a precondition for developing the men’s studies field, and that the lack of it is what has kept the field closed off and often hidden from research. A main theme of our studies therefore concerns the relationship between men’s lives and the conditions of inequality. Our research is broadly “applied” in the sense of investigating men’s possibilities for developing more egalitarian relationships both towards women and towards other people in general.  

In their platform, the Danish Men’s Studies Network says its work is one of extending gender-critical research, with a focus on men. Being gender-critical may mean various things, and IASOM welcomes a diversity of views and methodologies.

We have two traits in common - a focus on men, and an egalitarian perspective. These words of course invite discussion; they may be defined in different ways, and researchers develop them in diverse directions. In the present research policy debate, however, these two traits define our position fairly well.

Being gender-critical or developing a more egalitarian perspective depends primarily on the questions asked, not the answers given. We do not, as a group, advocate this or that specific answer to the problems of men, or a specific theory of men’s role in the subordination of women. Rather IASOM encourages these lines of inquiry, and the creation of different approaches and theoretical traditions.

Since we have a common focus on equality, we analyse the barriers also. Some researchers refer to structural oppression of women, others to the power and gender system, still others to patriarchy. The latter has become a standard term, not implying a literal fathers’ power, but a society generally favouring men.

One result of the backlash tendencies over the last years, at least here in Scandinavia, is an Orwell-like Newspeak of Gender Equality, where words like “equality”are very OK, “lack of equality” passably OK, but “reasons for inequality” or words for the system of causes are not-OK. There shouldn’t be any. Don’t talk about them.

Some people believe “patriarchy” and similar words are by themselves ideological and should be avoided. We don’t agree with this view. All theories and categories may be used in ideological or one-sided ways. However we defend the right to develop words and categories for the reasons behind continuing social imbalance between the genders, and we believe these categories are important for understanding men’s lives also.

So, IASOM members may disagree quite a lot over concepts like  “patriarchy” or “gender/power-system” or “fallogocentrism”, and we emphasise that these are more like working categories than final answers, but we cannot accept a view in which this whole matter should be dropped. That is an attack on academic freedom in the name of “neutrality”.

Asking gender researchers to drop “patriarchy” is like asking meteorologists to drop “low atmospheric pressure” and just go out look at the rain instead. “Patriarchy” designates reasons for inequality, and it can only be replaced by a better conceptuality, not censorship.

Some of those who think patriarchy is an ideological concept, would go further, and use this argument against feminism and women’s studies in general. Feminist theory is seen as inherently ideological, with the idea that non-feminist view represents science and truth. In our field, this may go together with the feeling that men’s studies now should grow up and be part of the neutral world of ordinary science, like its big brothers. This is not IASOM member’s view. We may criticise feminism on a number of points, but that is as participants in a development and dialogue, not in order to do away with it.

For some of us, a participant social science, and a critical, anti-positivist position was important long before the emergence of men’s studies over the last ten or fifteen years. It should be emphasised, however, that for most, this attitude has developed out of field work or empirical work itself.

Researchers in different projects, environments and cultures have come to a common conclusion: men’s lives cannot be understood if we don’t ask the troublesome questions relating to dominance and power. There is a “gender political” aspect of our work, and analysing it is important for theoretical and methodological development.

Are men’s experiences  as valid as women’s? Also when it comes to questions of dominance? I think so. I don’t favour the “locals always know best” theory, and this is part of the reason I emphasise the participation of women in our field. Men do not always know best what masculinity is about, or women what femininity is about. This kind of localism usually ends up serving a local hierarchy. It is true that often the members of a category know more than anyone outside. Still, that empirical situation is very far from a general law in which everyone’s solipsism is this person’s basic claim to truth. Instead of solipsism it could be communality, or some other trait, and as a general principle this rule seems wrong.

Indeed, concerning gender, there are many arguments that femininity is often more actively constructed by men than by women, and often also masculinity more actively by women than by men. This is in line both with a value view in which the social character of the male is expressed as the body or sex object representation of the woman, with cognitive psychologist approaches like Kohlberg and Haavind, and with other gender system theories. Men sometimes seem peripheral from the female gender system viewpoint, yet they are often fairly central to what researchers identify as central aspects of patriarchy.

Looking at men as gendered is still often deemed disquieting, disharmonious, threatening, dangerously feminist or feminine. Looking at men as participants in patriarchal dominance may be even worse. This rejection means conventional science fails to clarify the situation of men, and fails in its responsibility to give men means to see and learn more of how positive changes can be achieved. In this sense we believe our field contains a more realist view than is found in conventional social science.  

IASOM has a clearly stated pro-feminist platform in order to avoid confusion with the pro-patriarchal men’s studies and men’s rights tendencies. We believe that not seeing men’s dominance, while trying to understand men, soon becomes a contradiction of terms.

Yet we are not saying that dominance is all there is to it, or that dominance should always be a main focus, or that men have no other interests than those connected to dominance. The “only-problems approach” or the insistence of seeing oppressive tendencies in everything may become a constriction also. Our relationship to feminism is not one of copying, but of dialogue, based on a support of equality.

Also, we are not saying that gender or gender-related issues is all there is to men’s lives. “Gender thinking” is important, but we should also recognise the limits and dangers of this framework. By talking of “men” and “women”  in all and any context, we may implicitly contribute to sexist ideology (this is debated below). Here, our background categories are once more of relevance, for their task is to help us move beneath the superficial level where everything is neatly divided into male and female and all stereotypes hold true.

In sum, the IASOM initiative is based on faith in men’s abilities to contribute in a broadly conceived socio-political, economical, cultural and psychological movement towards equality. We should recognise that much vital current research on men goes on in other fields, not just women’s studies, but also child and socialisation studies, youth research, etc., and we hope to develop more contacts in these directions. Peace research, international politics and ecology are other important areas.

We are not alone, therefore, in our critique of the neutralised male rationality that still dominates social and cultural research. We disagree with the current research priority system which in essence puts the concerns that fit the self-image of hegemonic masculinity first on the list, so that everyone else has to quarrel over what little money is left. This isn’t just our concern, it is the concern of every researcher who wants to study things that seems minor or irrelevant from the dominant viewpoint.

Today, we are a small minority, and the male neutralism that still reigns in social science and the humanities may be presented as if it were the majority view of the research community. We do not believe that is the case, and work to change the situation. I believe that if we continue with this in mind, stick to our basic goals, avoid secterism and develop broad alliances with other research fields and communities, we will succeed.

UN conference on men initiative

Recently, there has been an initiative in the Nordic countries to discuss and plan a future UN conference on men’s roles. The initiative primarily has its background among women in the peace movement here, and it was presented to the public in the form of an article by Eva Moberg that was published in several papers at the Women’s Day.

IASOM supports this and similar initiatives to put men and equality on the international agenda. Especially, addressing the masculinity and male dominance background of many current conflicts like the one in former Yugoslavia seems a pressing issue. As the Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung has said, it is amazing that peace studies haven’t focused more on the overall number-one correlation of wars - male aggression.

A UN conference on men’s roles would be a great step forward for our field, and we ask our readers to help develop this initiative. For further information, please contact the editor.

Readers’ responses

We are proud to present questionnaire and letter responses to the first issue of the IASOM Newsletter:

Kirsten Grønbæk Hansen at the Centre for Feminist Research of the University of Copenhagen, wants to support IASOM as part of her national organisation, and emphasises theory and method development as main fields for IASOM work. Kirsten is co-ordinator for women’s studies in Denmark.

Martin Acker, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, has joined as a personal member, and considering the US situation he wants to explore relationships between men’s organisations and men’s self-denigration. Acker has also earlier expressed interest in the plans for an international comparative study (see below).

In the context of running

Jim Wild, who is doing his ph.d. in the UK in connection with Jeff Hearn’s courses, has joined IASOM; he considers making therapy for violent men accepted in mainstream tradition to be one of the important tasks in the UK.

Steve Whitehead, also UK, is the author of Running In The Family, a book on family time and leisure “in the context of running” (! I like that); the book is soon to be published, he tells us. Steve has joined IASOM from a background of leisure and sports studies, and he wants to contribute to theory and method development as well as to international conferences and networking.  

Robert Ware, Australia, active in counselling and men’s work, has also checked the member box, and in a letter he asks us to bring information on their conference this summer (see below). He wants IASOM to explore “options for men’s lives”.

More upfront?

Robert Ware also has a comment to the pro-feminism debate: “If you are pro-feminist, why don’t you call yourself the Pro-feminist IASOM? It seems to me that if you are seeing men’s studies through a pro-feminist approach you ought to be up front about it, or not have a pro-feminist platform.”

A comment from the editor: This debate continues. In “Focusing on men and equality”, above, I have tried outlining what I believe is the common IASOM attitude, which seems fairly up-front to me. We could have anti-racism, etc., in our name also, but I don’t think it is necessary. However, we know many men are sceptical towards what they see as a too great emphasis on pro-feminism, and we ask them to contribute to the debate in this Newsletter.   

Memories and technologies

Lutz Braunroth at the Männerbüro Göttingen, Groner-Tor Str. 16, 37073 Göttingen (tel. +551 46161), an information centre for men, says the centre is interested in the Newsletter, and wants to subscribe. For the moment, the Newsletter is distributed on the budget of the Norwegian Network, so we don’t charge anything in this startup period. The Men’s Bureau seems fairly active, and Braunroth has sent us a program with many interesting seminars and events. Subjects include body memory work for men, fathering, authority, love relationships. Perhaps you could contribute with some thoughts on the needs for research, based on your practical experiences?

Jørgen Vogelius, historian and philosopher at the University of Roskilde, who has been very important for the creation of the Danish Network, has sent a long letter on Nordic interrelationships and gender traditions, brimful of ideas and thoughts that deserve a wider audience (this was a private letter); if you find the time, Jørgen, please contribute some of these thoughts to the Newsletter.

Ulf Malmstrøm at the University of Linköping, 5813 Linkøping, Sweden, has joined IASOM as a personal member. He has written a book called “Engineering Lives”, on work and identity among Swedish engineers, and he wants to contribute to our work on men and technology.

Since Michael Kimmel has supported us all the way, we weren’t surprised to get his questionnaire where he has checked off both “join as a personal member” and “join as part of my national organisation”. He estimates the number of active researchers in the field in the US to be 50. We hope more Americans get in contact with us, also those who already support the initiative through their MSA or NOMAS membership.

Paul Blythe, a psychologist in Adelaide, Australia, has also joined IASOM. We appreciate his distribution of the Newsletter to other people in Australia and New Zealand. Blythe emphasises “unity in the face of diversity” as a main IASOM matter. We agree!

Rolf Lange, a social scientist in Hamburg, wants to stay in contact with IASOM. As for particularly important research tasks, he has written “men and neo-nazism”,  and “how can we establish ‘men’s studies’ at German universities as a new study and research field.”

Australian muscle

We have recieved an issue of The Academic Men’s Newsletter which is published by Peter West, Faculty of Education, UWS Nepean, Australia (tel. + 47 360 237, fax + 47 360 400). I quote from their editorial:

“The July-August issue of Esquire has an interesting analysis of the Schwarzenegger phenomenon. Too few people ask themselves why so many men (and females presumably) look up to this hulking lump of Australian muscle. The answer, Michael Pye finds, is a yearning for the respect and money he commands, especially among younger males. Once again, Lynn Segal is right: what moves so many men is a desperate fear of not being masculine enough.” Could it be Schwarzenegger plays his roles fairly well also? Whatever the motives, we hope the Australian Academic Men’s Network will join us in the future.

One-man fields

Paul van Gelder, POB 1764, 1000 BT Amsterdam, has written a letter saying the IASOM initiative seems good and interesting. He asks for copies of the Newsletter. He also writes:

“In the Netherlands I feel rather alone in promoting men’s studies. In the past years I’ve carried out a lot of research and other activities, in this and related areas. Most articles and books I’ve published, however, are still only available in the Dutch language. Possibly, more can be expected from international co-operation and support.”

Yes, that is what we are working towards. As for your research, you may consider presenting an outline here, and/or translate a paper to the new journal Masculinities published by Guilford Press.

We ask our English-speaking members to keep in mind the handicap of non-English writers, and help get their work published in English, as some of you are already actively doing.

Karin Sandquist, who has written a comparative book on US and Swedish fathers as well as book on changing fatherhood, has joined our association, with “male interests and infrastructure” and “male power through technology” as some of her themes of interest. Karin can be contacted at the Department of Education at the Stockholm University.

Owen Heathcote, lecturer in French at the University of Bradford, is another new member; Heathcote has written on Balzac and the engendering of violence (cf. his papers NCFS 22, 1-2, 1993-94, and Romance Studies no. 22, 1993). He mentions “countering of male violence” as a main IASOM area of study, and he is interested in forming a work group on violence and representation. The editor wants to thank Owen also for a nice Christmas card together with the reply letter.

See also the replies from Italy and Mexico, presented below. As the newsletter goes to press, we have also recieved response from Argentina - more in next issue!

You were there first...

All in all, IASOM has reasons to be optimistic, judged from the quality and broad range of the support represented by the responses to our initiative. Don’t be mistaken - the list above is a list of honours, pioneers who have responded early to a new and important initiative. It is something you can show to your grandchildren...

We plan a full address list, along with other information, in a future Newsletter issue. In the meanwhile, we hope IASOM members and contacts who have similar areas of interest get in touch with one another either directly or through the Newsletter.  

The third Australian and New Zealand Men’s Gathering

will take place in Lancefield, Victoria 10th-13th of June. Their invitation brochure says:

“A rapidly increasing number of men are redefining their place in today’s society. Some of us are doing this alone, some of us are doing it in groups. Most are exploring new ways. What are the leadership skills for men in areas like parenting, politics, health, relationships, work, fun, environment and spirituality?”

The gathering is dedicated to “the improvement of men’s lives” and it will “sponsor at least 3 new projects FOR men in Australia and New Zealand.”

For more information, please contact Robert Ware, Convener - 3rd A&NZMLG, 40 Kelvin Road, Alphington, Victoria, Australia 3078. Tel. +61 03 499 5906, fax +61 03 499 6763.

Support The Changing Men Collections

Ed Barton at the Michigan State University Library, East Lansing, MI 48824 - 1024, USA, asks for copies of books, newsletters, magazines etc. relating to men and men’s studies, also in non-English languages. If at all possible, you should pass a copy of your publication to this library. Barton’s work has the support of the US Men’s Study Association, and he aims to build up an internationally representative collection.  

John Rowan on The Horned God and other works

As a new IASOM member, Rowan was asked to give some information. Here is his reply. Ed.

My basic position is fully given in my book The Horned God:  Feminism and men as wounding and healing (Routledge 1987), which also contains a critique of Bly and some other people.  It gives my whole personal history of involvement with the anti-sexist men’s movement, and includes some history of the movement itself as it appeared in Britain.  My work on men is well described in Kenneth Clatterbaugh’s Contemporary perspectives on masculinity  (Westview Press 1990), which I would also recommend as the best general account  of the different aspects of men’s responses to feminism.  See also Margaret Wetherell & Christine Griffin, ‘Feminist psychology and the study of men and masculinity - Part 1: Assumptions and perspectives’ Feminism & Psychology vol. 1 No.3 pp. 361-391 and ‘Part 2:  Politics and practices’ Vol.2 No.2 pp.133-168.  These contain some extracts from an interview which Margaret Wetherell carried out with me.  I have described my work over ten years with men in groups in an article called ‘Four hills of vision’ which is reprinted in my book of selected papers, Breakthroughs and integration in psychotherapy (Whurr 1992).  The latest thing to come out is a section on ‘The male polarity’ which is to be found in my book The transpersonal in psychotherapy and counselling (Routledge 1993).

I suppose the main practical outcome of my work in this area is my relationship with my partner Sue.  We have been together since 1978, and it has been very good. Of course, you would have to ask her about her side of it! We bought a house together ten years ago, which was a great new thing for me, because I had never taken on such a responsibility before.  Now we are thinking of moving to a bigger house, where we can spread ourselves a little more.  I have four grown-up children from a previous marriage, and see two of them quite regularly - the other two live abroad.

Most of my time is spent in one-to-one psychotherapy (Primal Integration), using a room in our house which has been designed for that purpose, and is not used for anything else.  I also take seminars, do supervision and lead an experiential training group at the Minster Centre, which offers courses in counselling and psychotherapy.  I do a series of 24 lectures each year for the London University Diploma in Psychology.  And I do some writing, and nowadays devote about one day a week to that.  Some time is taken up in meetings: I am on the collective which produces Achilles Heel, which is my main political activity, and which has interested and involved me for some years now; I am on the board of the Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners, which I helped to found in 1980, and which strives for high standards in the field; and I represent the Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy Section on the governing board of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, which is the umbrella body for all forms of psychotherapy in this country, comprising about eighty organisations.

Last year I was elected a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, mainly for my work in research methodology and on the theory of subpersonalities, but also for my work in teaching and writing over the past 20 years or so.

I also write poetry, and have had six slim volumes of poetry published altogether.  The latest one is Ten Bulls: A Training Manual, published by Writer Forum at the end of last year.

Coming back to men, my new book is now taking a new turn.  Originally it was to be about men in therapy in an age of feminism.  This meant, as I saw it, problematising men but taking psychotherapy as given.  Now I see that I have to problematise therapy as well, and this is going to make it a rather different book, and one which is much harder to write - but much more exciting!

I think that’s all for the moment.  Hope it is the kind of thing you wanted.

John Rowan

Indeed!  Thank you. I certainly agree therapy is in for some identity work too, it is a terrain of theoretical fatherhoods and brotherhoods, like sociology. I’ve found Frank Sulloway’s Freud, Biologist of the Mind and David Macay’s Lacan in Contexts useful. I am sure many would be interested in your literature tips and notes from your exploration.  The Editor.

Swedish network started

We congratulate Sweden with the new network for studies of men, started by Lars Jalmert at the Department of Education at Stockholm University.

Lars Jalmert presents some of the work going on in Sweden below. Other members of the new network include Pelle Jansson at the Centre for Men in Stockholm and Daniel Ekman who works in the gender equality unit in the Swedish department for social issues. According to press clips, the network plans seminars and conferences as well as a register over studies of men in the country.  

In many senses, Sweden was there first when it comes to men’s studies in Scandinavia, while the Danes were the first with a pro-feminist men’s consciousness-raising movement. Besides Jalmert’s book Den svenske mannen (The Swedish Male), the governmental “Work group on the male role” published a series of reports at a time when men’s studies was mostly unheard-of elsewhere in Scandinavia. So it is only natural Sweden should have a network for extending and improving research in this area.

We welcome the new network and hope its members will continue to improve Swedish social sciences and humanities.

Germany: Backlash or new horizons?

A conference with the (preliminary) title Backlash or new horizons? Studying genders and gender relations is planned at the University of Bielefeld in July 14-15. There will be a panel on masculinities and femininities changes and developments, with Andrew Thornton (Toronto), Mike Donaldson and Michael Meuser (Bremen) among the invited speakers. Others invited to speak include Jeff Hearn, Michael Messner, Sabine Gensior, Eva Brumlop, Tim Edwards, Ruth Grossmass, Trudie de Knijn, Anne Witz, Øystein Gullvåg Holter, Judith Stacey, David Morgan, John Stoltenberg, Rosemary Crompton, Michael Mann, Mary Maynard, Eva Cyba, Janet Saltzman-Chafetz, Ilse Lenz, Jeffrey Weeks and Eva Lundgren. Even if only a fraction of all these people actually turn up this is sure to become an interesting event!

The conference language will be English. If you want more information about this event, you should contact Cristoph Armbruster or Ursula Müller at the Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Centre (Interdisziplinares FrauenforschungsZentrum), Universität Bielefeld, Pb. 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany (tel. +49 521 106 46 12, fax +502 106 5844).

The first Nordic conference: Men’s Families

As mentioned above, the first Nordic studies of men conference will be held near Copenhagen, called Men’s Families, in order to “get Nordic and international men’s researchers and researchers interested in making men’s gender more visible in social research, and to discuss and develop the concept of the family in relation to men’s lives

Due to a lower budget and for other reasons, the plans for the conference have changed from those presented in the first issue of the Newsletter, and not all of them are clear yet.

The conference will take place on October 1-2 near Copenhagen, and some of the speakers are clear. These include:

Michael Kimmel: The genesis of studies of men;

Søren Carlsen: When men gets children;

Øystein Gullvåg Holter: Men in an extended family perspective.

Among other invited speakers are Hanne Haavind, Svend Axel Monsson and Karin Widerberg. There will also be workshops on men’s divorces, men and families in literature, children’s views of their fathers, on the perspectives and status of studies of men, on prostitution, on memory work, and other themes.

Many discussions about men and families focus on how men can adapt to family participation. Also, the concept of the “family” is used in a rather narrow way. At the conference a different focus will be discussed, in which we also ask how families can adapt to men, what kind of “extended” or symbolic family arrangements men actually participate in, in their work and public life as well as in the home, and the meaning of family studies and family perspectives for studies of men.

For financial reasons the conference co-ordination group has not been able to make the conference into quite the international event that was originally planned, and the number of non-Nordic speakers etc. had to be restricted. Nevertheless the conference will be important for IASOM, and participants from countries outside Scandinavia are invited.

For further details contact:

Søren Carlsen, Ligestillingsrådet, Tordenskjoldsgd 27, København (Tel. +45 33 92 33 11, Fax +45 33 91 31 15.

Humanwork no work?

According to Norwegian economist Hanne Gravningsmyhr, the Norwegian Statistical Bureau dropped household work off the agenda after the pioneer national economic models of Norway’s early economists (in the twenties and thirties), who had seen housework from a value-creative perspective and placed it in their GNP measures (interview in Klassekampen, March 5, 1994). Together with associate professor (førsteamanuensis) Hilde Bojer at the Institute for social economics at the University of Oslo, Gravningsmyhr works on a text to be used in the Gender and society university subject curriculum. Gravningsmyhr criticises a national economic system which actually makes women more “productive” as criminals than as home workers.

For recent literature on the domestic labour debate, see Wally Seccombe: A Millennium of Family Change (New York 1992). Seccombe was one of the pioneers in the late seventies of a view where domestic work does create value and does contribute to economic development, a view that met quite a lot of resistance from orthodox economists, Marxists as much as non-Marxists. A Norwegian  commentator, Trond Øgrim, later wondered if this resistance primarily stemmed from the fact that it was women who were doing the work; would men, Øgrim asked, have allowed a view in which their labour was seen as worthless or non-productive, economically speaking? This question, raised in the mid-eighties, seems pertinent today also; it may well be that men’s increasing activity in the home contributes to an upgrading of this kind of work in economic theories.  

Studies of men - Mexico!

“I received the IASOM Newsletter”, writes Eduardo Liendro from Mexico, “and the other members of the co-ordination group of the Masculinity Studies Project in the University Program of Gender Studies and I are very interested in the IASOM initiative.

Our work began in September 1993, and it’s principal objective is to impel a network of researchers, organisations and persons interested in research, change implications, and discussions of masculinity and its social implications in our country. We are organising several activities of foment, support and divulgation about men and masculinity. One of them is a “Permanent Seminary of Masculinity Studies”: each month there is a meeting with approx. 25 researchers for talks on different themes relating to Mexican men (identity, feminism, sexuality, homosexuality, work, health, fatherhood, reproduction behaviour, male violence...). In the next meeting (April 4) we will distribute a IASOM Newsletter copy to all our assistants.

Other activities of the Project includes proposals for publications about masculinity. Now we are preparing an anthology on theory perspectives on men and masculinities from a critical and gender focus. This publication will be the first anthology about masculinity in Spanish with a Latin-American distribution, and we are interested in papers from other researchers. So we are using the IASOM Newsletter to call for papers (the papers must reach us before July 1994). (..)

We hope to stay in contact with you.


Eduardo Liendro

Coordinator of the Masculinity Studies Project

The University Program of Gender Studies (PUEG)

Universidad Nacional Auto noma de Mexico, Cto. Mtro. Mario de la Cueva, Zona Cultural, Cd. Universitaria, C.P. 04510, Coyoacan, Mexico. Tel. (+52) 622 75 65 al 75, Fax (+52) 606 97 79.”

The emergence of studies of men in Mexico is great news for us all, and we congratulate you with your project. We hope other Newsletter readers will respond to the call for papers, and get in contact with the research network.

Support from Italy

“Dear Holter,

Thank you very much for your invitation. I am very pleased to join the IASOM association. I agree with its aims and I hope to be able to give my contribution, consistently with my business engagements.

See you soon,


Alessandro Notargiovanni

Dip. Ambiente Salute CGIL (Confederazione generale Italiano del lavoro).”

We welcome the support from Alessandro Notargiovanni and CGIL, and hope to extend our contacts in Italy in order to reach relevant research communities. In general, the trade union support for men’s studies and for gender equality work focusing on men’s roles seems to be increasing.

As mentioned earlier, the Norwegian trade unions confederation (LO) has expressed its support for the activities of the Norwegian Network for Studies of Men. Trade union support is important both in terms of our possibilities for funding and extending our work, and also for practical research co-operation (more on unions below).

Norway: trade unions’ and employers’  views on gender equality

Twenty years ago, the Norwegian trade unions confederation (LO) which organises most Norwegian employees, as well as their “yellow” smaller competitor YS, were both men’s bastions in most senses of this word. There were few women and little interest in women’s typical lives or work. Gradually this situation has changed, and during the last couple of years there has been a noticeable shift in favour of emphasising gender equality (equal status) issues. LO recently upgraded its organisation in this field and gave it better financing, coupled to a gender equality work plan. Gender equality has become part of the work plan system of the state administration, and is increasingly expected from other large organisations also. Yet many are asleep at this point, and therefore the LO development is a significant turn to the better. The confederation also recently has taken a more active stance on questions sexual harassment at the workplace, and has recently arranged a conference on this theme.

Do companies change also? They are at least becoming more pressed to do so. Michael Kimmel describes this process in the US in a recent paper in The Harvard Business Review (1993). The fact that this journal gave Kimmel quite a number of pages, and would publish him at all, is by itself significant, and Kimmel gives a kind of “ABC course for businessmen” which has many acute observations and a good sense of perspective.

Currently there are discussions in Norway and elsewhere about the relationship of gender equality and economic development, no longer from the cost side, but more from the performance side. OECD reports - closely read in Norway as elsewhere - have adopted a language of “developing human resources”. Gradually, socialisation, organisational competence and standards of quality seem to become more important, even if there are many kinds of setbacks usually associated with slim margins and economic problems.

Gender equality doesn’t always “pay off” in the short run for the individual business enterprise, and we need increased research on how to approach that situation. Some business leaders in Norway fit gender equality measures into a general model of increased quality. There are attempts to create better family-work balance and care emphasis in work organisations, but these aren’t given much scope and are often counteracted by other tendencies. There may be a slight improvement in male business leaders’ views of gender equality among the younger generation, but primarily the divisions as regards such views seems to be recreated across age groups.

We welcome research notes and debate on trade union and company strategies relating to men and masculinities. Better understanding of men’s psychological and physical health is one issue, as is a better understanding of male work collectives and their positive and negative consequences, males’ roles in mixed groups, etc.

Another major set of issues relate to upgrading carework, putting care criteria into the evaluation of skills. This relates to the question of  how parents with small children can be offered better career lifelines, away from the “A curve” of today, where employees are often most pressed by their jobs precisely when most needed by their children or others of their family. An increasing number of young men, as well as young women, expect jobs giving them the opportunity to be good parents and good employees both, instead of having to chose one or the other.

- The editor

Lars Jalmert

On Sweden’s research on men

The Swedish research on men has had close connections to different governmental organisations. To some it may sound a bit surprising, but the Swedish governmental policy has actually been in advance of research results.

During the 70ies the Swedish family policy laid the ground for a progressive view on men’s lives. In 1974 the maternal leave system was changed to a parental leave system allowing both fathers and mothers to stay at home, although not at the same time, during the child’s first period of life (today it is twelve months). As a consequence of this, quite a number of studies were undertaken - and still are - in order to find out what kind of fathers are using the parental leave system, at what ages, for how long, in what branches, if they meet any obstacles and so on.

If I were to make an estimation I would say that about 50 percent of the Swedish research on men has focused on the parental leave system. Another 25 percent has focused on fathers in other areas, and 25 percent on men (exclusive of their father roles).

To mention just a few of the research reports that were presented in close connection to governmental organisations, there are my own “Den svenske mannen” (The Swedish Male), Stockholm 1983 and Margot Bengtsson and Jonas Frykmans “Om maskulinitet” (On Masculinity), Stockholm 1987.

During the 80ies I think it is fair to say that almost all research had some links - in one way or the other - to the governmental “Working Group on Male Role Questions”. Although there are difficulties to separate “pure” scientific work from other it can be mentioned that the Labor Party devoted some time to areas like men’s violence, health, separations and prostitution.

A rough estimation of the number of Ph.D. theses concerned with the male role is 5-10, most of them looking at different areas of fatherhood. It is also noteworthy that almost all the research has been conducted by social scientists.

Although the number of researchers and reports are increasing, the attention from the academic society has been very small. In an article I challenged the academic society by saying that it has neglected the growing research on males - and so far the article has been neglected!

In order to strengthen our area of research, and to try to strengthen the bonds to Danish and Norwegian researchers we founded The Swedish Network for Research on Men in January 1994.

If possible I will try to answer your questions about Swedish research on men.

Lars Jalmert

Department of Education

Stockholm University

S - 106 91 Stockholm


Tel.: +46 8 16 39 75

Fax.: +46 8 15 83 54

Øystein Gullvåg Holter: The men’s rights question and the contexts of masculinities

First, in a manner of speaking, we were alone; now, we’re often only one in a chorus of voices in a discourse over “men”.

Are all “men’s rights” patriarchal rights? Do they extend the inequality of men’s and women’s status?

Before asking this question we should perhaps remind ourselves of a historical perspective, concerning the fact that men’s rights movements is a rather new development

That sounds strange, perhaps - men’s rights movements as a new development? Of course there have always been interest groups working for the rights of some group or class of men. But the idea of organising due to the interests of “men” as such is rather new. In Norway, for example, there is a new-founded Men’s Association, which says it wants to defend “men’s” rights. The recruitment basis for these organisations is new, as is their platform. In Gramsci’s terms, the men’s rights organisations express a new “real social movement”.

What is this underlying social movement of everyday life? It is a genderizing of men, men finding maleness or masculinity a basis for understanding, acting or organizing. Therefore they formulate their interests not as those of this or that group (of men, usually), but in terms of their “being men”. This seems to be the new “constellation of interests” which creates the new organisations and activities.   

All this is different from the cigar smoking gentlemen’s clubs at the turn of the century, or the male workers’ meeting in the pub. In simple terms, men at that time were up against each other, while today the men of the men’s rights movements are up against something else.

What else?

No one quite knows.

Women? Yes and no.

The programs of the movements usually are a mixture of “women have gone too far” and “we do support equality (at least that is the Scandinavian version), but...” and “the state tramples on men”.

According to its leader, some 70  percent of the members of the Norwegian Men’s Association are divorced fathers, most of them angry for being outmanoeuvred on the home front, in terms of care for children; they feel they have to pay up, but cannot see the children as much as they would like, or have their children live with them. Yet even if this is the main issue, the Men’s Association also wants to change what they call a “hermaphrodistic women-dominated sexless society”. At the same time they claim they “support the conclusions of the  Men’s Role Committee” (a gender equality government initiative). The picture is mixed.

More clearly anti-feminist groups have also appeared, in the US especially. According to reports in the press, an anti-feminist network for men’s studies has been established by Tom Oaster at the Missouri Institute for Men’s Studies. Oaster seems to believe that women have got too much to say and that men are now the subordinate sex.

How do men usually serve their interests today? Do they do it openly, like these organisations? I do not think so. These are still fringe phenomena. The main current pattern isn’t “men’s rights” as openly put forward, but rather rights in neutral words, rights of groups or categories that on closer look coincidentally primarily consists of men. These men often would feel embarrassed thinking of their rights as “men’s rights”, thinking “masculinity” was part of a subjective world that wasn’t pertinent to the issues. So already my use of “open”, here, is taken from a new agenda, a new constellation of interests.

Three contexts of masculinities

I call it the androgynate as opposed to the masculinate. These terms to my knowledge was first used in Sweden, and I’ve found them very useful, defining them in my own way.

On the new, more androgynatic agenda, open increasingly comes to include gendered. In broad terms I believe our society is still primarily characterised by the masculinate, while the androgynate is the emerging long-term tendency.

I use these words in order to distinguish not between masculinities, but between the contexts of various lifestyles and masculine identity formations. In my view, there have been three major contexts or forms of patriarchy in the modern period:

- The paternate, associated with manufacture or workshop economy

- The masculinate, associated with the industrial age

- The androgynate, associated with the information age

I believe all three have their own typical hierarchy of hegemonic and subordinate masculinities and feminities; their typical gender systems, on psychological as well as cultural levels.

The model may be useful for putting the new men’s movements into perspective. In my studies, I’ve found that the shift towards from “masculinatic” to “androgynatic” tendencies can be found in a whole number of areas. Family statistics is one example. The shifts towards the androgynate has been accompanied by dramatic  changes not just in the divorce rate but in many other measures also, like age gap in marriages (see figure below. Norway traditionally had a very egalitarian marriage age profile, as was recorded by the sociologist Eilert Sundt in the mid-19th century already).

Often the shifts are most easily seen on a cultural level. There has been a shift

- from the one-career family to the dual-career family

- from men and women fairly segregated as breadwinners and housewives, to wage work for both

- from the reproduction of labour power primarily paid through men’s wages, to its payment through each individual’s own income

- from more tyrannical disciplinary methods to more democratic work environments

- from external control to more internal control

- from highly gender-segregated personal identities, to a more androgyneous identity formation.

The androgynate does not, at least so far, mean a break-up of the gender order; rather the androgyneous ideal is a man who is masculine but also able to compete in women’s fields, and vice versa for women. It is seen primarily as a matter of broader competence and more flexibility.

The androgynate promises gender equality. Yet I believe it will still be a form of patriarchy, even if perhaps less so in degree and in quality, with more emphasis on the dual aspect of power relations and women’s role in them.

Underlying tensions

In my book Menns livssammenheng (Men’s Life Patterns, Oslo 1993), I’ve outlined some of the economic reasons why androgyneous tendencies won’t dismantle patriarchy. Even if information development increasingly puts emphasis on the “human factor”, the modern world seems locked inside an economic system that inherently discriminates people-oriented work, since power in this system is based on the power of alienation, of selling one’s product. So it looks as if a society that would really upgrade human resources and care work would be in for trouble, at least in short terms, as welfare economies to some extent are already. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that there are long-term work organisation and worklife changes  towards greater emphasis on creativity and towards new and more democratic disciplinary and control systems.

If there is any truth to all this, we may better understand why present-day changes are so often filled with tension and conflicts, and why men often associate this with gender, ethnicity, and other “comfortable markers”. There is a hidden clash between new societal and economic demands, and an almost totally production-fixated economical system which seems unable to give human-oriented work a leading position. This is the background dimension of the current “gender war”, and the result is a new kind of  politics which is increasingly a politics of the private and a politics of gender.

Typical of the late masculinate is a movement of men from “having family” to “being family" and an increasing cultural emphasis first on love and then also on care. In the early androgynatic view, the man should contribute as much to care in the household as the woman; he is as important to the child as his partner. Further, what he delivers on the home front should count when he is evaluated in his job also, on par with women’s contributions; employees (fast becoming “co-workers”) learn by caring and should be honoured for it. The ability to learn should be a main criterion of evaluation generally.

All this is androgynatic philosophy, as opposed to the masculinatic thinking of writers like Talcott Parsons, for whom segregated reproduction was the ideal. The “crisis”  of modern men and of fatherhood over the last decades to a great extent is an effect of the increasing dysfunctionality of this so-called complementary role setup. The masculinatic forms of masculinity increasingly are seen as “socially handicapped”, “out of touch with real feelings”, incompetent in human relations, etc.

There is an economic rationale behind this huge cultural shift, a shift which we’re still probably only experiencing in its first stages. In simple terms, men’s work is automated fast, women’s more slowly. Production (often called “reproduction”) of human resources or labour power cannot be automated in the same manner and to the same degree as production of other resources. Economic development therefore tends to discard typical men’s jobs in a much higher tempo than typical women’s jobs, with the net result that the old women-as-reserve-army theory no longer holds true, and, over time, an increasing proportion of the total workforce enganged in “services” or human-oriented work.

This gradual increase of human-directed or inner-objectivating labour, relative to thing-directed or outer-objectivating labour, therefore seems a main economic background of the present changes. First came the “education explosion” of the sixties, the increasing emphasis on knowledge and education; next a massive transformation of formerly domestic-only work into paid work, the growth of extended welfare politics and economies; an increased “public openness” towards private life; firms increasingly looking for human competence factors, and a whole host of similar broad changes.

The gender scapegoat

Historical and structural perspectives like those sketched here are important for understanding men’s rights movements. In today’s politics, and in research also, I believe the gender system is often blamed for patriarchy’s ills, in the sense that so much explanatory power is given to gender, that our arguments easily slide into stereotypes and implicit sexism.

There is a tendency, together with notions like hegemonic masculinity, to regard hegemonic masculinity as if it was identical to patriarchy. Yet the relations that create dominance aren’t limited to this or that male lifestyle or culture, they’re part of them all, and that is the case with the opposing tendencies also. I am sceptical of a view in which the hegemonic masculinity becomes a new name, only, for an old category, “ruling class”. The main issue for men, at least in the androgynatic perspective, isn’t choosing between this or that masculinity, but how to get rid of the negative aspects found in all of them, and develop more positive aspects instead.

So, even if a more outright “gendered” patriarchy is important and often negative, the main dominance tendency still is one of silencing, neutralising. In this perspective, men’s rights groups are a better alternative to silence, and, perhaps, to oppression going on privately, behind the walls of the home. We should recognise that men’s rights groups may be very different things, and that men’s rights aren’t always patriarchal rights.  

It is very easy to portray males who want to make masculinity explicit as if they were a bit naive, somewhat stupid. I believe we should avoid that tendency, the funniness of men going out in the wood drumming, etc. Some of Robert Bly’s text (in Iron-John) seems fairly anti-egalitarian and reactionary, for example his praising of male warrior values. It is possible that his paternalistic kingly power may have some renaissance in patriarchal structures, but it doesn’t seem likely. Also Bly’s words aren’t synonymous with what mythopoets and other men’s work activists actually do, trying to formulate some men’s rights and visions. even if there may be some patriarchal stuff also on their wagon, which is usually the case with most men.

Men’s rights movements may easily become “good enemies” as Norwegian criminologist Thomas Mathiesen has defined the term, “good” in the rather ironic meaning of enhancing the negative aspects of the status quo, entrenching everyone, a projection instead of a solution.

The real danger of men’s rights groups would be if the parts of their message containing a return to more explicit patriarchal relations were to become parts of the “language of rule” of the present social order. And that, it seems to me, is only a minor tendency. The major tendency instead is a kind of Newspeak, a discourse on equality that recreates inequality.

My compass isn’t “gender” as such, it is “patriarchy”, or gender on a background which includes patriarchal relations. So I don’t ask if men’s groups advocate men’s rights, but if these rights contribute to patriarchal dominance.

Men’s rights may be legitimate rights

As far as I can see, quite a number of the mobilisation issues of men’s groups aren’t patriarchal. This includes the attempts to create a more open and emotionally honest life and work style. What about the questions of child custody? The situation may be different in different countries. In Norway there is a system which strongly favours women in any dispute over children. The rule is mother and child first, and the father’s absence is assumed and instituted unless men go to court with very strong arguments. Some men would compare this system to the motherhood medals handed out by the authoritarian regimes in the middle of our century.

Are men fighting for patriarchy when they try to want an equal chance of being the one who lives  with the children after a divorce, or a 50/50 arrangement?  In Norway women keep the children in ca. 85 percent of the cases, and the system even makes it in the mother’s economical interest that the father doesn’t have more than mimimum contact with the children (if there is more, she looses her state financial support). This payment for father absence seems rather grotesque. Not only are men paid and pressured to stay away from children and work overtime and look to their careers instead of caring for others; in effect women are also paid for keeping the father away! This seems to be a fairly good illustration of the mechanisms of modern patriarchy is about. The system wasn’t created by the women or feminists that now either defend it or just keep quiet, but by patriarchal law-makers at the beginning of our century, in a world where women should be good mothers while men should be soldiers and workers.

I think we should realise that second rank generally doesn’t mean second rank in each and every area. Women stand to loose  “more than their chains”. The masculinate put women first in the home sphere as a compensatory move, since men were first outside the home. I fail to see how these rights have anything to do with feminism or liberation, and as far as men’s groups work for a better balance in these issues, they have my support. Of course I don’t support them when they try to reintroduce men’s dominance, but I cannot see why a more egalitarian arrangement should have that effect. I also think such a balance would be the best strategy for making “the interests of the children” into something more than a couple of over-used words.

Generally I don’t accept “women’s” privileges just because they are women’s, and I don’t reject men’s demands just because they are made by men. Instead, I think it is this way of thinking which is our main problem, and not this or that answer made on the basis of it. It seems to me that we should recognise, much more than we do now, the inherent sexist tendencies whenever we stress the gender/sex distinction, the risk of reifying human beings by describing them as appendices to their sex organs, and the kind of politics we contribute to, by categorising people as “genders”. In order to do this, we need better understanding of the processes beneath the gender system level. Precisely because we need to understand gender, and therefore also tend to emphasise it, we should be more aware of this gender fixation tendency. It is expressed whenever we discuss men or women as such in absolute terms, as if people weren’t also acting in other capacities, and for example conclude men’s rights as such are right or wrong.

It may seem strange that I emphasise the limitations of gender analysis and gender-based views and theories, just as we are trying to extend this tradition, and create a new field partly legitimised in terms of gender. That is a superficial observation however. Rather, this kind of inner questioning is what our field is about, and something we need more of.

Debate: The authoritarian personality revisited

Background: The authoritarian personality led to fascism and to a war in which fifty million people lost their lives. Where is it today? Is it still around, only in new guises? Is it even getting more dangerous?

It has been suggested IASOM should help create an international “authoritarian personality revisited” study in order to answer such questions.

The original authoritarian personality study was carried out by the Frankfurter school sociologist and philosopher Theodor Adorno and a number of co-workers in the US and several other countries in the post-WW2 years, with the primary aim of understanding more of the roots of fascism-prone authoritarianism in everyday life and social structure.

The basic framework for the suggested study is the focus of the debate and we ask readers to participate.

In the first issue of the IASOM newsletter, some more detailed plans were presented. Holter suggested (1) a coherent “theoretical kernel” involving masculinity and patriarchy forms, yet a framework broad and loose enough to be interpreted in plural ways and through different methods, and (2) suggested a revision of the authoritarianism concept in the direction of reification (see below). Martin Acker, Michael Kimmel and Jeff Hearn are among the researchers who have contributed to this debate.

Michael Kaufman: Doing an international study

I was excited to hear of your plans for a comparative study on the authoritarian personality and masculinity.  As you might know, my work both in Beyond Patriarchy and more recently Cracking the Armour draws on psychoanalysis in general and the work of Marcuse and the critical theorists in particular.  I think, as you do, that there is a rich vein that we can mine in this field.  The idea of doing comparative national studies is fascinating.

I’d love to explore the possibility of participating in this study.

By the way, I recently finished co-ordinating a research network that involved colleagues at 9 research centres in 6 countries of Central America and the Caribbean as well as Canada.  In all, we received well over half a million dollars in funding.  It was a huge project and, at times, a huge headache, although in other ways it was incredibly rewarding.   Let me share with you some experiences and recommendations:

- Set up a team to design a co-operative and comparative study, but don’t try to involve everyone.  With too many people you will need a lot of development funds to bring people together.  You will also spend a lot of time waiting for people to finish other  work and will end up trying to please everyone in the subsequent research design.  Could I recommend you decide on a handful of countries to design the initial project.  At that point, with the design in hand, you can extend the effort somewhat.  (In our project we wasted about two years trying to get everyone on board and funded; then we had to deal with changes of personnel at various institutions.)

- If possible, have one working language for the study.  (In our project we had some bi- or tri-lingual people, but also some uni-lingual Spanish or English speakers.  Translation of working papers and correspondence took an incredible about of time and money.  (Of course, local research would be done in the local language.)

- Be a bit ruthless in selecting who will participate.  (In our project there were a couple of people or centres who we should have said no to.  They slowed us down or did substandard work.)  In particular, on this study, I think a fair degree of theoretical homogeneity would be called for - in particular, colleagues of ours who do social science research informed by psychoanalytic and or/ critical theory. (I was pleased to hear that both Bob Pease & Michael Kimmel are interested - both would be great to work with.)

- Bring the team together for a small workshop (6-15 people) as early as possible in the process.  It would be good if this workshop could last a couple of days.  But make sure the workshop has been prepared by the circulation of working papers so it’s a real working session.  Perhaps to save travel money, this could be tacked on to either the US conference or, better, the Nordic conference.  The latter would give as an extra couple of months to prepare documentation.  (The other problem with tying it on to the US conference is that it already takes up 4-5 days plus travel time and in the summer many people have commitments to spend time with their children.)

-  Don’t underestimate the time you’ll spend in co-ordination.  Budget for a project assistant not only to handle finances, but to work with you on correspondence.  And don’t underestimate the funds that will be needed to co-ordinate international communication.

- If possible, plan for a second workshop to discuss research instruments and methodologies.,  Finally, budget for a third workshop to discuss results.

I hope you don’t mind me rambling on and on about this.  I’m not sure if you’ve organised an international project of this type before - I admire you for doing so. If there is anything you’d like discuss, please get in touch.

Øystein Gullvåg Holter: On the new authoritarianism

Thank you for your letter, Michael; I hope it means that you want to do this hard work all over again....

Yes, I do have some experience of multinational studies, but that was only inter-Nordic, with less chances of misunderstanding. My main concern for now is the focus of the study. If we could agree on a focus, I think the rest would come also. So, what should it be? Authoritarianism once again? Well, things have changed. In which way? What is the “type of man” that should be the object of our study, represented as tendencies in the real lives of men?


In the last Russian election, the fascist Sjirinovskij got some 25 percent of the votes. In former Yugoslavia, people are murdered in the name of “nationality”. All over Europe and the Western world, racism seems to be on the rise. According to recent statistics, 69 people were killed in racist murders in Europe in 1993, most of them in Germany. Almost a third of the victims were children. “Moderate” politicians both in the EU and in the non-member countries like Norway have gone a long way to establish “Festung Europe” over the last years, with its borders closed for the poor people outside. The recent election in Italy, where the Fascists once more have become “respectable” partners in politics, is another telling signal.

Biological sorting

In a reflection over Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, the Norwegian conservative philosopher and politician Georg Apenes writes (Dagens Næringsliv 12.3.94):

“The film reminds us, in a way which cannot be rejected, of the logical connection between race theory and the extermination of what is defined as genetically inferior, based an ideologically framed biology. In the debate over the film we are once again reminded of the very embarrassing fact that Nazi Germany by no means had exclusive right or source right to the idea that people with certain inherited traits should have their fate determined by the penal code. The history of forced sterilisation in Norway represents a difference of degree, not kind, compared to the extermination of Jews in Germany.

Does, then,  the shock and tremor created by Spielberg’s film mean that biologism as a fundamental problem has been solved? Have we stopped sorting people on the basis of lists and biological characteristics?

By no means. There is more sorting of people going on then ever before. But in a much more subdued, refined and especially more aesthetic way than in the Third Reich." (My emphasis).

Apenes goes on to mention the interest in genetic predispositions, forced sterilisation, and the idea of a gene for any “problem” like homosexuality, and asks if modern-day geneticists are carrying through what Hitler and his people had to give up in 1945.

On the surface

Sociobiology and reactionary back-to-biology psychiatry is only one part of this picture. In a more “visual” society, the public seems ever more aware of the surface and the superficial in every sense, the way people look on TV, the way things seem to be since going into the reality behind is too painful anyway. Is there really much difference between the mob watching gladiators kill each other at the circus in Rome, and the everyday TV or video audience watching a repertoire of endless murders and killings?  Isn’t it symbolical of the supposed “rule of the male sex” in our society, that the reality of maleness, the penis, still cannot be shown on TV, at least not erect, while each and any gruesome and perverse distortion and displacement of the penis, in the form of guns and murdering weapons, are exhibited in daily doses of entertainment-worship? Have we any right at all to think things have “improved”?

People as things

My focus is how “the authoritarian personality” has changed, or “what should we look for” in order to update the framework of Adorno and his colleagues, and my thoughts go in the direction of “the reified personality”. I know the concept of reification is a somewhat hazy and wide one, difficult also, yet it seems of continual relevance where other categories soon become too narrow. It sums up many negative tendencies of today’s world.

Operationalising reification

Presuming, for now, that we agree reification is important, how do we ask about it, or measure it? What are the criteria? Just as an example, here are some possible psychological items:

- “I have to fill myself up with some thing in order to avoid feeling”

- “I have to treat myself as object in order to feel I am”

- “have to treat others in the same manner” - etc.

This is what we have to work out, psychologically as well as on other levels, in order to develop the measures and phenomenological orientation of the study. It won’t be easy, but I do believe it is possible to operationalise personal reification in meaningful ways, and connect it to measures of work life alienation, family estrangement, etc. I would very much like psychologists’ contributions on this issue.

This question of reification might be one axis of our study, while another should contain measures of equality. The result would be a two-dimensional framework, degree of dominance on the one hand,  forms of dominance on the other. This is not “the whole world” but one way of approaching it that might work. Reification, then, varies along the form dimension, and is more important in some forms than in others. On this basis the study could map out masculinities, different traditions and trends among men, life situations etc.

One may argue that authoritarianism has always been speculative; that Stalin’s and Hitler’s autoritarianisms weren’t any less reified than what goes on today. They were means to an end, yes, just like the concentration camps were means to the nazists’ end, yet I think authoritarianism itself has indeed changed and been transformed more deeply by commodity logic than it was in the mid-century. I think this is the fact that is expressed, rather symbolically, in the changes of typical psychological problems, from “rigidity”, “body panzer”, etc., to object-disorders like anorexia, where there is no external boundary and the body has become “valorized” on deeper levels.

All these differences may in reality be less important than I believe, but we won’t be able to find out, unless we develop a theoretical framework able to identify possible changes. Therefore, the hypothesis of an increasingly “speculative” basis of authoritarianism, or even a transformation of the “authoritarian personality” into the “reified personality”, may be a step in the right direction.