FUTURE FOUNDING FATHERS?
In this last section I have focused on three male theorists who will, I hope, be added to the grand narrative, whose work and views on women are very different from their predecessors. Of course, such predictions are hazardous, and some feminists have responded with very negative comments to the work of distinguished sociologists. Deegan and Hill, for example, criticise Goffman for writing in an entertaining way: ‘Goffman plays with words. The temptation to be humorous and clever weakens the writings of Goffman’ (1987: 15). Deegan and Hill thus explain why they have not included anything by Goffman in an edited volume on women and symbolic interactionism. Such failure to recognise genius weakens feminist sociology.
I have dealt in this section with three future founding fathers, Bernstein, Bourdieu and Beck. Bernstein’s contribution to building a feminist sociology is relatively undeveloped but is explored in Arnot (2001) and Delamont (1995). The central way in which Bernstein’s sociology has feminist potential is his emphasis on the different roles of women in the old and new middle class, and on how the labour market experiences of women impact upon the educational careers of their children. As the sociological reputation of Bernstein rises in the years after his death, its feminist potential will be increasingly recognised.
France and Germany produced two of the leading contemporary sociologists. Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) and Ulrich Beck. Leading figures from two different schools of thought – Bourdieu as a structuralist and Beck as a sociologist of reflexive modernity – they epitomise change and continuity in the orthodox history. They can be seen as a continuation of the classic theories of Marx, Weber and Durkheim and, in their refusal to perpetuate lazy stereotypes of women, as a radical break from that 175-year history. They are representative of a change in both malestream sociology and in feminist sociology’s relationship to
it. These two, are, of course, related: if malestream sociology is changing, then feminist sociologists will find they can use it. Both Bourdieu and Beck have written books in which the role, status and feelings of women are considered with some serious thought given to feminist perspectives.
Bourdieu is both an anthropologist and a sociologist. His ideas are currently fashionable in cultural studies and sociology of culture, having been important in the sociology of education since 1970. In Masculine Domination (published in French in 1998 and in English in 2001) he applies the structuralist framework to the gender regime of contemporary France, starting by challenging its familiarity by revisiting his anthropological work on the Berber (Kabyle) of Algeria.
Beck became well known in the Anglophone world after his works were published by Polity – and his theories of risk society and reflexive modernity were publicised by his collaborations with Giddens, Lash, Urry and Adam. In The Normal Chaos of Love (Beck and Beck – Gernsheim, 1995) published in German in 1990. Beck and Beck – Gernsheim seriously address the gender regime of (West) Germany, raising questions that are only ‘askable’ because of the rise of feminist sociology.
The relations between feminist sociology and the malestream has frequently been stormy like the giant mermaid rocking the boat and calling up the tempest. At best, there is an ambivalence about grounding feminist sociology in ideas originally produced by men whose theoretical and personal views on women are, by contemporary standards, unsound.