Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory

Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory

Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory

Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory


This edited volume focuses on the problematic engendering of classical and contemporary sociological theory, addressing questions such as:
  • How were the foundations of sociological theory shaped by an implicit masculinity?
  • Did classical sociology simply reflect or actively construct theories of sexual difference?
  • How were alternative accounts of the social suppressed in sociology's founding moments?
Feminist interventions in sociology are still seen as marginal to sociological theorizing. This collection challenges this truncated vision of sociological theory. In part one, contributors interrogate the classical canon, exposing the masculinist assumptions that saturate the conceptual scaffolding of sociology. In part two, contributors consider the long-standing and problematic relationship between sociology and feminism, retrieving voices marginalized within or excluded from canonical constructions of sociological theory. In part three, contributors engage with key contemporary debates, explicitly engendering accounts of the social.

Engendering the Social is unique in that it not only critically interrogates sociological theory from a feminist perspective, but also embarks on a politics of reconstruction, working creatively at the interface of feminist and sociological theory to induce a more adequate conceptualisation of the social. This is a key text for undergraduate and postgraduate students in sociology, social theory and feminist theory.


For consider once more the procession of the sons of educated men; ask
yourself once more, where is it leading us?

(Woolf 1938)

The sociological canon is patrilineal. It is a procession of men, of 'founding fathers' who, joined by their sons, have made their way from the nineteenth through the twentieth and into the twenty-first century as the canonized 'masters' (Coser 1977a) of sociological thought. If we round up the usual suspects, then it appears that it is largely straight white men who get to do the abstract, universally generalizable thinking that counts as sociological theory with a big T (Kimmel 1990).

In this book we critically interrogate this tradition of sociological theorizing from a feminist standpoint, taking up Janet Wolff's (2000) call for a feminist politics of interrogation that strategically interrogates texts in order to expose how masculinity has operated as a core constitutive category of the social. The aim is to encourage critical reflection on the sociological tradition as a way of opening up new avenues of working more productively at the interface between sociological and feminist concerns. But a necessary precursor to such a reconstructive project must entail a critical unpacking of the gendered inclusions and erasures that have functioned to privilege both the male subject and the male knower in the history of sociological thought. A critique of the partial, androcentric nature of the discipline is the starting point for all feminist interventions into sociology. Feminist sociology insists on gender as a fundamental dimension of social life and as a central analytic category within the discipline, without which the key interests of the discipline (such as work, politics, education, religion and 'culture') cannot be adequately understood. The result has been a rich body of work bringing women's lives and experiences into the purview of the social.

Feminist sociologists have often regarded theory with a capital T as a quintessentially male discourse (Smith 1987a, b; Stanley and Wise 1993), and . . .

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