Academic journal article German Quarterly

Productive Men, Reproductive Women: The Agrarian Household and the Emergence of Separate Spheres during the German Enlightenment

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Productive Men, Reproductive Women: The Agrarian Household and the Emergence of Separate Spheres during the German Enlightenment

Article excerpt

Gray, Marion W Productive Men, Reproductive Women: The Agrarian Household and the Emergence of Separate Spheres during the German Enlightenment. New York: Berghahn, 2000. 370 pp. $19.95 paperback.

Readers familiar with Karin Hausen's seminal essay "Die Polarisierung der Geschlechtscharaktere" (1976), which has since been taken up by much feminist research, both historical and literary, will already be familiar with the principal argument of this book, which examines the separation of public and private spheres along gender lines during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its professed interest is in both ideological and economic changes during that period, with a concentration on two questions: how ideas about gender, which precede industrial capitalism, were developed by economists and philosophers, and how ideas that represented profound change ultimately succeeded in posing as "natural" and eternal. The book is divided, somewhat confusingly, into four "core" chapters that deal with economic and agricultural shifts between 1600 and 1830 (chapters two, three, six, and eight; the term "core chapter" is the author's) and four additional chapters that discuss the relevant historical context and cultural constructs of gender (chapters one, four, five, and seven)-an attempt to connect "the normative concepts of the core chapters to the social realities in which those norms circulated" (17).

What Gray's book ends up doing is collecting and summarizing massive amounts of supportive documentation for Hausen's theory. Like Hausen did originally and countless feminist critics did after her, Gray takes the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century as the "Sattelzeit" (ix), the time during which both economic and gender concepts were re-defined in ways that impacted the entire nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries (cf., for example, Gray's brief discussion of women's employment in the twentieth century [4]). From that crucial nexus in time he projects both backward, into a pre-industrial economy when "economy" and "household" were interchangeable terms (chapters one and two), and forward into a time when the notion of separate spheres along gender lines were firmly established and taken as part of the natural order, irrevocably restricting women to the domestic and the reproductive (chapters three through eight). His text base is formed by contemporary economic and legal writers and masculinist philosophers (among them Justi, Kant, and Campe) as well as proto-feminist authors like Mary Wollstonecraft, Amalie Holst, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel, Marianne Ehrmann and Olympe de Gouges. Central terms of the contemporary debate, such as cameralism, are discussed as a new way of conceptualizing not only economic, but also ideological and gender-related issues. …

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