"Frustrated by the fact that most texts on women treated 'the man's world' as the given and then simply asked where and how women fitted in," Stephanie Coontz writes, "I decided to undertake a survey of American gender roles: that was the starting point of the present book" — The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600–1900, published by Verso in 1988.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-65. via Wikimedia Commons.
As the focus of her research shifted from "woman's private sphere" to the family as a larger arena in which the public and private intersect, Coontz became more attentive to the diversity of household arrangements across time and space. "Stimulated by the burgeoning research into family history," she writes, "I began to look at the family as a culture's way of coordinating personal reproduction with social reproduction — as the socially sanctioned place where male and female reproductive activities condition and are conditioned by the other activities into which human beings enter as they perpetuate a particular kind of society, or try to construct a new one."
Continued from part I.
Detail from Francis William Edmonds' The New Bonnet (1858).
The Limits of Structural and Demographic Analysis
Although it is important to compare demographic trends and household structures and seek their economic correlates, such procedures yield only limited information about the history of families. Olga Linares points out: “Qualitative changes in the meaning of interpersonal obligations may be as important in distinguishing among household types as more easily measured changes in size and form.” Indeed, as Barrington Moore Jr has commented, tabulating structural differences “necessarily involves ignoring all differences except the one being measured.” Changes in social relations and patterns are not “reducible to any quantitative differences; they are incommensurable. Yet it is precisely such differences that matter most to human beings.”47
It is with great sadness that we heard the news of the death of Bart Moore-Gilbert on December 2nd, 2015. He died, aged 63 years old, at Trinity Hospice, Clapham Common, after a year’s struggle with kidney cancer. He died only a few days after the birth of his second child, Luke, and is survived by his wife, Anna and daughter, Maddy.
At a recent talk in Crotia, Vivek Chibber discussed some of the major theoretical issues at the heart of his Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital, which has caused a storm of controversy that since its publication:
"One of the striking contradictions of postcolonial theory is that, even though it presents itself as the analytical framework of capitalist domination, it rejects the idea of a universal theory. Hence, it is in the awkward position of the acknowledgment that capitalism has been globalized, but denying that we can conceive a general theory of its functioning or its properties. This is a deep and devastating contradiction at the very heart of postcolonial theory. I will examine the sources of this dilemma and argue that the best framework for understanding capitalism remains a Marxian one, which I further defend from the accusations of weakness made by postcolonial critics."
The talk, moderated by Katarina Peović Vuković, was given at Cinema Europa, Crotia, for the 8th Subversive Film Festival, "Spaces of Emancipation: Micropolitics and Rebellions", 14th May 2015.
More from Vivek Chibber here.