Monday, December 12, 2011

Changing gender roles

Here's an article at RealClearBooks about social changes, especially changes in gender roles that are being driven by technology. Young men are increasingly adrift, it argues, because the economy no longer has as much role for them as providers or security:

Today, however, men are unemployed, and the cause, Mansfield believes, is modernity, which relies on technology more than duty to satisfy our needs and protect us from trouble. The economy's productivity and the government's programs provide the baseline level of safety and security. Security, says Mansfield, is the "very antithesis of manliness." There's the rub. Today's rescue mission is not men jumping from helicopters. It's the Allstate man, or woman, handling your insurance claim. "The entire enterprise of modernity could be understood as a project to keep manliness unemployed."

Agree with it or not, it's an interesting illustration of how changes in the economy and technology can cause much deeper change in social structures - and these have their own consequences. 

We don't have to buy the argument that social features are just "superstructure", as the Marxists would say, determined by the means of production. 

But there is little doubt that major changes in how people make a living and wider social roles can have plenty of consequences for people's sense of purpose, social respect and status, and their happiness in daily life. Changing technology and employment affects much more than just the GDP statistics.

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