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Evolution of the Patriarchy: Will Society Become More Equal?

Craig Gelling

7th October 2022

In a recent edition of The Conversation, Professor Ruth Mace of UCL discusses the evolution of the patriarchy and whether society will eventually become more equal.

How did the patriarchy start – and will evolution get rid of it?

When teaching theory and methods, it is often assumed that the patriarchy has always existed and that there has been an eternal conflict between the genders over power and access to resources. However, in a recent edition of The Conversation, Professor Ruth Mace from UCL argues that male domination of society has not always been the ‘natural order’, but rather that the patriarchy evolved based upon social changes.

Mace argues that hunter-gatherer tribes were more equal and many societies have been matriarchal – based upon female leadership. In a similar way to Engels, Mace sees patriarchal rule as part of evolution. Whilst Engels argued that the need for legitimacy of heirs was the precursor to male dominance, Mace argued that it was the movement from hunter-gather tribes to agriculture that generated male dominance.

Conflicts over control of land and resources, inevitably led to the emergence of physically dominant males and male leadership for protection and that this generated patriarchal control. Addressing a wide range of issues over time, Mace’s article looks at polygamy, matriarchal societies and offers many examples of how patriarchal control is being reinforced and challenged and is a useful read when looking at feminist movements.

Craig Gelling

Craig is an experienced Sociology teacher and examiner and is known as The Sociology Guy on social media. Craig helps design and deliver tutor2u Sociology CPD courses and student exam workshops.

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