Structure and Cultural Patriarchy in Post and Pre-Industrial Societies

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In this essay I will analyse the development of work and gender roles seen prior to and post-industrialisation. Though the structure of work has clearly evolved since the first hunter-gatherer societies (Kuhn & Stiner 2006, pp. 959-962), it is apt to focus the analysis on the nature of work as seen in societies during the feudal period, compared to the post-industrial workplace. The Industrial Revolution served as a catalyst for many structural and cultural reforms; gender roles, worker relations and organizational structure. The intent of this analysis aims to highlight the patterns of the present-day labour market and the connections of such to earlier societal developments and the Industrial Revolution.

In the pre-industrial Feudal period, class and work specialisation were already developed and capitalism began to emerge. The structure of work still adhered to the core Marxist values of man as a social-worker, providing for self, community and state, manufacturing and producing resources from nature, from homes or lands typically owned by the upper-class (Hobsawm 2011, p. 130). Peasants and tradesmen would produce, and then provide for the knights and the clergy and ultimately the upper class of property owners, wealthy individuals or royalty. The economy was largely agriculture based though as capitalism developed so did wage-labour (Hartman 1976, p. 148) and as work relations developed with increasingly large consumer pools and demands from clients, a catalyst for an entirely new range of work developed, delivery between the producer and the consumer. Throughout this period the importance of the clergy greatly affected the perception of labour, it was largely viewed as God’s will to provide for society and to do otherwise was sinful (Vallas, Finlay & Wharton 2009, pp. 66-69).

The adoption of the post-industrial “service society” reflects a return to the communal working values seen prior to the Industrial Revolution. Wharton (1993, p. 206) proposesthat the embrace of a service society is the social need to interact with a humans rather than technology and that frontline of humanity is expected between consumer and product. The separation of work from the home sphere catalysed in the Industrial Revolution has been maintained through to this period and thusly the transformation of the domestic sphere to unit of consumption and capitalist reinforcement. The structure of work in this period is heavily influenced by the concept of careers and professionalism. A clear hierarchy exists within the labour market with individuals selling their labour and time to the business (Adler, Kwon & Heckscher 2008, p.360), with a direct line of command in most work structures, though variations do exist as flexibility in the structure of work develops (Moen & Sweet 2004). In this period work relations are largely class based with social closure and an expanding focus on human capital being used to maintain class divides (Bills 2003, p. 444). It would be no surprise to Marx that in this period of disassociation with the consumer and lack of intimacy in production, that alienation is noted in all range of career paths(Kai 1986, p. 1).

Analysis of the evolution of gender roles prior to and after the Industrial Revolution are many and varied by social studies. Pre-industrial work environments saw the home as the main location of resource production. Male roles would dominate the field work, hunting, heavy lifting and other stereotypical “masculine” roles compared to the place of women, which would always be indoors. That isn’t to say women did not contribute to domestic labour, women cooked, cleaned, wove, birthed and raised children all from the home sphere (Goldstone 1996, p. 9). This division of labour is perceived to be the result of a traditionalised patriarchal system that reinforces the ownership of women (Hartman 1976, p. 139). This system was inherent prior to the rise of capitalism and feudal pre-industrial societies and can be linked with the gendered division of labour seen in hunter-gather societies (Kuhn & Stiner 2006, p. 954)

The Industrial Revolution transformed the division of gendered labour by destabilizing the traditional, domestic gender roles. The resources that had once been produced in the home sphere were now produced in significantly larger quantities at factories, thus women, in need of work entered the labour market (Vallas, Finlay & Wharton 2009, pp. 70). Social closure in the labour market remained despite women joining men in wage-labour, the patriarchal dominance of the labour market hierarchy segregated many elements of the work place: career progression, union acceptance and wage equality. Protection and progression for women only truly started to develop from legislature rather than organizational structures (Hartman 1976, pp. 165). Applying the developments of gender

roles from the Industrial Revolution to post-industrial society and the present day, unfortunately still resonates with the patriarchal segregation of previous societies. Organizational hierarchies still reflect the gendered division of labour, management and top-tier positions are still largely dominated by men, wage variance remains and career displacement due to family orientated leave affects women far more than men (O’Neil, Hopkins & Bilimoria 2008, p. 734-736).

Through comparing the periods of society both before and after the Industrial Revolution we can see the development of organizational structures and the underling pattern of gender roles in the labour market. Work structure has evolved past the domestic production of goods by the family for personal use and trade to the production of goods for the organisation, with the reward of labour given being income for use in the domestic sphere to continue the cycle of consumerism. In further studies it could be analysed what the quality of life might be both prior to and post Industrialisation, though Marxist correlation of disassociation and alienation in post-industrial societies has been noted. Segregation is a link throughout the history of gender roles in the labour market, the Industrial Revolution portrays a turning point, though not intended nor fully achieved yet, towards a society that accepts and portrays egalitarian gender values. Present day perceptions are influenced by traditional gender roles, the pre-industrial notion of the home sphere as a place for women and to view men as providers still lingers, causing criticisms towards women in careers to continue.  An interesting analysis towards gender roles is that causal link for segregation is not institutionalised or born from work structures, rather it is born from a cultural adherence to patriarchal values that has been transferred since early human societies.

Word Count: 1053


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Wharton, AS 1993, ‘The affective consequences of service work’, Work and Occupations, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 205-232, viewed 23 August 2018, <>

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