chapter  1
5 Pages

Thinking with patriarchy

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts covered in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on English-language literature, most of it written in Western countries. It explores how the term patriarchy has been used and what conceptual work it was expected to perform. The book considers some of the uses, benefits and drawbacks of using the concept of patriarchy to deal with the present. In the twentieth century, the concept of patriarchy has been employed as an effective feminist tool to explain the spread and tenacity of women's oppression and to mobilise against injustice — and by anti-feminists to justify and try to resurrect male superiority. The book deals with three distinct episodes in the long and complicated history: seventeenth-century debates about absolutism and democracy, nineteenth-century reconstructions of human prehistory, and the broad mobilisations linked to twentieth-century women's movements.