PhD Thesis

“Theorising Progressive Change Among Men”

It ended up being a rather technical document so I can’t recommend it for those who are not enthusiastic about ideas.

But the feedback is that Chapter 1 and Chapter 9, which cover my standpoint and my conclusions, are tolerably readable.

You can see the official version, in all its institutionalised glory, here (exactly the same text as below).

Skip straight to reading it … or… scroll down for a brief intro…

Front Matter – including Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Men and Change

Chapter 2: The Field of Masculinity Theory

Chapter 3: The Connellian Framework

Chapter 4: Hegemony and Meaning

Chapter 5: Multiple Discourse in Social Life

Chapter 6: The force of Discourses

Chapter 7: Reframing Connell

Chapter 8: The Dimensions of Change

Chapter 9: Theorising Progressive Change Among Men


I started the PhD in November 2005, submitted just before Xmas 2010, and it was finally accepted in June 2011.  The body of the thesis is 72,200 words, with 225 references in the separate bibliography.

Brief Intro

My original intention was for a thesis called “Empowering narratives for men”, but I was unable to locate any satisfactory theory which I could build on for this project.  So I ended up creating my own theory, which is centrally about power.

I concentrated on power because it became clear that existing theories of men run aground on the problem of power. I found that the most influential academic theory about men, Connell’s “hegemonic masculinity”, relies on the ridiculously simple classical Marxist view of power which sees all power as emanating from one social source.  This means Connell (and most of academic men’s studies) ends up casting men as the baddies – so dangerous that they are only fit to be the handmaidens of other groups whose projects for progressive change can be seen as legitimate.  Connell’s theory also quite fails to take feminism seriously as a real and existing social formation, so there are almost no academic resources able to help men come to constructive terms with feminist critiques of men or to take up the potentials for change feminism presages.

I started with a poststructuralist theory of power which is, unfortunately, rather dense.  Briefly it says that power arises from multiple social locations, and is as much reliant on meaning as upon structures like money, the law or politics.  Because meaning is such an important ingredient in power, social groups are able to give new meanings to existing social practices, thereby opening the possibility of change when these new meanings are taken up by millions of people in new practices.

Feminism is an excellent example of giving new meanings to existing practices – and feminism has become a new power system in its own right sitting uneasily alongside the much more established patriarchal power system. The contestations between these 2 massive power systems produce most of the current gender experience in the West – and there are enormous opportunities for men to get up to speed with this volatile relationship, and collectively become an active shaping force in the future of gender.  The process of “getting up to speed” involves changing our relationship with ourselves and each other – and, incidentally, with women, since we can learn a lot from the innovations women and other marginalised groups have brought to social life in the last 5 decades.  At the same time because of our unique location in the gender landscape we have substantial contributions to bring to gender, both for women personally and for a more complete and effective understanding of gender in its entirety.

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