Writing Armageddon

Writing Armageddon
Furious writing or writing furiously?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Women and Peace: Reasons for hope, and a worrying logical conundrum

Women and Peace: Reasons for hope, and a worrying logical conundrum
By Konstantinos Travlos

There are many studies that have provided indicators that the enchanted participation of women in peace processes and in indeed in politics can be a force for peace, and indeed for quality peace. Work by Mary Caprioli , Caprioli and Mark Boyer , and by Erik Melander . The findings of these, and other studies your poor author has failed to mention are encouraging and something to add to the 10 Things you can Learn in International Women’s day . Even with the usual caveats on quantitative analyses of social phenomena, the least we can garner is that peace and quality peace are contemporaneous or closely associated in time with the active participation of women in political processes. Even such a minimalist findings is a powerful beacon of hope for many caught in the fires of conflict, and a strong confirmation of the beliefs of many feminists, men or women or other.

And yet I cannot help but point out a worrying logical chain. The women whose participation in politics is captured in these studies are not the product of a feminist civilization. They may or may not be feminists , but they all grew up in, and are partly the result of patriarchal civilizations and cultures. Of course just like feminism, patriarchy is also not a monolithic entity, but one of many variations (a point many times forgotten by activists and their opponents). One wonders how easy it is to argue that the pacific results of their political participation are not tied to their status as a subject of a patriarchal culture (it should be noted that subject is used here not in the sense of slavery or inability to act, but more in the sense of receiving stimuli). In another name how independent is the pacific effect of women in politics, from the culture that formed them as political actors? This is an important question for conceptualizing war and peace in a feminist future.

As the feminist cultural and political project advances, and I believe that it is bound to do so at the very least because of simple demographics, the patriarchal cultures that guide and form our lives will wither away , even sometimes be violently transformed.  Our hope is that the feminist culture that replaces them will be one of peace. And this would be the case if the ideal type of feminist culture is also the empirical type of feminist culture. This will not be the case. 

Hegel and Marx have given us many problematic ideas, but they idea of dialectics is not one of those. It is more likely that any post-patriarchal culture will be the result of the dialectic mixing of the opposed concepts of ideal feminist culture and empirical patriarchal culture. The resultant culture will probably have more in common with some of the variations of empirical patriarchal culture as opposed to idea feminist culture.  This means two things: 1) if patriarchy causes violent conflict, then the germ of violent conflict may very well exist within the post-patriarchal culture 2) if the pacific influence of the political participation of women within patriarchal culture is tied to their condition as subjects of that culture (and how they negotiate and challenge it), then the feminist transformation of those cultures to something post-patriarchal but not ideal feminist culture, may take away a factor that inhibits violent conflict.  The result would be paradoxically a culture that is indeed more pacific than most patriarchal cultures, but not a culture of peace.  And because violence has its own unique logic that germ of violence can become something much worse.

This is a logical conundrum that should not dampen the hopeful character of the findings of the studies mentioned above. It should not stop feminist activists and scholars from seeking the increased participation of women in political and peace processes. But it does raise some potentially interesting conceptual questions about theory and ideas that scholars and philosophers are considering, or might want to considering . Perhaps worth exploring further with qualitative and quantitative studies. Or I am just raining on everyone’s parade.

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