The Rise & Decline of Patriarchal Systems

Nancy Folbre
The Rise & Decline of Patriarchal Systems: A discussion with Nancy Folbre
Friday, February 16, 2:00 – 4:30pm, 3401 Sterling Hall

Co-sponsored by the UW Gender and Women Studies Program

NANCY FOLBRE, the well-known feminist economist at UMass-Amherst, has just finished a draft of a book, The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems. The Havens Center for Social Justice has invited Nancy to discuss this manuscript with interested faculty and students. A copy of the manuscript will be made available to anyone interested in participating in this event. Our hope is that everyone attending the colloquium will read some or all of the book so that the event will be an occasion to give Nancy valuable feedback on the text itself, not just the broad ideas in the book. Refreshments will be served.

Anyone interested in coming should contact Erik Olin Wright ( who will send you a pdf of the book manuscript.

Short Description of The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems

Feminists have long reached beyond simple shouts of outrage toward a larger theory of social inequality. In this book, I trace the evolution of patriarchal systems on a conceptual map that challenges the received wisdom of both neoclassical and Marxian political economy by emphasizing many interacting forms of collective conflict and negotiation. This map centers on hierarchical institutions that affect the relative bargaining power of members of socially-assigned groups, such as those based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race (defined broadly to include ethnicity) nation, and class. Its topography offers new ways of conceptualizing interactions between social structure and personal choice, individuals and groups, production and reproduction, cooperation and hierarchy, families and states, bargaining and exploitation, alliance and division.

Rise and decline does not imply decline and fall, only a change in the slope of a line. The exact location of the inflection point matters less than the larger trajectory, including its intersections and overlaps with other lines of social and economic change. The many different strands of institutional constraint can both tangle and unravel in surprising ways. The poster that sparked the Occupy Movement in the U.S. in 2011 featured the image of a ballet dancer balanced atop the bronze bull of Wall Street. A few years later, a smaller sculpture known as Fearless Girl was placed directly in front of that bull for a few months, creating a furor because—as the mayor of New York City observed—it represented everyone willing to stand up to the rich and powerful.