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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

This book explores questions about feminist political analysis. What does it mean to do political analysis from a gender perspective? Why and how to do it? By political analysis – borrowing from Colin Hay (2002) – we mean the diversity of analytical strategies developed around ‘the political’. Since the political has to do with the ‘distribution, exercise, and consequences of power’, political analysis focuses on the analysis of ‘power relations’ (Hay 2002: 3). Power itself is a contested concept that is theorized and studied in a variety of ways with variety of methods (Lukes 2005). Thus, the conceptualization of the political is inextricably connected to distinct interpretations of power. For those who conceive power as conflictual, ‘the political’ is a space of ‘antagonism’ and contestation ‘constitutive of human societies’ that ‘politics’ tries to organize through institutions and practices (Mouffe 2005: 9). Those, by contrast, who are inspired by a more consensual notion of power such as Hannah Arendt (1970: 52), for whom power arises ‘whenever people get together and act in concert’, see the political as a site of collective empowerment through public deliberation and coordinated action to achieve a common goal. Feminist theorists often prefer a definition of power as the ‘interplay between domination and empowerment, between power and counterpower’ (Allen 1999: 18) and see the political as a space where unequal relations are continuously produced and transformed and where the public sphere is just as important as the private (Pateman 1983).
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Chapter 2. Feminist Political Analysis: Five Approaches

In the previous chapter, we argued that political analysis is concerned with different analytical positions on ‘the political’, that it needs to connect theory and practice, and that gender analyses are particularly apt for making such connection in their analyses of the political. In this chapter, we discuss how one can do gender and political analysis. Given the wide variety of gender perspectives, we will discuss the diversity of approaches to gender and political analysis under five headings: (i) women, (ii) gender, (iii) deconstruction, (iv) intersectionality and (v) postdeconstruction. In this chapter, we introduce the main characteristics of these approaches for doing gender and political analysis, their objects, questions and epistemological underpinnings, highlighting both their contributions and limitations (see Table 2.1). We pay particular attention to the diversity within the approaches, mapping the debates through which each of them has developed and changed and showing how ‘women’, ‘gender’, deconstruction’, intersectionality’ and ‘postdeconstruction’ contain a variety of different and sometimes competing perspectives. The logic informing the distinctions drawn between the five approaches is primarily based on their epistemological and ontological characteristics. Moreover, the order in which approaches are presented is not chronological or hierarchical. Rather, our purpose is to make visible the contributions and limitations of each feminist approach in relation to the others. Through this classification of feminist approaches to political analysis we do not mean to say these five are the only ways to do gender and political analysis.
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Chapter 9. Conclusion

Gender and politics has over the past 20 years become a vibrant subfield of political science with its own distinct identity. Political science associations recognize it and organize conferences and panels on the issue, books and journals are published and courses are taught at university. As such, the gender and politics discipline has guided us in this book in exploring questions about doing gender and political analysis. In the introductory chapter, we argued that gender and politics contributes to political analysis by inspiring the rethinking of political questions and concepts from gender lenses, expanding the boundaries of ‘the political’, and strengthening the link between theory and praxis. In this concluding chapter, we explore two broad conclusions that this book generates. First, if feminist political analysis is to make sense of political phenomena, it is in need of a plurality of approaches. It needs to be aware of not succumbing to dominant approaches, to let itself be co-opted to either disciplinary cultures or political preferences that create a monoculture in the discipline. Approaches that come closer to the mainstream of political science, such as those centred on ‘women’ or ‘gender’, might achieve greater legitimacy in the mainstream, but also risk becoming vulnerable to practices of exclusion that downplay discursive and postdeconstruction approaches. Reflexivity is thus needed to stay alert regarding processes of marginalization within the discipline of gender and politics.
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Concepts: Chapters 3–5

Frontmatter

Chapter 3. Power

Power is arguably the key concept for both politics and feminism. For many, politics is defined by its study of power relations. Feminism too is about studying, understanding, transforming, dismantling or reworking gendered power relations. Feminist interest in the transformative aspect of power means that these scholars wish not only to understand the extent to which political processes, institutions, actors and policies (re) produce gender power relations, but also to criticize these power inequalities and to explore how all the former could be changed in order to create more gender-equal society. Amy Allen (1999) suggests that a feminist conception of power needs to account for complex and interrelated forms of masculine domination (power-over); women’s empowerment and resistance to such domination (power-to); and, finally, solidarity as women’s ability to act together to transform inequality structures with collective power (power-with) (Allen 1999: 122). The focus on individual and collective empowerment in the context of domination and the ability to act for progressive change is, according to her, one of the key contributions of feminist theory. While many would intuitively agree with this account, gender and politics scholars, however, differ in their interpretations about how these forms of power are best analysed and approached. Again the ways in which we understand power shapes fundamentally what we study and how we do it.
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Chapter 4. Agency

Agency is another key concept in political analysis that, when looked from feminist perspectives, makes visible aspects of social and political reality that are commonly neglected in political analyses. It is defined as the capacity or ability of an actor to act (Hay 2002; Hinterberger 2013), and in this way ‘to have some kind of transforming effect or impact on the world’ (McNay 2016: 39). Agency is commonly associated with autonomy, free will and choice. As with all concepts in political analysis, it is a contested one. It is, moreover, related to other key concepts such as power and structure. It is related to power in the sense that individual and collective capacity to act is both constrained and enabled in different contextual circumstances. In this respect ‘agency can be seen as the ability of the subject to resist, negotiate and transform certain forms of power that work on the subject both internally and externally’ (Hinterberger 2013: 7). Concerning the relation of agency with structure, it is helpful ‘to explore both theoretically and empirically how people think and act within the social conditions in which they find themselves’ (Hinterberger 2013: 7). The agency–structure debate has long been present in sociology and political science in the search for explanations for social and political phenomena. Structure refers to contextual factors (e.g. social practices, political institutions) that show some regularity over time and escape the immediate control of actors.
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Chapter 5. Institutions

What role do certain institutions, such as parliaments, courts, military, hospitals or schools, play in maintaining inequalities? How can new institutions, such as same-sex marriage, bring about positive change in broader societies? How are inequalities institutionalized in, for example, practices of gendered racial profiling? How do institutions resist change? What do institutions do to people? And how are they connected to other key analytical tools such as power? If it was once possible to understand institutions in a very narrow way, as state institutions such as parliaments or political parties, or the military, the notion of institutions now encompasses norms, practices and even ideas. In today’s political analysis, institutions can be defined broadly as a ‘stable, recurring pattern of behaviour’ and these institutions are a social phenomenon. In addition to formal political structures and organizations, institutions comprise rules, informal structures, norms, beliefs and values, routines and conventions, and ideas about institutions. Unlike formal institutions, informal institutions are not consciously designed nor neatly specified, but are part of habitual action (Goodin 1996; Lowndes 1996: 182; Peters 1999). Vivien Lowndes and Mark Roberts (2013: 21–22) discuss the theoretical and analytical developments in the study of institutions in political science through three phases.
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Issues: Chapters 6–8

Frontmatter

Chapter 6. Polity

Polities are not gender-neutral entities. Democracies, autocracies, states and nations are gendered constructions that have important gender implications for people and societies. Feminist analyses of polities ask the question: does polity matter for gender equality? And if so, how? (see Tripp 2013). From different approaches they have shown that the ways in which democracies and autocracies treat women and men defines the kind of polity they are, and the individual rights and opportunities that they open or close off. For example, the quality of a democratic polity is related to the extent to which women are included in polities as peers with men, can exercise popular control over a polity equally with others, and are authoritatively recognized in their claims (Galligan 2015). Autocratic polities can also be differentiated in relation to the degree of women’s autonomy that they afford (Tripp 2001, 2013). States and nations have long been at the core of political analysis. For past decades the existence and relevance of the state as a central Western form of organizing the polity has been called into question. The state has been argued to have lost its powers as a result of globalization and to have been transformed by neoliberalization and transnational governance. At the same time, though, it has constantly been brought back to political analyses (Skocpol 1979) and has been argued to have never lost its relevance but rather suffered from ideological battles and hegemonic discourses about its ‘withering away’ (Hay, Lister and Marsh 2005).
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Chapter 7. Politics

Politics, as discussed in Chapter 3, has to do with power, or more specifically ‘the (uneven) distribution of power, wealth, and resources’ (Hay 2002: 73), whether material or symbolic. For some scholars this power is circumscribed to specific institutional arenas, such as governments, parliaments and so on, while for others power relations are everywhere. Feminist scholars, in particular, have advocated for the need to study power relations in all social spheres, not limiting political analysis to those arenas that are considered public but rather breaking the boundaries between public and private and exploring power relations in all social contexts and times, in formal and informal institutions. This will allow analysts to grasp existing privileges, hierarchies and inequalities, as well as identify the potential for transformation of unequal relations in ‘the political’. Our own understanding of politics defines it very much as a process rather than as an arena. As Colin Hay suggests (2002: 69), ‘Although they can agree on little else, there is at least some unanimity within the discipline that political analysis is concerned essentially with the analysis of the processes and practices of politics’ (emphasis ours). In this chapter, therefore, we focus on what adopting the five different feminist perspectives signifies for studying politics as process.
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo

Chapter 8. Policy

Policy is often defined in the literature on policy analysis as the output of processes in which governmental institutions plan, formulate, adopt, implement and evaluate interventions aimed at addressing those problems that political actors have defined as relevant in specific social contexts (Dye 1972; Hogwood and Gunn 1984; Anderson 2006; Lombardo, Meier and Verloo 2013). Gender equality policies, for example, are generally put into place with the aim of making the economy, society and politics more equal. This definition of policies, while helpful in many ways, makes them sound as if policy problems were objectively discovered ‘out there’ and the role of policy solutions were simply to fix them (Allison 1971; Bacchi 1999). Policy scholars, and not only from gender perspectives, have long challenged this premise and proposed constructivist approaches to policy analysis. These suggest that public policies are social constructions that reflect subjects’ ideas, norms and values about what a problem is, and what solutions are offered to the problem (Allison 1971; Elder and Cobb 1984; Bacchi 1999). It is not the same, for instance, when policies talk about the problem of ‘reconciliation of work and family life’ or about the problem of ‘equal sharing of care responsibilities’ (Peterson 2013). Policy itself produces biases and power relations, and the literature on policy analysis is aware of this (Hogwood and Gunn 1984: 119).
Johanna Kantola, Emanuela Lombardo
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