“Manly” Presences in Modernity: Social Contract Theory
Although gender became an important identity marker only in the twentieth century, significant developments showing concerns with gender constructions can be traced back as early as the beginning of modernity.
The enlightenment announced a reconsideration of many issues that had been taken for granted until then for generations. One can go back as far as to the end of the seventeenth century, when the cradle of political modernity began to take shape, being faced with the intellectual challenge of looking into the legacy of authoritarian thought, which had been reigning both in important institutions having to do with power (including the catholic church) and in intellectual circles. A range of beliefs that challenged established religious dogma gradually emerged with their alternative solutions, drawing attention to a very important issue that would announce great changes outside the religious realm: the realization that most of the things considered ‘natural’ were socially constructed.
The study of the modern theories of the social contract will reveal aspects that feminists did value and reflect upon, as it will be seen further on, at the same time, the modernity bringing to light important issues for, what it is to become, decades later, men’s studies. The focus will be on three major social contract theorists separately. Each subsection will contain a brief presentation of the respective thinker’s essential arguments regarding the first signs of social constructions of gender, with special focus on their ideas about human nature and their denouncing of ‘naturalized’ authoritarian rule. The final goal is that of revealing manly presences and issues concerning gender constructions, as perceived in those centuries.
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