The Man Problem

Ross Honeywill

developed a social philosophy that destructive masculinity threatens the very society in which we live. His new book, The Man Problem: Destructive Masculinity in Western Culture, explores the potential for destructive masculinity in the everyday lives of men, as the normality of evil.

Book Synopsis

All men – ordinary and exceptional men – have a potential for evil. What is it? Where does it originate? How does it impact society? Can it be overcome? This book explores the masculine potential for evil, and traces its various manifestations in cultural texts, social systems and everyday life practices, from the birth of modernity to the liquid present.

The Man Problem reveals a potential for evil in the normality of the everyday, a potential inherent to all men. Using critical theory and an interdisciplinary or bricolage research framework, the book examines the origins and impacts of destructive masculinity from the Enlightenment and modernity, through postmodernity, and into the liquid present; and exposes the violent suppression of Woman and women in the creative and symbolic dimension of the social that forms the Western cultural imaginary.

Modernity is shown to be an epoch of institutionalised androcentrism, in which the Enlightenment narrative of plurality was rejected in favour of the script of male mastery, control and domination. A major effect of this was the incorporation of ‘destruction’ as a feature of ‘ordinary’ masculinity and the ensuing normalisation of evil.

Referencing the work of critical theorists, philosophers, sociologists, feminists and scientists, the book describes how the ‘banality’ and ‘ordinariness’ of evil points to the Second World War, the Holocaust and the social death of Woman, as explicit outcomes of destructive masculinity. It reveals an ‘Oedipal schism’ as the source of destructive masculinity, a rupture that negotiates between the extremes of social constructionism and biological determinism, and draws analogies between individual lives and social processes.

Destructive masculinity in postmodernity is shown to be a period of rebellion against the constraints and certitudes of modernity, and an attempt to continue the liberal and pluralising legacy of the Enlightenment. The book shows, however, that postmodernity failed to reverse the genocide of Woman or to renounce the self-deception of destructive masculinity.

A continuing process of re-masculinisation after the end of postmodernity is revealed, in a period which, reimagining Bauman, is called the liquid present: a time in which destructive masculinity lives on, as evidenced by inequality in the workplace, growing gender conservatism, and constant eruptions of male violence. The consumer culture of the liquid present is identified as a culture in the making, where the shallow consumer monoculture exists alongside the deep knowledge culture. While the consumer monoculture melancholically nurtures destructive masculinity, the knowledge culture embodies the conditions for surpassing it by, for example, individualised choices by men.

This book not only diagnoses destructive masculinity, but also identifies a possible, and feasible, way forward – a prognosis for society to surpass the annihilative potential of destructive masculinity: men in the knowledge culture have, in outgrowing the pile of psychosocial wreckage rising skyward under the gaze of the angel of history, a humanist voice to speak on behalf of all good men. It is the voice of human survival, and it must be heard.

The Man Problem is published by Palgrave Macmillan (New York).