Phallocracy & Gynarchy

The concepts of Phallocracy & Gynarchy are here diagrammed and partially elaborated in the most general sense. They are supposed to be highly abstract and generalizable so that they can be applied to as many different concrete examples as possible. I conceive of them as two different “orders of difference,” meaning that they are two basic ways of configuring the relationship between dependencies.

I give them their names to allude to the way they function with regards to sexual difference, which has less to do with “male” and “female” as literal bodies and much more to do with the organization of economies of desire as they can be instantiated in any body regardless of sex (though for historically contingent reasons, males do often organize their economies of desire in phallocratic terms due to the conditioning they undergo under patriarchal societies that aim to place them at the top of a hierarchy based on a sexual division of labor). In a phallocratic economy of desire everything is subordinated and tuned to the aims of a single climactic end, whereas in a gynarchic economy of desire there is ample room for the play of differences without a fundamental loss of a telos or end.

Because of their generality, we can apply them to any totalizing order which organizes differences. For example, we can think of phallocratic v.s. gynarchic orders of historical time with some interesting results: liberal capitalist, totalitarian socialist and even fascistic views of history can be seen as instantiating different varieties of phallocratic order, while various non-hegemonic histories past, present and future can be seen as instantiating gynarchic orders. This way we can talk about capitalism, fascism and variants of totalitarian socialism all under the heading of a “phallocratic order of power” which we can pose in contradistinction to a “gynarchic order of power” that is composed of a multiplicity of axiologically united yet geo/politically divergent global processes that are struggling to overcome the hegemony of the phallocratic order.

We can also apply this to philosophy: that there are both phallocratic and gynarchic trends in the history of philosophy, either West, East or other. For the purposes of both convenience and also self-admission on his own part, I tend to think that Hegel’s philosophy of Absolute Spirit occupies the apex of the phallocratic order of philosophy. And naturally I tend to think that the soteriologically motivated philosophy of Nagarjuna’s Prasangika-Madhyamaka is the most gynarchic thought in the history of world philosophy. Anti-Hegelian antinomian thinkers like Deleuze and Derrida can be seen to occupy a liminal space between Hegel and Nagarjuna: worse off than Hegel from the point of view of Hegelianism, and not quite reaching the core of Nagarjuna’s and the Buddhas’ Madhyamaka.

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