Daubing the drudges of fury: men, violence and the piety of the hegemonic masculinity thesis

Steve Hall

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100 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


This paper was selected alongside other articles written by Prof. Tony Jefferson and Prof. Robert Connell, (leading international theorists of ‘masculinities’), as the pivot of a special issue of Theoretical Criminology. The article is a forceful critique of the popular concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’, questioning its theoretical integrity and relevance to the criminological study of masculinity and violence. It has been selected by Prof. Steven Tomsen for inclusion in the International ‘Library of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Penology’, an anthology of classic articles, and is cited in criminology textbooks, including The Blackwell Companion to Criminology and A Textbook on Criminology. A substantial body of empirical work suggests that young, economically marginalised males are the most likely perpetrators and victims of serious physical violence. Interpreting these findings in a historicised way that has been neglected by the criminological discourses of the moment suggests that physical violence has become an increasingly unsuccessful strategy in the quest for social power in liberal-capitalist societies. Although it has been displaced by symbolic violence as the principal domineering force in capitalism’s historical project, physical violence has not been genuinely discouraged but harnessed as a specialist practice in a pseudo-pacification process. From this perspective, violence has a complex relationship with liberalcapitalism. Can the concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ help criminology to deal with this complexity and inform violence reduction strategies? This article argues that, in the context of pseudo-pacification, the notion that violent males ‘rework the themes’ of an institutionally powerful ‘hegemonic masculinity’ inverts and distorts the concept of hegemony, which for Gramsci was the self-affirming cultural production of the dominant political-economic class. Thus the concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ tends to downplay political economy and class power, which suggests that it is too far removed from historical processes and material contexts to either justify the use of the term hegemony itself or explain the striking social patterns of male violence. This intellectual retreat is representative of a general political evacuation of capitalism’s global socio-economic processes, a move that is allowing sparsely regulated market forces to continue the economic insecurity, specialist roles and corresponding cultural forms that reproduce the traditional male propensity to physical violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002


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