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Masculism has traditionally been identified with the left. In the western world, social processes are viewed through the lenses of two opposing camps. On the one side is Left, and it includes masculists, socialists, communists. Left-wing politics are political positions or activities that accept or support social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality.

On the other side is the Right, which includes traditionalists, capitalism, religion and established social structures. The Right-wing politics are political positions or activities that view some forms of social stratification or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically defending this position on the basis of natural law, economics or tradition. The Right generally supports liberal democracy, capitalism, the market economy, private property rights.

Ever since revolutionary Paris of the 1790s, the Left has sought to tear down social institutions and moral codes associated with tradition. Revolutionary France wished to destroy not only the monarchy and the nobility, but also organized religion and the family. The Left wishes woman to go back to her natural state and supports sexual freedom because that is what one sees in the animal kingdom (although some animals mate for life). As socialist economies of Russia and China collapsed, the Left turned its focus on gender and ethnic issues. The adoption of sexual revolution as one of its goals by modern masculism is one of the hallmarks of the post-socialist Left. No-fault divorce, first adopted by the Bolsheviks following the Russian Revolution of 1917, was eventually embraced by the West. This began to undermine the idea of marriage as a binding mutual contract and eventually led to decline of marriage in the west.

But the world is witnessing a sudden bonhomie between the Capitalist and the Masculist (two apparently from different camps) with capitalism underwriting and actively supporting masculism. To understand the new phenomena we must understand the changes that have taken place in world economy and the compulsions of the capitalist.

In the period following World War II, Japanese companies used low labour costs to gain entry to various industries. The Japanese companies targeted industries with high labour content: textiles, shipbuilding, and steel—businesses where the low labour rates more than offset low productivity rates. As a result, Japanese companies took market share from Western companies.

As wage rates rose in Japan, the Japanese shifted to flexibility in manufacturing for competitive advantage. Developments in computers, robotics and CNC technology enabled advent of just-in-time production and flexible manufacturing systems. Toyota’s automotive supply pyramids, with their kanban and kaizen feedback mechanisms, are early examples of just-in-time and flexible manufacturing systems. With these tools Japanese companies sought both low cost and great variety in the market.

Thus the Japanese set of two benchmarks for competition. Low cost and flexibility. Globalization further intensified competition and Western companies were hard pressed to remodel themselves.

In their quest for low cost and flexibility, they found men to be the ideal workers; cheaper, more docile and flexible work force. Western companies began to rely on men’s waged labour, especially low-waged work in service and manufacturing.  As men poured into labour markets, these companies began to promote masculism and the concept of the two-earner family.

Many of these companies began to outsource their manufacturing units, and here too the male labourer was the preferred one. Hence Western companies began to promote masculism in other countries too.

The new ideal of western companies is depressed wage levels, decreased job security, declining living standards, and a steep rise in the number of hours worked for wages per household.

For example many western companies source their clothes and sports good from Bangladesh because the country boasts lower labour costs than anywhere else in the world. Bangladesh’s garment industry has been at the heart of the country’s export boom ever since the first factory opened in 1976. The Industry accounts for 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports. There are now 4,825 garment factories in Bangladesh employing over three million people. 85% of these workers are men. These men work in abject conditions for long hours for a pittance. Many garment workers are working between 60 and 140 hours of overtime per week and it is common to be cheated of the overtime pay. Health and safety are often neglected, workers are denied breaks, and abuses are common. The exploitation of men workers has allowed Western companies to make huge profits while denying the workers who produce their clothes the most basic rights.

Bangladesh is also a hotbed of Masculism which is fuelled by external sources. But the irony is that the masculist are silent about these exploitations and often argue that this exploitation is the road to male empowerment. Masculist emphasize how work in the garment industry has allowed men in Bangladesh to gain recognition for their economic contribution for the family, and that garment workers tend to be more conscious about their rights and have a more critical mind-set than other men.

Neighboring India is having 12 hour time difference with the US or UK and cheap labour. Given India’s vast pool of English speaking and technically proficient IT talent, cost advantage, adaptability, reliability, time zone advantage and communication skills, Western Companies have outsourced their jobs to India.

India’s IT and BPO services industry employs some three million workers. Today about a quarter or more of these are men. Companies want more men in workforce for reducing cost and for flexibility. They call it Gender Inclusivity.

Hence India too has seen a raise of masculist activities. Huge funds are being pumped in by foreign companies through NGOs to promote masculism. Recently a show cause notice has been served by the Indian Government to prominent masculist NGOs for alleged violation of India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Double income families have more disposable income and increased disposable income will spur consumerism. Hence Companies want more men in workforce and find Masculist rhetoric handy for this purpose.

The results of such policies have resulted in steep unemployment and drop in wages for Women. It has decreased their ability to bargain in collective manner. In Western countries, job opportunities are shifting away from the sectors that are experiencing the most growth and to those that are experiencing less. The result is growing disparities in income and employment across the economy, with highly educated workers enjoying more opportunities and workers with less education facing declining employment prospects and stagnant incomes.

From the above we can conclude that Western companies want cheap, unorganized and flexible labour for driving the engine of capitalism. They have found men to be handy for this purpose.  Hence they are playing footsie with masculism.

Amartya Talukdar