The concept of 'patriarchy' is one which signals a sharp dividebetween traditions of feminist thought. Sylvia Walby attemptsto conceptualize 'patriarchy' in a way that takes account not onlyof the complexity of relationships of gender, but also of thesubtleties of the interconnections of patriarchy andcapitalism.
She rejects those accounts which treat patriarchy as a unified setof relations, or which confine the site of patriarchy to any oneprivileged sphere such as the family. Instead, she elaboratesa novel view of patriarchy as a set of 'relatively autonomousrelations', the connections between which are spelled out through avariety of detailed case studies. In contrast to many otherviews of 'capitalist patriarchy', Sylvia Walby characterizes therelationship between capitalism and patriarchy as a relationship,not of harmony and mutual accommodation, but of tension andconflict.
This thesis is substantiated through a comparative historicalanalysis of three contrasting areas of employment: cotton textiles,engineering and clerical work. These analyses show the shortcomingsof much conventional literature in sociology, history and economicson women's employment, which pays insufficient attention to theindependence of patriarchal relations. The book draws uponsociological, historical, economic and geographic materials toargue for an understanding of gender relations in terms of thespecific tensions and compromises between patriarchal andcapitalist relations. Exploring the impact of the state onpatterns of employment and unemployment completes a book rich intheoretical and empirical analysis.
Patriarchy at Work will be recognized as a majorcontribution to feminist thought and the social sciences.