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  • Introduction:Advances in Theorizing Varieties of Gender Regimes
  • Karen A. Shire (bio) and Sylvia Walby (bio)

This special section advances theorizing of the systems of gender-based inequalities from a macro-perspective by engaging with a broader world regional scope of historical and comparative analyses to reconsider the varieties of gender regimes.

Thinking again as to what is the full range of varieties of gender regimes is key. This discussion of varieties of gender regimes focuses and deepens debates on how macro-level concepts are, and might be, gendered; how to engage with cross-national comparisons, the global horizon; and more generally theorize variations in forms of gender relations. Macro-level concepts capture the global horizon, world systems, and comparisons between countries. They assist analysis of the impact of crisis on society and the processes of development around the world. They are mobilized implicitly or explicitly in crossnational comparisons. They are needed to think about the gender of "scale," and are part of the return to analyzing structural inequality.

The contributions to this section agree that gender regimes are complex systems of inequality, which vary over time (domestic and public gender regimes) and space. Until recently, however (Walby 2009), gender regime theory has used examples from Europe and the Unites States in scoping the trajectories of change in public gender regimes (neoliberal and social democratic) and remained silent on varieties of domestic gender regimes. The contributions to this special section advance arguments for new varieties and domains of gender regimes in a broader world regional perspective. The cases covered focus on change in the Muslim world (North Africa and Turkey), on non-European advanced economies (Japan), as well as on European cases with conceptually important historical (Germany) and comparative (Spain) divergences.

A first major question raised by the contributions to this special section by Walby (2020, this section), Shire and Nemoto (2020, this section), [End Page 409] Moghadam (2020, this section), and Lombardo and Alfonso (2020, this section), and in forthcoming additions by Hearn et al. (2020) and Kocabicak (2020),1 concerns the historical transformations of gender regimes. Are domestic gender regimes modern (Shire and Nemoto) or premodern (Moghadam), and is the historical analysis too focused on countries with democratic transformations (Moghadam), ignoring conservative and authoritarian modernities (Moghadam; Shire and Nemoto)? In her lead article, Walby makes clear that her concept of domestic gender regime denotes premodern patriarchy, while only the public is modern, underlining the autonomous historical development of systems of gender inequality vis-à-vis class and other systems of inequality. Kocabicak, however, argues that domestic gender regimes in Turkey vary between premodern and modern forms, both over time and by region. From the perspective of the four subsystems of gender regimes she differentiates in her theory, Walby agrees with Kocabicak that gender regimes in a country may be modern and premodern at the same time, but disagrees with Shire and Nemoto, who view domestic and public gender regimes as modern variations.

A second question concerns the scales of historical transformations. Is gender regime theory focused on the nation-state? While recent work has focused considerably on the polity as a domain at variable scales of analysis, and specifically on the European Union as a supranational polity in the regional dynamics of gender regimes (Walby 2004, 2009, 2011, 2015), Lombardo and Alfonso, writing on the Spanish autonomous regions, highlight transformative dynamics across other domains at the subnational level. Walby confirms that it was never her intention to position regimes solely at the national level. In line with her extensive writings on recent European dynamics, Walby views the focus by Lombardo and Alfonso as congruent with her theory, and an important contribution to studying subnational dynamics of gender regime transformations.

These engagements with the historical and transnational dimensions of gender regime theory draw implications for comparative analyses of varieties of public gender regimes. Shire and Nemoto argue that conservative domestic gender regimes transform in path-dependent ways, which are neither neoliberal nor social democratic. Moghadam argues similarly for the Middle East and North Africa region. In both contributions, family law and its reform are seen as the pivotal institution for how these gender regimes transform. Thus in Tunisia, it is...


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