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Masculine madness: The normality of evil in the Western cultural imaginary


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Honeywill, RA 2014 , 'Masculine madness: The normality of evil in the Western cultural imaginary', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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All men – ordinary and exceptional men – have a potential for evil. What is it?
Where does it originate? How does it impact society? Can it be overcome? This thesis
explores the masculine potential for evil, and traces its various manifestations in
cultural texts, social systems and everyday life practices, from the birth of
modernity to the present. ‘Masculine madness’ is shown to be, not a pathological
or psychiatric condition, but a potential for evil in the normality of the
everyday, a potential inherent to all men. Combining psychic mechanisms with
critical theory, and using an interdisciplinary or bricolage research framework, the
thesis examines the origins and impacts of masculine madness from the
Enlightenment and modernity, through postmodernity, and into the present; and
exposes the violent suppression of Woman and women in the creative and
symbolic dimension of the social that forms the Western cultural imaginary.
Modernity is shown to be an epoch of institutionalised androcentrism, in which the
Enlightenment narrative of plurality was rejected in favour of the script of male
mastery, control and domination. A major effect of this was the incorporation of
‘madness’ as a feature of ‘ordinary’ masculinity and the ensuing normalisation of evil.
Referencing the work of critical theorists, philosophers, feminists and scientists, the
thesis describes how the ‘banality’ and ‘ordinariness’ of evil points to the Second
World War, the Holocaust and the social death of Woman, as explicit outcomes of
masculine madness. It reveals an ‘Oedipal schism’ as the origin of masculine
madness, a rupture that negotiates between the extremes of social constructionism
and biological determinism, and draws analogies between individual lives and social
processes. Masculine madness in postmodernity is shown to be a period of rebellion
against the constraints and certitudes of modernity, and an attempt to continue the
liberal and pluralising legacy of the Enlightenment. The thesis shows, however, that
postmodernity failed to reverse the genocide of Woman or to renounce the selfdeception
of masculine madness. A continuing process of re-masculinisation after the
end of postmodernity is exposed, in a period which, referencing Bauman, is called the
‘liquid present’: a time in which masculine madness lives on, as evidenced by
inequality in the workplace, growing gender conservatism, and constant eruptions of
male violence. The consumer culture of the liquid present is identified as a culture in
the making, where the shallow consumer monoculture exists alongside the deep
knowledge culture. While the consumer monoculture melancholically nurtures
masculine madness, the knowledge culture embodies the conditions for surpassing it
by, for example, individualised choices by men. This thesis not only diagnoses
masculine madness, but also identifies a possible, and feasible, way forward – a
prognosis for society to surpass the annihilative potential of masculine madness.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Honeywill, RA
Keywords: Masculine potential for evil in western culture
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Copyright 2014 the Author

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