Earlier this year Diane Abbott MP made a speech on the Crisis of Masculinity.
After a generally sound assessment of the situation she put forward a number of unconvincing solutions.
In my opinion the crisis of masculinity has been brought about by the left's systematic assault on the institutions (formal, informal and social institutions) that in the past were used to tame and control masculinity.
Whether those institutions have been destroyed through stupidity, through well-meaning interference or through deliberate malevolence and spite we will leave on one side.
The fact remains that the institutions have been smashed.
And as Diane Abbott points out, there is now a crisis of masculinity.
Therefore it is reasonable to ask what the young men experiencing this crisis intend to do about it.
My own assessment is that a new ideology of masculinity is developing, independent of the traditional institutions (which have been smashed) but also independent of the left's gormless social engineering and strident political correctness.
This new ideology of masculinity has fourteen attributes which I have labelled cults, although they could equally be called enthusiasms. This seems to be an entirely new vision of society independent of the traditional culture of the right and the crass political correctness of the left. However I might be wrong - it is possible that what is emerging is simply a pre-industrial form of masculinity reasserting itself now that the bounds that formerly held it in check have been loosened.
1 The cult of the body.
Denied access to the identity provided by traditional masculine roles (defined within the family, within a previously all-pervasive Anglican religious culture, within the social hierarchy that used to permeate every class, within the Protestant Work Ethic that governed employment expectations, within the national myth which allotted a "place" and life-meaning for everyone etc) young men have fallen back on the most fundamental point of masculine reference - the male body. The body has become the symbol of the new masculinity. It is the one thing that even the most disadvantaged young men can use to define themselves and their relationship to other men and to women.
2 The cult of nudity.
Pre-war men almost never took their clothes off in public. Now semi-nudity in public is common and complete male nudity is increasingly seen in film, television, magazines etc. This nudity is not narcissistic but relates to a way of achieving masculine identity. Naked display is an established way of creating masculine impact. More than just showing-off, the body is displayed in a timeless classical context with ideal proportions and demonstrative good health. Nude posing also symbolises fearless courage since the body is shown unprotected.
3 The cult of youth.
In the new masculinity youth is increasingly led by youth and rejects leadership from women or older men.
4 The cult of the fittest.
Over the last twenty years there has been an explosion of gym-orientated activity - for all age groups and for both genders, but primarily led by young men. The social elite among young men is increasingly defined by physique. This disturbing body fascism rejects those who do not participate and excel at body culture.
5 The cult of dynamism.
In the new masculinity young men are expected to be dynamic. Intellectual activity is not valued. The dynamism of individuals contributes to the dynamism of the social group, and non-dynamic men (the overweight, the slow, the disabled) are excluded from core membership of the social group - as are women.
6 The cult of violence.
Brutalism is deliberately cultivated with young masculine peer groups, and the ability to inflict and endure pain is highly valued. Previously this predilection for violence would have been tamed within socially-accepted contexts (military, sporting and educational). Increasingly it is spilling out onto the streets.
7 The cult of inclusion.
Diane Abbott is mistaken in thinking that young men seek in gangs a substitute for family life. It seems increasingly apparent that young men are seeking masculine social groups in preference to family life. Loyalty (a guarantee of safety), honour (a clear code to follow, however that is defined by the group) and obedience (relief from the anxiety of making decisions) are seen as attributes young men cannot find in a family context. In the masculine social group there is no isolation. Once an individual has been accepted they are "in". And making an effort to fit in becomes the over-riding imperative.
8 The cult of manliness.
Manliness is related to looking and acting like a man. Manliness also implies having the strength to assume the role of social protector, able to defend the community (however that is defined by the social group) - not hiding from danger, not expressing fear. It also requires (and this is a key dividing point between masculine and non-masculine men) the idea that men are expendable and might need to sacrifice themselves to defend the social group.
9 The cult of sublimated nationalism.
George Mosse famously said that love of country was erotisised nationalism. The new masculinity can be described as nationalism without the nation (or with a highly exclusive definition of the nation, perhaps relating to the England football team). This form of nationalism is indistinguishable from male social bonding, and becomes an abstract arena in which young men who do not know each other experience a close fraternity.
10 The cult of hero worship.
With the increasing rejection by large numbers of young men of formal education we are seeing an increasing emphasis upon emulation of role models. Young men watch and interact with other young men to learn social roles. The objective appears to be the transformation of feelings of alienation into ecstatic feelings of community led by "heroic" figures.
11 The cult of performance and achievement.
Within the new masculinity individuals are expected to develop a strong ego and sense of self-confidence. The emphasis is upon performance and perfectionism, and is often associated with extreme behaviour. The new masculinity is above all related to security and survival, and all members of the social group are expected to contribute towards achieving this.
12 The cult of health.
Remaining absolutely healthy is an obsession of the new masculinity, although ironically the pursuit of health often results in counter-productive behaviour (the taking of steroids for instance). Diseased individuals are shunned. Extreme monotonous diets are often adopted.
13 The cult of competition.
The emerging new masculinity is hyper-competitive. Competition within social groups, competition between social groups, and competition with external forces (authority).
14 the cult of fraternity.
As we have seen, instead of a post-industrial masculinity emerging we are seeing the reassertion of a pre-industrial primeval autochonthus masculinity. At what point will this new masculinity go mainstream and be adopted by society and integrated within the wider collective fraternity? And what impact will it have on the rest of us?