Gender Structuring of Contemporary Slovenia

by Milica Antić Gaber (Volume editor)
©2015 Monographs 224 Pages


This volume offers a new view on gender structuring in contemporary Slovenia and the persistence of the gender order – produced and reproduced through gender regimes in education, work, family life and politics. With a focus on the low presence of women in politics, the study analyses empirical data, mapping structural changes, delays of changes and the persistence of existing social structures over several decades. It appears that the choices individuals make in their lives are made in a specific social context of structural opportunities and obstacles. As such, gender difference is first socially produced and later universally used for justification of that stratification.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Part I: Gender and Social Structure
  • The Structuring of Slovenian Society and Gender as the Structured and the Structuring Structure
  • Contemporary Slovenian Society and its Rationalities
  • Part II: Education and the Position of Women in Slovenian Society
  • The Influence of Changes in the Field of Education on the Position of Women in Slovenian Society and Politics
  • The Influence of the Dynamics of Higher Education on the Gender Structure
  • Part III: Women Entering Politics: Structural Opportunities and Barriers
  • Institutions and Mechanisms of the Reproduction of Gender Order in the Fields of the Family and Politics
  • Paid Work, Prestige Professions and Politics
  • Women, Politics and the Value Orientations of Contemporary Slovenian Society
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices
  • Index
  • About the authors

Part I
Gender and Social Structure

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Milica Antić Gaber

The Structuring of Slovenian Society and Gender as the Structured and the Structuring Structure

Readdressing the question of how (contemporary) societies are structured (producing and reproducing the existing relations) and how they change, we cannot but reflect on the almost eternal sociological questions and dilemmas, such as: Which is more important, structure or action, supra-individual complex units or agents? Who conditions whom? Do structures establish the conditions for individuals’ actions or do individuals create structures through their actions? Those who have addressed these issues have tended to place themselves on one or the other side of these dilemmas. Amongst those who have attempted to overcome these “apparent dilemmas” is Anthony Giddens, who says: “structure is ‘subject-less’. […] structuration, as the reproduction of practices, refers abstractly to the dynamic process whereby structures come into being. By the duality of structure I mean that social structure is both constituted by human agency and yet is at the same time the very medium of this constitution” (1993, 128–129.).

We could, therefore, say that structures have been formed throughout history and are accordingly constructed and persistent, representing the framework of their agents; on the other hand, they are, as Marx would put it, created by individuals and groups acting in specific situations and circumstances that they have not themselves chosen. As such, structures are subjected to change and are changing; or, in the words of Pierre Bourdieu: “Through the economic and social necessity that they bring to bear on the relatively autonomous world of the domestic economy and family relations, or more precisely, through the specifically familial manifestations of this external necessity (forms of the division of labour between the sexes, household objects, modes of consumption, parent-child relations, etc.), the structures characterizing a determinate class of conditions of existence produce the structures of the habitus, which in their turn are the basis of the perception and appreciation of all subsequent experiences” (1990, 54). As structured structures, they are strong, resistant and rigid, while at the same time being vulnerable and prone to change. They are diverse in the different moments of history, and vary in their susceptibility to persistence and change. This applies not only to class structures coming into being and changing throughout history, ← 9 | 10 → but also to other important structures, such as economic, racial, gender-related, national, political, etc.

Referring to social structures, Bourdieu states, amongst other things, “on the one hand, the objective structures that the sociologist constructs, in the objectivist moment, by setting aside the subjective representations of the agents, form the basis for these representations and constitute the structural constraints that bear upon interactions; but, on the other hand, these representations must also be taken into consideration, particularly if one wants to account for the daily struggles, individual and collective, which purport to transform or to preserve these structures. This means that the two moments, the objectivist and the subjectivist, stand in a dialectical relationship” (1989, 15).

For a proper understanding of the structuring of society, Bourdieu’s conception of the social world, which he defines as consisting of numerous microcosmoses or fields (religious, educational, sporting, political, academic, etc.), is also significant. Each field is positioned in relation to the other fields. In the present discussion, we focus on the following fields: education, work, the private sphere (family) and politics. We will attempt to answer the question as to how women (and men) position themselves in these fields and what happens in the process of passing between them. The fields are relatively delineated and autonomous, with the individuals and groups in them acting as agents who compete for positions in these fields (cf. Bourdieu, 2004b, 73–77; Bourdieu, 1984/2002, 226; Warde, 2004). This struggle and its results are affected by differences in the form and quantity of the capitals (economic, cultural, social, symbolic) that these agents possess.

Thus, if each person occupies a specific position in the social structure and/or in a given field, it could be useful to adopt the view that this position is historically generated. It is of utmost significance that we partake in enabling a diverse range of impulses to form various capitals as early as in the family. We are each born into a particular social setting, with precisely determined amounts of various capitals that either encourage or restrict our possibilities to obtain and transmit different types of capital. For the purposes of the present discussion, it is important that “to be born into the female gender” brings different possibilities to increase the amounts of the various capitals and greater restrictions in augmenting the most desired capitals compared to being born as a male (Skeggs, 2002, 9).

In fact, it is the positioning in the fields and the possibilities of obtaining and transmitting capitals from one field to another that will be the object of our investigation. The formations and conversions, transformations and transmissions of ← 10 | 11 → various types of capital do not occur without remainders nor without blockages. Amongst other things, our focus of interest will be on where and why these losses (especially amongst women) take place and what affects them.

According to Bourdieu, fields require a relational mode of thinking (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992, 96). In this sense, we can define them as a network, a flexible configuration of objective relations between positions. Positions, in turn, are defined by the existing or potential situations in the structure of the distribution of the various types of capital. Access to the special profits available in the field determines the possession of capitals as well as the relationship to other positions (dominant, subordinate, similar) in the field (ibid., 97). The distribution of power between the agents of the field determines the structure of the field, while this is also determined by the structure of the distribution of capitals, i.e., the relations between the agents in the field (Bourdieu, 2004b, 75). The quantity and structure of capitals change in time, as a result of life trajectories and the dispositions (habitus) of the agents. There is a dominant agent in the field “that occupies a position in the structure such that the structure works to its advantage” (Bourdieu, 2004b, 75).

As previously indicated, a field is always a stage for the struggles taking place to preserve, reconfigure or even radically change the power within it. As a structure of objective relations between the positions of power, a field supports and directs the strategies adopted by those who hold positions and seek (individually or collectively) to protect or improve the principles of hierarchical organisation that suit them, and to impose these principles on others. The strategies adopted and performed by the agents depend on their position in the field, on the distribution of specific capitals and on perceptions of the specific field as well as its relation to other fields. The agents shape their own perspective with regard to their position in the field (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992, 101).

Discussing the social structure, the structuring of the social world and the power relations in given fields, we cannot, of course, ignore gender as an important structuring and structural element of the social world (Risman, 2004). Gender has turned out to be one of the strongest and most persistent and consistent structuring structures, and is consequently perceived and accepted as natural (Bourdieu, 2001, 8). As a result, as Bourdieu put it: “The strength of the masculine order is seen in the fact that it dispenses with justification: the androcentric vision imposes itself as neutral and has no need to spell itself out in discourses aimed at legitimating it” (ibid., 9).

Gender as a structure of social practice is also thematised by Raewyn Connell, who conceptualises gender “as a way in which social practice is ordered” (2005, 71) ← 11 | 12 → that is creative and inventive, that responds to particular situations and that is generated within definite structures of social relations (ibid., 72). Gender relations, claims Connell, form one of the major structures in this process. The structure generated as individuals and groups grapple with their historical situations relates to a social practice that does not consist of isolated acts. Actions are configured in larger units, and when we speak of “masculinity” and “femininity” we are actually speaking of “configuration of gender practice”, whereby the process of configuring practice has to be seen as a dynamic process and masculinities and femininities as a gender project. “These are processes of configuring practice through time, which transform their starting-points in gender structures” (ibid.).

Connell also determines that this gender shaping of practice is found at every level of social reality, but is most clearly seen in the individual’s life course (see also Berger and Luckmann, 1988), the basis of common-sense notions of masculinity and femininity. The configuration of practice, however, is also implemented at the level of the state and its institutions (the spheres of work, family, school, etc.). The latter are, therefore, decisively gendered (Connell, 2005, 73). Reading Bourdieu in parallel, one can add that the family, the Church and the school are the key authorities that have been objectively harmonised and whose common denominator has been the exertion of influence on the subconscious structures that have assisted in the reproduction of gender inequality (2001, 85).

In order to understand gender as structure, there are, to summarise Connell (2005, 73–75), three important fields: a) power relations in which women’s subordination and men’s dominance over women persist in spite of numerous cases of inverse situations in individual localities and despite many forms of resistance, including the feminist one; b) production relations, which are important precisely due to the gendered division of labour and men’s “dividend” deriving from it; this, however, not only concerns unequal pay but also the gendered process of capital accumulation, and it is therefore necessary to understand that large corporations or banks are run by men not as a consequence of a “fault in the system” but of socially constructed masculinity; and c) emotional relations, which are an equally important aspect of gender order, containing important practices affecting the shaping of desire, with regard to which questions arise as to whether these relations are “consensual or coercive, whether pleasure is equally given and received” (ibid,74). In the feminist analyses of sexuality, these questions are associated with the relation between heterosexuality and male domination, while, at the same time, we cannot overlook symbolism, culture and discourse. There is nothing outside discourse: society is a world of meanings, and that holds for gender as well. As it is, language is phallocentric (Lacan), which means that we ← 12 | 13 → are dealing with a symbolic order in which language is determined with a phallic emphasis, in a culture that has embodied “the law of the father” (Connell, 2009, 84). In order to surpass this, it is necessary to “escape known forms of language” (ibid.) and create new ones.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
gender (in)equality gender order gender regimes
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 224 pp., 51 tables, 1 graph

Biographical notes

Milica Antić Gaber (Volume editor)

Milica Antić Gaber is professor at the Department of Sociology at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and president of the Slovene Sociological Association. Her research interests are gender, politics, migrations, violence and the body.


Title: Gender Structuring of Contemporary Slovenia