Did you watch the finale of “Succession” on HBO this week? In that case, did the ultimate shot of Tom and Shiv of their automobile make you consider “Bargaining With Patriarchy,” Deniz Kandiyoti’s 1988 article that could be a foundational textual content of Indian feminist thought?
Me too! And never simply because “Bargaining With Patriarchy” would make a particularly literal three-word abstract of the complete collection. For whereas “Succession” was not overtly about the patriarchy, it’s unquestionably about a patriarchy.
“Succession,” for these unfamiliar, follows the exploits of the Roy household: literal patriarch Logan, an getting old media baron within the mould of Rupert Murdoch, and his grownup youngsters. A lot of the present’s plot was pushed by his son Kendall’s numerous failed efforts to dethrone or succeed him, a few of which roped in Kendall’s sister, Shiv, and/or his brother Roman.
Which brings me to Kandiyoti, the feminist theorist whose groundbreaking work is surprisingly useful for understanding at present’s HBO hit.
The “cut price” of her article’s title refers back to the aspect deal that patriarchal methods supply to ladies: If they assist defend males’s pursuits by serving their husbands and sons, and conforming to the conventions of propriety that defend their household’s repute, then they’ll additionally take pleasure in some privileges — and even train restricted energy over different, less-fortunate ladies.
The normal cut price for a lot of Indian ladies, as an example, was that they wouldn’t personal their very own property or inherit household property, however can be supported by their husbands whereas younger and by sons in outdated age.
However the advantages of these bargains have been all the time contingent on ladies’s relationships to males, Kandiyoti wrote. Within the wake of a related man’s divorce, demise or estrangement, the protections and energy derived from him would crumble, with no assure that one other man would take his place.
(Now for the required warning: “Succession” spoilers seem under.)
One approach to view the occasions of “Succession” is because the story of Kendall’s tragic misapprehension of his place within the household underneath his father’s patriarchy. He thought that as a son — the “eldest boy,” as he yowled angrily (and incorrectly) within the remaining episode — he was set to inherit every little thing. However truly, in patriarchal phrases of energy and place although not precise gender, he was successfully as susceptible as a spouse or daughter trapped in Logan’s orbit.
It’s one of many oldest political tales on this planet: Somebody helps an oppressive system pondering that they’ll in the future be on prime, solely to find they’ve performed into the mechanisms of their very own oppression.
The Roy youngsters’s mistake was that they failed to understand that they solely loved privilege by way of Logan. If the youngsters performed by the foundations of that patriarchy, he granted them cash and sinecures and even generally authority over these outdoors the household.
But it surely was all depending on their relationship with him, which was horribly abusive. Over the course of 4 seasons, he insulted, belittled, manipulated, gaslit and even bodily attacked his youngsters. He managed their cash, undermined their relationships and demanded absolute loyalty. He lower off avenues of escape, promising them the world however by no means delivering it.
So not one of the youngsters had unbiased energy bases which may have come from, say, constructing their very own firms or from doing actual jobs inside their father’s empire. (Tellingly, the present hardly ever depicted the Roy children truly working for the Waystar Royco empire.) The patriarchal cut price was all they’d.
Kendall, particularly, had no expertise helpful to the remainder of the world. As he appropriately informed his sister when begging her to help his bid for C.E.O. within the remaining episode, he was a cog that had been made to suit just one machine. Besides that the machine in query was not, as he had thought, the Waystar Royco company. The machine was his relationship along with his dad. And that died with Logan.
That is the soiled secret of patriarchal methods, Kandiyoti wrote: As soon as ladies have been co-opted into giving up energy, they haven’t any capability to implement the discount that drew them into that state of affairs within the first place, particularly as soon as new males take management.
“For the era of girls caught in between,” she wrote, “this transformation might characterize real private tragedy, since they’ve paid the heavy value of an earlier patriarchal cut price, however aren’t capable of money in on its promised advantages.”
For Kendall, tragedy got here not solely when he misplaced out on the company energy he craved, but in addition when his siblings deserted him.
However maybe a lifetime of ambient misogyny meant that Shiv Roy, the one precise daughter of the household, was finest positioned to acknowledge that state of affairs for what it was. That would clarify why she in the end backed her husband as the brand new C.E.O.: On the final minute, she might have realized that her outdated patriarchal cut price was nugatory, however not like her brothers, she managed to strike a brand new one.