Like a Wheel Within a Wheel: The Kyriarchy Economy

Kyriarchy is a way of understanding the interwoven systems of oppression and hierarchy – those of patriarchy, classism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and ableism. It is one – albeit shortened – way to understand how solidarity can happen under such varied and disparate circumstances among people who are not supposed to get each other, let alone work together to dismantle specific oppressions. If the main tool of patriarchy is misogyny, though, I’d like to suggest that a main tool of and reason for (its MacGuffin, so to say) kyriarchy may be the economy – as it largely has existed, but particularly through capitalism. And a main tool of and reason for most economies is, in turn, the kyriarchy.

To not recognize that the capitalist economy and kyriarchy need and feed each other is to not recognize how either capitalism or kyriarchy exist and operate. It is to erase the impact and wealth that slavery, Jim Crow, and underpaid/unpaid domestic labor have been producing while managers and capitalists – those who have enough money to gamble on ventures and profit from those – are praised and rewarded for the work that others produce. Kyriarchy is both funded by and is skewed towards a warped economic reality in which those who work hardest and produce the most benefits have the least amount of wealth. Consider migrant harvesters and housewives – how would modern Western society survive without them?

Vintage Bank Vault

“Vintage Bank Vault” by Brook Ward via flickr

Of course the most obvious way this works – and yet still denied by much of the US – is that the closer one identifies with the kyriarchal ideal, the more capital one has – the more the economy favors that person. While not every white person is wealthy or even middle class, the more one is part of the predominant White, Middle & Upper Class, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Able-bodied and Psychologically Normed, Educated, and Male Elite structure, the more one has access to what Amaryah Shaye recently configured as “inheritances” – the more capital one has access to. This capital comes in monetary form (inherited wealth and the things one can do with that), educational form (not just blanket “education” as something to be picked up, but as a way of knowing how to respond in a specific culture and among a specific people who can get you nice things and as a way of presenting that culture and your work within that culture as being of utter value even though its real-world equivalence is pushing around numbers and may actually have negative influence upon the world), social form (knowing who is who and knowing the who’s who through familial relations), and even ethnic and racial capital. It is easier to gain trust with the Powers That Be if you were to talk like and look like and write like them.

The system works to keep the system – and the elites – in place. And those elites look a lot like those who show up as members of Congress and the Supreme Court and in the Oval Office, as political pundits, as board members of not only huge multinational corporations but also the non-profits they help fund, as Christian conference speakers, as history writers, as managers, as megachurch pastors, as police, as – yes – those who teach our children. They are the brokers and gatekeepers of the kyriarchy. The various institutions which they populate have as their primary function the guarding of the kyriarchy of which they are members.

We can see how Western Economies (all capitalist, whether large-scale capitalist like libertarian USA or small-scale capitalist like the social democracies of Northern Europe) have benefited from and are benefiting from what Andrea Smith calls the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Slave logic (via anti-Blackness), Genocide land-grabbing (anti-indigenous), and War (anti-Asian/Middle Eastern Orientalism). In the US, we recognize it as the land of Indian Country fueled by the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement and perennial lower-class-ness of Black people, and the perpetual wars in Those Countries of Orientalism to provide the fuel to continue the system of perpetual capitalism. The capital made from the land and bodies of the enslaved and disappeared, Smith argues, in turn, funds the perpetual state of war that the US is in. It’s a cyclical machine of economic enslavement. IOW, kyriarchy economy.

The kyriarchy economy needs heteropatriarchy in order to survive and has created this myth of the Nuclear Family in order to fuel its endless consumptive consumerism. It needs the families to stay intact so it makes it harder for women to survive apart from a male partner, and uses children (as bait/anchors), the church, and even extended families to prevent this dismantling, even in the face of severe physical violence and psychological abuse. This is how much it needs the future consumers that are children and the free labor that is provided by many women in these situations.

When the number of consumerist 1 Mom 2.5 Kids 1 Dad-To-Rule-Them-All Families started dying out, the Kyriarchy Economy stretches its borders to include middle class same sex marriages, but under the same auspices (Now you can have 2 Dads or 2 Moms with options to adopt). Not that this is a bad choice. People should have the option to join in or opt out as they choose. But notice how few rally around the cause of homeless LGBTQ youth, or trans rights in the workplace or public place. But Pride parades are increasingly being heteronormatified in order to be more open for Coca Cola and Target advertisements, even as leather pants are being erased.

However, this isn’t to say that kyriarchy only works in capitalism, but that capitalism is where we best see it exemplified. Many socialists and communists here in the States erase and ignore the plight of people of color, feminists, and other oppressed peoples, telling them that once the capitalist system is overthrown, then true equity will flow. But that is striving for an equality without justice, a racial and sexual hegemony without recognizing the present social realities that exist when brocialists try to take over pro-black solidarity rallies by erasing racial injustice and grievances from POC. They are instituting their own kyriarchy in a system they haven’t even realized and wondering why so few will join their cause. Precisely for the very reason that it is their cause and others are not welcomed.

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