Global history records an astonishing variety of forms of social organization. Yet almost universally, males subordinate females. How does the relationship between men and women shape the wider political order? Valerie M. Hudson
, Donna Lee Bowen
, and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen
's new book The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide
(Columbia University Press, 2020) is a groundbreaking demonstration that the persistent and systematic subordination of women underlies all other institutions, with wide-ranging implications for global security and development.
Incorporating research findings spanning a variety of social science disciplines and comprehensive empirical data detailing the status of women around the globe, the book shows that female subordination functions almost as a curse upon nations. A society’s choice to subjugate women has significant negative consequences: worse governance, worse conflict, worse stability, worse economic performance, worse food security, worse health, worse demographic problems, worse environmental protection, and worse social progress. Yet despite the pervasive power of social and political structures that subordinate women, history—and the data—reveal possibilities for progress.
The First Political Order
shows that when steps are taken to reduce the hold of inequitable laws, customs, and practices, outcomes for all improve. It offers a new paradigm for understanding insecurity, instability, autocracy, and violence, explaining what the international community can do now to promote more equitable relations between men and women and, thereby, security and peace. With comprehensive empirical evidence of the wide-ranging harm of subjugating women, it is an important book for security scholars, social scientists, policy makers, historians, and advocates for women worldwide.
Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.