The Law of the Father? Patriarchy in the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism

By Mary Murray | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

From 'The Law of the Father' to 'capitalist fraternity'?

FROM 'THE LAW OF THE FATHER'…

'The Law of the Father', a term used by Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysts, 1 has been adapted by a number of feminist scholars to describe 'traditional' patriarchy, by which they mean the form of patriarchy prevalent in pre-capitalist societies. Carole Pateman uses it in this sense in her analysis of Sir Robert Filmer's work Patriarcha (1644), 2 a text written in defence of monarchical power in England. To what extent is it accurate to characterise forms of political power and office in feudal England as 'The Law of the Father'?

According to Peter Laslett,

The value of Patriarcha as a historical document consists primarily in its revelation of the strength and persistence…of… the patriarchal attitude to political problems. It was because of patriarchalism that Sir Robert Filmer was read…for in appealing to the power of the father and the relevance of the family to the state he touched the assumptions of his own readers and most of Locke's. 3

In opposition to the contract theorists' assertion and defence of the rights and liberty of sons, Filmer upholds the political right of fathers. To uphold the right of kingship Filmer invokes Divine Will coupled with the age differentials which underpinned the law of primogeniture. All title to rule originated in the divine grant of kingly right to Adam. Adam was the first father, and political right derives from fatherhood. The historical development of nation states was seen by Filmer as a process of descent from Adam, the first father and supreme patriarch, who divided

-77-

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The Law of the Father? Patriarchy in the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Debate 6
  • Chapter 2 - A Way Forward 29
  • Chapter 3 - Marxism and the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism 42
  • Chapter 4 - Property and Patriarchy 57
  • Chapter 5 - From 'the Law of the Father' to 'Capitalist Fraternity'? 77
  • Chapter 6 - Sisters, Daughters and Subordinate Wives 99
  • Chapter 7 - Women as Property 111
  • Conclusion 123
  • Notes 129
  • Index 153
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