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

By Mary Murray | Go to book overview
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Conclusion

This book has been about the structural relationship between class and patriarchy, a relationship much debated but never satisfactorily resolved within the literature.

I have analysed class and patriarchy as interdependent factors within a single historical process. I have advanced the position that if social reality is perceived (as Marx in fact perceived it) as a complex network of internal relations within which any single element is what it is only by virtue of its relation to others-a dialectical rather than an atomistic perception of social reality-then the question as to which of the two axes of social division has primacy is revealed as a misplaced one.

Just as the concepts of labour and capital contain each otherneither category can be defined without reference to the otherso, for the period of English history addressed in this study, do the categories of class and patriarchy contain each other. It is my argument that class and patriarchy have been organically rather than accidentally or contingently related. Because class and patriarchy have been organically connected we cannot draw hard-and-fast boundaries around them. The relationship between them has been a symbiotic one.

We have been able to identify patriarchal relations in Anglo-Saxon society, and feudal and capitalist England. Indeed each of those societies has been constructed through patriarchal relations. The principle and practice of primogeniture, which had begun to emerge in the Anglo-Saxon period and remained the law of England until 1925, 1 is a key example of this. Primogeniture enforced male domination, and facilitated the consolidation of property crucial to class power. In England class relations cannot be understood without reference to patriarchy. Anglo-Saxon,

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