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

By Mary Murray | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

The debate

This chapter comprises an analysis of the class-patriarchy debate. The debate dominated much feminist discussion during the 1970s and well into the 1980s. But it has never been satisfactorily resolved. It is a debate which can ultimately only be resolved empirically and historically. The purpose of this chapter however is to outline the theoretical debate within which class and patriarchal relations have been analysed.

The structure of the chapter is as follows. Initially, the ways in which theorists have understood the concept of 'patriarchy' will be considered. The chapter will then examine what the various theorists consider to be the root causes of women's oppression. Finally, the extent to which and ways in which the various theorists view the articulation of patriarchal relations with class relations will be analysed. Throughout, it will be demonstrated that the various accounts are fundamentally flawed in both historical and analytical terms.


THE CONCEPT OF PATRIARCHY

In 'The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State', Engels refers to patriarchy as a form of the family whose essential features were the incorporation of bondsmen, and power vested in the paternal head of the family. 1 Similarly in The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels refer to 'the little workshop of the patriarchal master'. 2 Here patriarchy is understood as a social relation of domestic production.

However, we can see that the definition of patriarchy advanced by Marx and Engels is a limited one. Patriarchy refers to the system under pre-capitalist modes of production, in which the

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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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