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

By Mary Murray | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

A way forward

THE CLASS-PATRIARCHY RELATIONSHIP

In this book I intend to develop a unified system analysis of the class-patriarchy relationship. I shall analyse class and patriarchy as part of a single historical process. I shall begin with what I believe was Marx's perception of social reality. For Marx, social reality was a complex network of internal relations, single elements which are only what they are by virtue of their relationship to other elements. 1 For example, neither wage labour nor capital can be defined without reference to each other. The existence of a class of wage labourers can only be understood by reference to a class of capitalists; the social categories of wage labour and capital actually imply each other. It will be my argument that the class-patriarchy relationship for the period of English history covered in this study was of this kind: that the social relationships of class and patriarchy contained each other; that neither would have taken the form it did without the other; that it is impossible to understand class or patriarchy during this period as independent, atomistic entities related only contingently; that class and patriarchy were integral parts of a single historical process. Once this is grasped, it should become clear that questions about primacy and autonomy-questions which have dogged the structural debate about class and patriarchy-are in fact misplaced. An internal relations perspective is very different from 'traditional historical materialism'-a version of Marxism which has been adopted by many since the Second International. 2 In my view, this version of historical materialism-already widely confuted on various other grounds-also fails when Marxism's potential to become a gendered system of analysis is recognised.

-29-

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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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