Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the father is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children and property.

Historically, the principle of patriarchy has been basic to the social, legal, political and economic organization in Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese cultures, and has had a deep influence on most aspects of modern civilization.[1]

In feminist theory the concept patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduces and exerts male dominance over women.



[edit] Etymology and related terms

See also: Patriarch

The term patriarch means the father or chief of a clan. It is also used in Christianity as an official title, and derives from the Greek patriárchēs (πατριάρχης) via the Latin patriarcha. [2]

“Names of Christian dignitaries were in early days taken sometimes from civil life (episkopos, diakonos), sometimes borrowed from the Jews (presbyteros). The name patriarch is one of the latter class. Bishops of special dignity were called patriarchs just as deacons were called levites, because their place corresponded by analogy to those in the Old Law. All such titles became official titles, only gradually. At first they were used loosely as names of honour without any strict connotation; but in all such cases the reality existed before any special name was used.”[2]

A patriarch is one of the scriptural fathers of the Hebrew people, a man who is father or founder, or a man who is head of a patriarchy. The official title of Patriarch refers to any of the ancient or Eastern Orthodox Sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, or of the ancient and Western Sees of Rome with authority over other bishops. It also refers to the head of any of various eastern churches or a Roman Catholic bishop. Finally, it could refer to a Mormon of the Melchizedek priesthood.[3]

A patriarchate is the jurisdiction of a patriarch.[4]

Within feminist theory, patriarchy refers to the structure of modern cultural and political systems, which are ruled by men. Such systems are said to be detrimental to the rights of women. However, it has been noted that patriarchal systems of government do not benefit all men of all classes.[5]

While the term patriarchy generally refers to institutions, the term is sometimes used less effectively in describing societal attitudes. It has been argued, "institutions are very persistent and may last, with little change, into a period in which attitudes have altered considerably since the institutions were devised." Gordon Rattray Taylor used the words "patrist" and "matrist" to describe attitudes (as opposed to institutions), and noted that the outlook of the dominant social group seems to swing between the two extremes. However, the patrist assertion that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization, invariably leads to the establishment of corresponding institutions.[6]

[edit] History

In the 3rd Century BCE, Aristotle taught that the city-state developed out of the patriarchal family, although he thought the two were different in kind as well as in scale.[7] He wrote that the highest form of human community is the political community. In the Politics, Aristotle attempts to illustrate the nature of the hierarchies that exist in the political community and its subordinate communities. He argues for an origin of male rule. In Chapter Thirteen he states that men and women have different kinds of virtue, “just as those who are natural subjects differ (from those who rule by nature.)” Other types of community, such as the household, are subordinate and inferior to the polis. Aristotle proposed that the household is subordinate to the political community because the aim of life in the household is the mere preservation of life, or the satisfaction of life's daily needs, whereas the aim of membership in the political community is to live well. He also proposed that the household is inferior to the political community in the character of its rule. In the household, the man rules by virtue of his age and sex, monarchically at best and tyrannically at worst, while in the polis, citizens choose their rulers on the basis of merit.[8]

Other ancient societies contemporary with Aristotle, as well as many Athenians, did not share these views of women, family organization, or political and economic structure.[9] Egypt left no philosophical record, but Herodotus left a record of his shock at the contrast between the roles of Egyptian women and the women of Athens. He observed that they attended market and were employed in trade. In ancient Egypt a middle-class woman might sit on a local tribunal, engage in real estate transactions, and inherit or bequeath property. Women also secured loans, and witnessed legal documents. Greek influence spread, however, with the conquests of Alexander the Great, who was educated by Aristotle.[10] Eventually, when Alexander wanted to unite his two empires in equality, Aristotle was adamant that all non-Greeks should be enslaved.[11]

From the time of Martin Luther, Protestantism regularly used the commandment in Exodus 20:12 to justify the duties owed to all superiors. ‘Honor thy father,’ became a euphemism for the duty to obey the king. But it was primarily as a secular doctrine that Aristotle’s appeal took on political meaning. Although many 16th and 17th Century theorists agreed with Aristotle’s views concerning the place of women in society, none of them tried to prove political obligation on the basis of the patriarchal family until sometime after 1680. The patriarchal political theory is associated primarily with Sir Robert Filmer. Sometime before 1653, Filmer completed a work entitled Patriarcha. However, it was not published until after his death. In it, he defended the divine right of kings as having title inherited from Adam, the first man of the human race, according to Judeo-Christian tradition.[12]

In the 19th Century, Sarah Grimke dared to question the divine origin of the scriptures. Later, Elizabeth Cady Stanton used Grimke’s criticism of biblical sources to establish a basis for feminist thought. She published The Woman's Bible, which proposed a feminist reading of the Old and New Testament. This tendency was enlarged by Feminist theory, which denounced the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition.[13]

By 1673, François Poullain de la Barre, "On the Equality of the Two Sexes", had turned feminism into a systematic Enlightenment philosophy (as opposed to the previous Renaissance feminism).[14] However, in 1861, Johann Jakob Bachofen, a German romantic and writer of the counter-Enlightenment said that matriarchy preceded patriarchy, and is superior to patriarchy on moral grounds. Bachofen influenced Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Marxist analysis has been a basis for subsequent feminist thought.[15] From the beginning, socialist feminists in France, for example, were challenged by the republic, which "oppressed them as workers and women; by Marxism, which ignores gender; and by the misogyny of their socialist brothers. This struggle continues within all parties of the left."[14]

Some 19th-century scholars formulated a unilinear theory of cultural evolution.