Engels' OFPPS, marxian/anthropology

Lisa Rogers eqwq.lrogers at email.state.ut.us
Tue Nov 28 19:03:26 MST 1995


Happy Birthday, Fred.  And Bill.

I begin by responding to Trotter's last comments about a century -
no, 10 days ago.

On "mother-right": Lisa is right (*recht*) to point out that this
term  implies not just matrilineality but matri_archy_... But Engels,
following Morgan, knew that  there was never a time when women ruled
in that sense.

L: Yes, E doesn't claim that some kind of female dominated
mirror-image of patriarchy ever existed.  I agree, there is no good
reason to think that.  One of the things that E emphasizes about
mother-right is that property passed through matrilines.  That is now
considered almost part of the meaning of "matrilineal", in addition
to several other things.
In matrilineal society, mothers alway get custody in case of divorce,
(which tends to be more common than in patriarchal ones.)  Of course,
those kids are members of the matrilineage [ML].  Also, ML women
usually live very near their female relatives.  The ML, like a
corporation, often holds land-use-rights over specific land in
perpetuity, while membership in the ML entitles one to be assigned
use-rights of a piece of that land.  Therefore, there is little
soc/economic pressure on a woman to stay "married", little or no
suffering for her and kids if she tosses him out.  Marriage is
"fluid" and informal.  Women and children are not dependent for
survival upon the whim of some "heroic" provider-male [shades of
anti-Gilder?] Uppity women unite!  Okay, back to Engels.

On Victorian prejudices: The English ethnologists that Marx cussed
took  for granted that patriarchy and the state were natural and
inevitable ...  Leacock, an anthropologist who edited the 1972
Internat'l Publishers  edition of FPPS... I guess anyone who was
alive  then couldn't fully escape the limitations of the time.

L:  Sure, but let me relate the Morgan vs. Brits divide to marxism.
Marx was interested because the Brit Soc Anthros were indeed claiming
antiquity and immortality for Family [patriarchal], Private Property
and other capitalist relations and the State.  Marx _loved_ Morgan's
stuff because Morgan opposed all of that and advocated a socialist
revolution:  "It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty,
equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes."

I think that the idea that FPP+S have not always been the same is
indeed a liberatory thought.  It's also good science/ history/
anthropology.

Gotta go, more tomorrow.



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