Theories of Matriarchy and Patriarchy
(see Matrism/Patrism Explained)
IN the last century, certain theories were put forward, and widely discussed, concerning the existence of matriarchal and patriarchal phases in the development of society. There is perhaps some danger that the theory outlined in this book may be regarded as simply a re-hash of these theories, with psychological trimmings, and it therefore seems advisable to draw attention to the differences. It may also be interesting to reassess these theories in the light of the knowledge we now have.
The most noticeable feature of these theories was their very sweeping character. They sought to postulate a pattern of development which would be true for every society: they constituted attempts to set up a theory of "social evolution" —an ambition obviously derived from the theories of biological evolution which were creating a sensation at the time.
Thus Sir Henry Maine maintained, in his Ancient Law(1861) that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization, matriarchal societies being an unstable and degraded form occurring only where women outnumbered men.
In contrast, Bachofen, in his Das Mutterrecht, published in the same year, maintained that matriarchy was the original primitive stage of culture, everywhere preceding patriarchy. There was also a further difference, for Maine postulated that the earliest social unit was the family; the family had existed before tribe or nation appeared, and these had been built up by uniting families into clans, clans into tribes, and so on.
Bachofen, on the other hand, postulated that before matriarchy there had been, in the history of each society, a state of sexual promiscuity, with no stable family life. Thus he saw each society as evolving through three phases, promiscuity, matriarchy, patriarchy, whereas Maine saw each society as evolving from a collection of isolated patriarchal families into a patriarchal tribe or nation, with matriarchy as a degenerate form.