Beyond Patriarchy

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“Historically, human families have often been oppressive and exploitative institutions, in a way that animal families do not seem to be. The purest example of this is the Roman family, in which the male head of household (the paterfamilias) was legally entitled to put his wife and children (even grown children) to death. This aspect of family relationships is called patriarchy (‘father-rule’), signifying the subordination of wives to husbands and of children to parents. Those who defend patriarchy as ‘natural’ often point to the animal kingdom as a model; but traditionally, parental authority and sexual inequality have been far more pronounced in human societies than in most animal societies. Recent political developments — springing in part from the libertarian urge to subordinate patriarchal authority to individual rights, and in part from the welfare-liberal urge to subordinate patriarchal authority to that of the state — have weakened the institution of patriarchy, but not eliminated it entirely. . . How might families in a truly free society develop beyond this patriarchal paradigm?

“The family is an institution of paramount value and importance, both in its own right and as a bulwark against the encroachments of the state. The family has often served as a sphere of oppression and exploitation, thanks to the tradition of patriarchy, in which women are unjustly subordinated to men, and children are unjustly subordinated to parents. The proper libertarian response to both concerns is to see how, consistent with our anti-interventionist principles, we can foster a family structure free of patriarchal influence. . . .”

Introduced June 2014.

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