Re: What Matriarchy?

Gerold Firl (
2 Aug 1996 19:52:28 GMT

In article <>, (Paul Connelly) writes:

|> In article <>, (Larry
|> Caldwell) wrote:

|> > At the moment women have more political power than ever before in
|> > history, and probably pre-history too. You certainly can't call
|> > modern society a matriarchate as a whole, though there are areas
|> > where men don't have much influence.

|> Maybe the issue is, does every type of society have to be an "-archy"
|> of one sort or another? Have any historical societies not been some
|> sort of "-archy"?

It's a question of organizational complexity. For very small societies
there is no need for rulers. "From each according to his abilities, to
each according to his need" (where half of "him" are female) is a
practical means of organizing the economy of a hunter-gather troup of
25 people. It's run more like a family than a state or tribe. But when
population increases to the point where resource exploitation must be
regulated, and balance-of-power issues with neighboring peoples must be
considered, then some form of coordinating organization becomes
beneficial. Someone has to make decisions on behalf of the group, and
some means of ensuring complience will be necessary to prevent some
people from shirking their responsibilities towards group welfare - or,
to ensure that an exploitative coterie is able to extract a
disproportionate share of group resources.

If warfare is a part of the social environment, that will be a strong
bias toward male leadership. If the activities of one of the sexes
produces a preponderance of wealth or valuable resources, then that
will be a bias towards political power for that gender. For instance,
when a hunter-gather people makes the transition to agriculture, that
can result in a boost for female power, since women tend to phase into
farming from their gathering role. It does appear however that men will
then gravitate towards the high-status economic roles, as seen in
medieval europe when the ascendancy of the cloth making industry
brought an influx of men into the trade, while women moved into the
lower paying tasks such as spinning the raw wool into yarn. Thus we get
fluctuations in the balance of power between men and women, with a bias
towards patriarchy.

A previous poster mentioned the importance of the fact that women tend
to marry up, looking for higher status men. That looks like a good
example of how a biological component of human nature (the desire of
women to consort with higher status men) molds our social structure; if
every woman wants to marry a higher status man, then there must be
group status-shift in favor of men (assuming no polygyny, of course).
Only by systematically offsetting male status above female status can
we assure that each woman will not be forced to accept a lower status

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf