It is remarkable how well much of this holds up. First published by Freiderich Engels in 1884 based upon the researches of Henry Louis Morgan who lived for 40 years, during the mid 19th century, with the Iroquois Native Americans of New York State and was adopted into the tribe of the Seneca, and upon notes of a similar subject by Karl Marx. This remains a definitive critique of patriarchy and explanation of its connection to the property relations of bourgeois society. Though these first communists may have underestimated the enduring role of faith and national culture and tradition in society. They missed the mark on very little else. A recommended read as I bring attention this week to the role of women in the movement for democracy in Bahrain.
Though not part of the political dialog at the time of its writing, the analysis is not inconsistent with current demands to recognize the personal rights of same sex partners, and Engels language regarding the “useless mire of divorce cases” sounds contemporary.
[Speaking of the possibility of a society to come after capitalism] But what will quite certainly disappear from monogamy are all the features stamped upon it through its origin in property relations; these are, in the first place, supremacy of the man, and, secondly, indissolubility. The supremacy of the man in marriage is the simple consequence of his economic supremacy, and with the abolition of the latter will disappear of itself. The indissolubility of marriage is partly a consequence of the economic situation in which monogamy arose, partly tradition from the period when the connection between this economic situation and monogamy was not yet fully understood and was carried to extremes under a religious form. Today it is already broken through at a thousand points. If only the marriage based on love is moral, then also only the marriage in which love continues. But the intense emotion of individual sex-love varies very much in duration from one individual to another, especially among men, and if affection definitely comes to an end or is supplanted by a new passionate love, separation is a benefit for both partners as well as for society – only people will then be spared having to wade through the useless mire of a divorce case.
What we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new? That will be answered when a new generation has grown up: a generation of men who never in their lives have known what it is to buy a woman’s surrender with money or any other social instrument of power; a generation of women who have never known what it is to give themselves to a man from any other considerations than real love, or to refuse to give themselves to their lover from fear of the economic consequences. When these people are in the world, they will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual – and that will be the end of it.