HOME
        TheInfoList






The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State: in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan (German: Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats) is an 1884 historical materialist treatise by Friedrich Engels. It is partially based on notes by Karl Marx to Lewis H. Morgan's book Ancient Society (1877). The book is an early anthropological work and is regarded as one of the first major works on family economics.

Publication history

Background

Following the death of his friend and co-thinker Karl Marx in 1883, Friedrich Engels served as his literary executor, actively organizing and preparing for publication various writings of his scholarly friend. This activity, while time consuming, did not fully occupy Engels' available hours, however, and he managed to persevere reading and writing on topics of his own.

While his 1883 manuscript Dialectics of Nature faltered, remaining uncompleted and unpublished, a greater success was achieved in the spring of 1884 with the writing and publication in Zurich of Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats: Im Anschluss an Lewis H. Morgan's Forschungen (The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State: in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan).

Writing of The Origin of the Family began early in April 1884, with the project completed on 26 May.[1] Engels began his work on the subject after reading Marx's handwritten synopsis of a book by pioneering anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan, Ancient Society; or, Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, Through Barbarism to Civilization, first published in London in 1877.[2] Engels believed it clear that Marx had intended upon a critical book-length treatment of the ideas first broached by Morgan and determined to produce such a manuscript as a means of fulfilling a literary behest of his late comrade.[2]

Engels was unflinching in acknowledging his motives, noting in the preface to the first edition that "Marx had reserved to himself the privilege of displaying the results of Morgan's investigations in connection with his own materialist conception of history", as the latter had "in a manner discovered anew" in America the theory originated by Marx decades before.[3]

Writing process

Engels' first inclination was to seek publication in Germany despite passage of the first of the Anti-Socialist Laws by the government of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. On April 26, 1884 Engels wrote a letter to his close political associate Karl Kautsky in which he noted that he sought to "play a trick on Bismarck" by writing something "that he would be positively unable to ban".[4] He felt this goal unrealizable owing to Morgan's discussions of the nature of monogamy and the relationship between private ownership of property and class struggle, however, these making it "absolutely impossible to couch in such a way as to comply with the Anti-Socialist Law".[5]

Engels viewed Morgan's findings as providing a "factual basis we have hitherto lacked" for a prehistory of contemporary class struggle.[5] He believed that it would be an important supplement to the theory of historical materialism for Morgan's ideas to be "thoroughly worked on, properly weighed up, and presented as a coherent whole".[5] This was to be the political intent behind his Origin of the Family project.

Work on the book was completed—with the exception of revisions upon the final chapter—on May 22, 1884, when the manuscript was dispatched to Eduard Bernstein in Zurich.[6] The final decision of whether to print the book in Stuttgart "under a false style", hiding Engels' forbidden name, or immediately without alteration in a Swiss edition, was deferred by Engels to Bernstein.[6] The latter course of action was chosen, with the book finding print early in October.[2]

Editions

Engels' first inclination was

While his 1883 manuscript Dialectics of Nature faltered, remaining uncompleted and unpublished, a greater success was achieved in the spring of 1884 with the writing and publication in Zurich of Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats: Im Anschluss an Lewis H. Morgan's Forschungen (The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State: in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan).

Writing of The Origin of the Family began early in April 1884, with the project completed on 26 May.[1] Engels began his work on the subject after reading Marx's handwritten synopsis of a book by pioneering anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan, Ancient Society; or, Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, Through Barbarism to Civilization, first published in London in 1877.[2] Engels believed it clear that Marx had intended upon a critical book-length treatment of the ideas first broached by Morgan and determined to produce such a manuscript as a means of fulfilling a literary behest of his late comrade.[2]

Engels was unflinching in acknowledging his motives, noting in the preface to the first edition that "Marx had reserved to himself the privilege of displaying the results of Morgan's investigations in connection with his own materialist conception of history", as the latter had "in a manner discovered anew" in America the theory originated by Marx decades before.[3]

Engels' first inclination was to seek publication in Germany despite passage of the first of the Anti-Socialist Laws by the government of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. On April 26, 1884 Engels wrote a letter to his close political associate Karl Kautsky in which he noted that he sought to "play a trick on Bismarck" by writing something "that he would be positively unable to ban".[4] He felt this goal unrealizable owing to Morgan's discussions of the nature of monogamy and the relationship between private ownership of property and class struggle, however, these making it "absolutely impossible to couch in such a way as to comply with the Anti-Socialist Law".[5]

Engels viewed Morgan's findings as providing a "factual basis we have hitherto lacked" for a prehistory of contemporary class struggle.[5] He believed that it would be an important supplement to the theory of [5] He believed that it would be an important supplement to the theory of historical materialism for Morgan's ideas to be "thoroughly worked on, properly weighed up, and presented as a coherent whole".[5] This was to be the political intent behind his Origin of the Family project.

Work on the book was completed—with the exception of revisions upon the final chapter—on May 22, 1884, when the manuscript was dispatched to Eduard Bernstein in Zurich.[6] The final decision of whether to print the book in Stuttgart "under a false style", hiding Engels' forbidden name, or immediately without alteration in a Swiss edition, was deferred by Engels to Bernstein.[6] The latter course of action was chosen, with the book finding print early in October.[2]

The first edition of Der Ursprung der Familie appeared in Zurich in October 1884, with the possibility of German publication forestalled by Bismarck's Anti-Socialist Law.[2] Two subsequent German editions, each following the first Zurich edition exactly, were published in Stuttgart in 1886 and 1889.[2]

The book was translated into a number of European languages and published during the decade of the 1880s, including Polish, Romanian, Italian, Danish, and Serbian.[2]

Changes to the text were made by Engels for a fourth German language edition, published in 1891, with an effort made to incorporate contemporary findings in the fields of anthropology and ethnography into the work.[2]

The first English language edition did not appear until 1902,[2] when Charles H. Kerr commissioned Ernest Untermann to produce a translation f

The book was translated into a number of European languages and published during the decade of the 1880s, including Polish, Romanian, Italian, Danish, and Serbian.[2]

Changes to the text were made by Engels for a fourth German language edition, published in 1891, with an effort made to incorporate contemporary findings in the fields of anthropology and ethnography into the work.[2]

The first English language edition did not appear until 1902,[2] when Charles H. Kerr commissioned Ernest Untermann to produce a translation for the "Standard Socialist Series" of popularly priced pocket editions produced by his Charles H. Kerr & Co. of Chicago. The work was extensively reprinted throughout the 20th and into the 21st Centuries and is regarded as one of Engels' seminal works.[2]

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State begins with an extensive discussion of Ancient Society which describes the major stages of human development as commonly understood in Engels' time. It is argued that the first domestic institution in human history was not the patriarchal nuclear family but the matrilineal clan. Engels here follows Lewis H. Morgan's thesis as outlined in his major book, Ancient Society. Morgan was a pioneering American anthropologist and business lawyer who championed the land rights of Native Americans and became adopted as an honorary member of the Seneca Iroquois tribe. Traditionally, the Iroquois had lived in communal longhouses based on matrilineal descent and matrilocal residence, an arrangement giving women much solidarity and power. Writing shortly after Marx’s death, Engels stressed the theoretical significance of Morgan’s highlighting of the matrilineal clan:

The rediscovery of the original mother-right gens as the stage preliminary to the father-right gens of the civilized peoples has the same significance for the history of primitive society as Darwin’s theory of evolution has for biology, and Marx’s theory of surplus value for political economy.

— Engels, Friedrich (1884). "Preface to the Fourth Edition". The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Ne

The rediscovery of the original mother-right gens as the stage preliminary to the father-right gens of the civilized peoples has the same significance for the history of primitive society as Darwin’s theory of evolution has for biology, and Marx’s theory of surplus value for political economy.

— Engels, Friedrich (1884). "Preface to the Fourth Edition". The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. New York: Pathfinder Press. pp. 27–38, the quotation is on p

Primitive communism, according to both Morgan and Engels, was based in the matrilineal clan where women lived with their classificatory sisters – applying the principle that "my sister’s child is my child". Because they lived and worked together, women in these communal households felt strong bonds of solidarity with one another, enabling them when necessary to take action against uncooperative males. Engels cites this passage from a letter to Morgan written by a missionary who had lived for many years among the Seneca Iroquois,

As to their family system, when occupying the old long-houses, it is probable that some one clan predominated, the women taking in husbands, however, from the other clans; and sometimes, for a novelty, some of their sons bringing in their young wives until they felt brave enough to leave their mothers. Usually, the female portion ruled the house, and were doubtless clannish enough about it. The stores were held in common; but woe to the luckless husband or lover who was too shiftless to do his share of the providing. No matter how many children, or whatever goods he might have in the house, he might at any time be ordered to pack up his blanket and budge; and after such orders it would not be healthful for him to attempt to disobey. The house would be too hot for him; and, unless saved by the intercession of some aunt or grandmother, he must retreat to his own clan; or, as was often done, go and start a new matrimonial alliance in some other. The women were the great power among the clans, as everywhere else. They did not hesitate, when occasion required, to "knock off the horns", as it was technically called, from the head of a chief, and send him back to the ranks of the warriors. The original nomination of the chiefs also always rested with them.

— Morgan, Lewis H. (1877). Ancient Society. London: Macmillan. p. 455.

According to Morgan, the rise of alienable property disempowered women by triggering a switch to patrilocal residence and patrilineal descent:

It thus reversed the position of the wife and mother in the household; she was of a different gens from her children, as well as her husband; and under monogamy was now isolated from her gentile kindred, living in the separate and exclusive house of her husband. Her new condition tended to subvert and destroy that power and influence which descent in the female line and the joint-tenement houses had created.

—