on 29 June 2009
Engels wrote this book in 1884 - a year after the death of his longterm partner, Marx. It was influenced by some of Marx`s own writings - an example of the lively exchange of ideas between the two, and research published by an anthropologist of the time, Lewis H Morgan, contained in "Ancient Society".
Engels goes through the major epochs of man and woman`s coexistence from the time of 'Savagery' through 'Barbarism' to the epoch of 'Civilization', describing how woman`s role has changed due to economic developments - the rise of capitalism and the impact on society, in particular, women`s role and rights. For this, Engels turns to research conducted on American indians and other tribes, as well as tracing the history of the Athenian state, Rome and the German tribes.
It is quite a wideranging book in the subjects covered - touching upon the history of social relationships - the economic ascent of man and fall of woman, sex, social anthropology et al. It is also no wonder that this book attracts warm compliments from feminists with: "The overthrow of mother right was the world historic defeat of the female sex. The man seized the reins in the house also; the woman was degraded, enthralled, the slave of the man`s lust, a mere instrument for breeding children. The lowered position of women has become gradually embellished and dissembled and, in part, clothed in a milder form, but by no means abolished". Or: "The first division of labor is that between man and woman for child breeding".
But this is not all, Engels also touches on environmental issues towards the end of the book - he has already spotted the reverse side of unbridled economic development.
In addition, Engels lets loose his usual wry observations and humour - 'the principal industry of Verdun in the tenth century, that is, in the Holy Roman Empire,' he comments, 'was the manufacture of eunuchs, who were exported with great profit to Spain for the harems of the Moors.'
This is a thought provoking and entertaining work from a classic author.
on 6 January 2010
Whilst this is a crucial work upon which modern Marxist feminisms base themselves I believe that the central argument, viz. that there existed a utopian state of nature in which matriarchy was the organizing force of society, is ultimately flawed and serves only as a distraction on our ongoing quest towards creating a better working society. Let us look not towards a past about which we can never be certain but rather towards a future which we are free to shape as we wish!
on 18 February 2005
This book, although based on several others, tell us much about the origins of our matrimonial bonds and relations. It should be read by those who truly wish to know how our society was born. Many people tend to dislike marx and engels ideas because of "recent" events in russia(urss). Very good stuff. 5 stars