Max Weber (1864-1920), General Economic History (Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1923), translated by Frank H. Knight, 1927.



(A) Forms of Appropriation

The forms of appropriation are quite as diverse as the forms of husbandry. The proprietorship everywhere vests originally in the house community; but this may be either the individual family, the zadruga of the South Slavs, or a still larger association, as for example that of the Iroquois long-house. Appropriation may be carried out on two different bases. Either the physical means of labor, especially the soil, are treated as implements, in which case they frequently appertain to the woman and her kindred; or, the land is treated as "spear land," territory which has been conquered and is protected by the man; in this case it belongs to an agnatic clan or some other masculine group. In any case purely economic considerations do not uniquely determine the form of primitive appropriation and division of labor, but military, religious, and magical motives also enter.

In the past the individual had to adjust himself to a plurality of organizations to which he belonged. The following are the types:

1. The Household. Its structure is diverse but it was always a consumption group. The physical means of production, especially movable goods, might also pertain to the house group. In that case appropriation might be carried farther within the group, the weapons and masculine accoutrements for example belonging to the man, with a special mode of inheritance, the articles of adornment and feminine accoutrements to the woman.

2. The Clan. This also may hold goods in varying degrees of proprietorship. It may own the land; in any case, the members of the clan regularly keep as a remnant of originally widely extended property rights certain claims against the possessions of the house community, such as the requirement for its consent in case of sale, or a prior option to purchase. Further, the clan is responsible for the security of the individual. To it pertains the duty of avenging, and of enforcing the law of vengeance. It also has a right to share in head money, and a joint proprietorship over the women belonging to the clan, hence, a share in bride purchase money. The clan may be masculine or feminine in constitution. If property and other rights pertain to a masculine clan we speak of paternal succession or agnation, otherwise of maternal or cognation.

3. Magic Groupings. The most important group is the totem clan which arose at a time when certain beliefs in animism and spiritual entities were dominant.

4. The Village and Mark Association, essentially economic in significance.

5. The Political Group. This organization protects the territory occupied by the village and consequently possesses extensive authority in connection with the settlement of the land. In addition it requires of the individual military and court services, giving him corresponding rights;1 it also enforces the feudal services and taxes.

The individual must also take into account under different conditions the following: 6. Overlordship of land, when the soil which he tills is not his own. 7. Personal overlordship when the individual is not free but is in bondage to another.

Every individual German peasant stood in the past in relation to an overlord of land and person, and to a political sovereign, one or more of whom had some claim to his services. Agricultural development took various forms according as these different persons were distinct or identical; in the former case, the rivalry of the different overlords favored the freedom of the peasant, while in the latter the trend was toward servility.

(B) The House Community and the Clan

Today the house community or family household is commonly a small-family, that is, a community of parents and children. It is based on legitimate marriage presumed to be permanent. The economic life of this small family is unitary in regard to consumption, and at least nominally distinct from the productive organization. Within the household all property right vests in the master of the house as an individual, but is limited in various ways in regard to the special belongings of the wife and children. Kinship is reckoned alike on the paternal and maternal sides, its significance being practically limited to the matter of inheritance. The concept of the clan in the old sense no longer survives; only rudiments of it can be recognized in the right of collateral inheritance, and even here there is a question as to the age and the history of these relations.2

The socialistic theory proceeds from the assumption of various evolutionary stages in the marriage institution. According to this view the original condition was one of spontaneous sex promiscuity within the horde (endogamy), corresponding to the complete absence of private property. Proof of this assumption is found in various alleged survivals of the original conditions: in religious institutions of an orgiastic character among primitive peoples, meat, alcohol, and narcotic orgies, in which the restraints upon sexual relations disappear; in freedom of sexual relations before marriage, for women as well as men, such as is found among various peoples; in the sexual promiscuity of the hieroduli of the ancient east who gave themselves indiscriminately to any man; finally, in the institution of the levirate found among the Israelites and in various places and involving the privilege and duty of the clan brother to marry the widow of a deceased man and provide him with heirs. In this arrangement is seen a remnant of primitive endogamy which is supposed to have become gradually narrowed down to a claim upon a particular individual.

The second evolutionary stage according to this socialistic theory is group marriage. Definite groups (clan or tribe) form a marriage unit in relation to other groups, any man of the one being regarded as the husband of any woman of the other. The argument rests on inference from the absence of terms for any kinship except that of father and mother among Indian peoples; at a certain age these terms are applied indiscriminately. Further evidence is drawn from isolated cases of marriage groups in the South Pacific Islands where a number of men possess simultaneous or successive sexual rights over a particular woman, or conversely a number of women over a particular man.

Socialistic theory considers the "mother right," (Mutterrecht) as a fundamental transition stage. According to the theory, at a time when the causal connection between the sexual act and birth was unknown, the house community consisted not of families but of mother-groups; only the maternal kinship had ritualistic or legal standing. This stage is inferred from the widespread institution of the "avunculate" in which her mother's brother is the woman's protector and her children inherit from him. The matriarchate was also regarded as a developmental stage. Under this arrangement, met with in various communities, the distinction of chieftainship was fixed exclusively in the woman, and she was the leader in economic affairs, especially those of the household community. From this condition it was supposed that the transition to father-right took place through the institution of marriage by capture. Beyond a certain stage, the ritualistic basis of promiscuity was condemned and exogamy displaced endogamy as a general principle, that is, sexual relations became restricted to persons in other groups, involving commonly the obtaining of the woman from these groups by violence. Out of this practice should have developed marriage by purchase. An argument for this course of development is found in the fact that even among many civilized peoples who have long since gone over to contractual marriage the marriage ceremonies still symbolize forcible abduction. Finally, the transition to patriarchal-law (Vaterrecht, father-right) and legitimate monogamy is in socialistic thinking connected with the origin of private property and the endeavor of the man to secure legitimate heirs. Herein takes place the great lapse into sin; from here on monogamous marriage and prostitution go hand in hand.

So much for the theory of mother-right and the socialistic doctrine based upon it. Although it is untenable in detail it forms, taken as a whole, a valuable contribution to the solution of the problem. Here again is the old truth exemplified that an ingenious error is more fruitful for science than stupid accuracy. A criticism of the theory leads to consideration first of the evolution of prostitution, in which connection, it goes without saying, no ethical evaluation is involved.

We understand by prostitution submission to sexual relations for a price, in order to secure a money income, and as a regular profession. In this sense prostitution is not a product of monogamy and private property, but is of immemorial age. There is no historical period and no stage of evolution in which it is not to be found. It is unusual in Mohammedan civilization and is absent among a few primitive peoples, but the institution itself and punishment for both homosexual and heterosexual prostitution are found among the very peoples pointed out by the socialistic theorists for the absence of private property. Always and everywhere the profession is segregated as a social class and generally given an outcast position, with exceptions in the case of sacerdotal prostitution. Between professional prostitution and the various forms of marriage may intervene all possible intermediate arrangements of permanent or occasional sexual relations, which are not necessarily condemned ethically or legally. While today a contract providing for sexual pleasure outside of marriage is void, turpi causa, in the Egypt of the Ptolemies there was sexual freedom of contract with enforceable exchange by the woman of sex gratification for sustenance, rights in estates, or other considerations.

Prostitution, however, not only appears in the form of an unregulated sexual submission but is also met with in the saeramentally regulated form of ritualistic prostitution, as for example, the hieroduli in India and the ancient east. These were female slaves who had to function in the temple in connection with the religious services, of which a part consists in their sex orgies. The hieroduli are also found submitting themselves to the public for pay. The institution of the hieroduli goes back to sacerdotal sources, to animistic magic of a sexual character, which has a way of running into sexual promiscuity in view of the progressive self-excitement of an ecstatic situation.

Copulation as a form of magic for stimulating fertility is widespread among agricultural peoples. The sexual orgy was even carried out on the ground itself with the expectation of increasing its productivity. Out of participation in this sacramental process arose in India the calling of the bayaderes which play an important role in the cultural life of India as free hetaerae, similar to the Greek women so designated. But in spite of the favorable conditions of their lives they ranked as outcasts, and as is shown by the Indian bayadere dramas, regarded it as the highest peak of good fortune to be elevated through a miracle to the class of married women living under very degraded conditions.

Besides the hieroduli there are found in Babylon and Jerusalem the temple prostitutes proper, whose principal clients were the traveling merchants. These kept to their occupation after its loss of sacramental and orgiastic character, under the protection of the material interests of the temple. The struggle against officially legitimatized prostitution, and its source the orgy, was carried on by the prophets and priests of the great religions of salvation, Zarathustra, the Brahmans, and the Prophets of the Old Testament. They carried on the fight partly on ethical and rational grounds; it was the battle of those who wished to deepen the inner life of man and saw in subjection to eroticism the greatest obstacle to the triumph of the religious motive. In addition, the rivalry of cults played a part. The God of ancient Israel was a hill God, not a chthonian deity like Baal, and the police power stood beside the priests in this struggle, as the state feared the rise of revolutionary movements of the lower classes out of the emotional excitement connected with orgiastic phenomena. Nevertheless, prostitution as such survived after the discontinuance of the orgy, which was under suspicion of the state; but it was outlawed and illicit. In the middle ages, in spite of the church doctrine, it had official recognition and was organized as a guild. In Japan also the occasional use of the tea-house girls as prostitutes continued down to the present and not merely has not caused them to lose caste, but has made them especially desired in marriage.

The reversal in the status of prostitution did not begin till the end of the 15th century, when it followed the serious outbreak of sexual diseases during the campaign of Charles VIII of France against Naples. From that time began its strict segregation while up to then it had been allowed to lead a mild ghetto existence. The outbursts of ascetic tendencies in Protestantism, especially in Calvinism, worked against prostitution, as did subsequently, but more mildly and cautiously, the rules of the Catholic church. The results were here similar to those of Mohammed and the makers of the Talmud who had likewise taken up the struggle against orgiastic practices.

An analysis of sex relations outside of marriage must distinguish between prostitution and the sexual freedom of woman. Sexual freedom for the man was always taken for granted, being first condemned by the three great monotheistic religions, and in fact not by Judaism until the Talmud. The originally equal sexual freedom of woman finds expression in the fact that among the Arabs at the time of Mohammed temporary marriage in exchange for support, and trial marriage, existed side by side, although permanent marriage was already recognized. Trial marriages are also found in Egypt and elsewhere. Girls of upper class families were especially reluctant to submit to the harsh domestic confinement, of the patriarchal marriage, but clung to their sexual liberty, remaining in their parental homes and entering into contracts with men to whatever extent they pleased.

Beside this example of personal sexual freedom must be placed the possibility of the woman being exploited for gain by the clan and hired out in exchange for provisions. Sex hospitality, so-called, must also be recognized, that is, the obligatory giving of wife and daughters to honored guests. Finally, there developed concubinage, which is distinguished from marriage by the fact that it does not give complete legitimacy to the children. It is always conditioned by difference in social class and involves cohabitation across class barriers, after class endogamy has been established. In the period of the Roman Empire it had held full legal recognition, especially for soldiers, to whom marriage was forbidden, and for senators, whose marriage opportunities were limited by social class considerations. It was maintained during the middle ages and first absolutely forbidden by the Fifth General Lateran Council of 1515. But it was condemned by the Reformation churches from the beginning, and since that time has disappeared from the western world as a legally recognized institution.

Further investigation of the socialistic theory of mother-right shows that none of the stages of sexual life which it asserts can be shown to exist as steps in a general evolutionary sequence. Where they are met with, it is always under quite special circumstances. Promiscuity, where it exists at all, is either an especial phenomenon of an orgiastic character or a degenerative product of an older strict regulation of the sexual life. On the side of the mother-right theory, it must be admitted that the history of animistic religious belief shows that the connection between the act of generation and birth was not originally understood. In consequence, the blood bond between father and children was not recognized, just as today illegitimate children live under mother-right. However, purely maternal organizations under which children live with the mother alone, without the father, are not at all general, but occur only under quite specific conditions.

Endogamy within the house or brother and sister marriage is found as an aristocratic institution for maintaining the purity of the royal blood, as among the Ptolemies.

Priority of the clan, under which the girl must be offered to members of her clan before marrying outside of it, or their claim must be bought off, is explained by differentiation in wealth and is a defense against the dissipation of property. The levirate also does not correspond to primitive conditions, but arises from the fact that extinction of a male line was to be avoided on military and religious grounds; the family without a warrior must not be left barren and abandoned to die out.

After social stratification has appeared, class endogamy arises in the further sense that the daughters must be reserved for the members of a particular political or economic group. This was carried out within wide limits by the Greek democracy, in order to keep the property within the citizenship of the city and to monopolize political opportunities for the citizen class by restricting its multiplication.

Endogamy also takes the form of hypergamy, in the ease where very intense class differentiation develops, as in the Indian caste system. While the man of a higher caste can enter into sex relations or marry below his level at will, this is forbidden to the woman. As a result the woman of a lower caste may be sold for money while on behalf of the girl of the higher caste, offers may be made to secure a man in exchange for money. The arrangements are made in childhood, and the man may be married to a number of women and be supported by their parents, travelling from one household to another. In India, the English government put an end to this condition, enforcing the support of the women on the part of the nominal husband. Wherever endogamy is found, it is to be assumed that it is a phenomenon of retrogression, not a stage of progress.

Exogamy with regard to the household has obtained everywhere and always, with few exceptions. It arises from the effort to forestall jealousy of the men within the household, and out of the recognition that growing up together does not permit a strong development of the sexual impulse. Exogamy of the clan is generally connected with animistic ideas belonging to the institution of totemism. That this ever spread over the world is, however, unproven, although it is met with in such separated regions as America and the Indian Archipelago. Marriage by capture is always regarded as illegal by the kindred affected, justifying blood revenge or exaction of head money, but at the same time is also treated as a knightly adventure.

The distinguishing mark of legitimate marriage according to patriarchal law, is the fact that from the standpoint of a certain social group only the children of a certain wife of the man in question have full legal standing. This social group may be of several kinds:

  1. The house community; only children by marriage have the right of inheritance, not those of secondary wives and concubines.
  2. The clan; only the children by marriage share in the institutions of blood vengeance, head money, and inheritance.
  3. A military group; only children by marriage have the right t» bear arms, share in booty or conquered territory, or in the distribution of land generally.
  4. A class group; only children by marriage are full members of the class.
  5. A religious group; only legitimate descendants are regarded as fit to carry on the ancestral ritual, and the gods will accept sacrifice only at their hands.

The possible arrangements other than legitimate marriage according to patriarchal law are the following:

  1. The pure matriarchate. The father, recognized as legitimate head of the group, is absent; kinship is recognized only between the children and the mother or the kindred of the latter. Pure maternal groupings are found especially in connection with men's societies. (See below.)
  2. Pure paternal (agnatic) groupings. All the children of a father have equal standing, including those of secondary wives, concubines, and female slaves, and also adopted children. Both children and women are subject to his unrestrained authority. Out of this condition developed legitimate marriage according to patriarchal law.
  3. Succession in the maternal line in spite of a house community including both parents. The children belong to the mother's clan, not that of the father. This condition is found in connection with totemism and is a survival of the organization of the men's-house organization. (See below.)

(C) The Evolution of the Family as Conditioned by Economic and Non-Economic Factors

Treatment of this question calls first for a general survey of primitive economic life. The scheme of three uniformly distinct stages of hunting economy, pastoral economy, and agriculture, current in scientific discussion, is untenable. Neither purely hunting nor purely nomadic peoples are primitive, if they are met with at all, free from dependence upon exchange among themselves and with agricultural tribes. The primitive condition on the contrary is one of nomadic agriculture on the level of hoe-culture, and generally associated with hunting. Hoe-culture is husbandry without domestic animals and especially without beasts of burden; the plow represents the transition to agriculture in our sense. The domestication of cattle required a long period of time. It probably began with work animals, milk animals coming later, while still today there are regions in the East in which milking is unknown. Use of animals for meat followed both. As an occasional phenomenon, slaughtering is certainly older; it took place in a ritualistic connection for the purpose of the meat orgy. Last of all we find the taming of animals for military purposes. Beginning with the 16th century before Christ we meet with the horse which is used on the plains for riding, everywhere else as a draft animal; and the epoch of knightly chariot fighting, common to all peoples from China and India to Ireland, begins.

Hoe-culture could be carried on individually by the small family or with group labor, through the coming together of households even to hundreds of persons. The latter mode of husbandry is the product of a considerable development of technique. Hunting must originally have been carried on in common, though its socialization was the result of circumstances. The keeping of cattle could be carried on individually and must have been; in any case, the social groups engaged in it could not have been very large on account of the scattering of large herds over extensive areas. Finally, extensive agriculture could be carried on by all methods, but the clearing of land called for community action.

Cutting across these distinctions in the mode of husbandry is the form of the division of labor between the sexes. Originally, the tilling of the soil and the harvesting fell mainly to the woman. Only when heavy labor, with the plow instead of the hoe, was required, the man had to participate. In the house work proper, in which textiles take the leading place, the woman alone was involved. Man's work included also hunting, tending domestic animals as far as cattle were concerned -- while the small animals were again the woman's province -- wood and metal working, and finally and before all, war. The woman was a continuous worker, the man an occasional one; only very gradually, with the increasing difficulty and intensity of work, was he led on to continuous labor.

Out of the interaction of these conditions arise two types of communalization, on the one hand that of house and field work, and on the other that of hunting and fighting. The first centers around the woman and on the basis of it she often occupies a dominant social position; not infrequently she was in complete control. The women's house was originally the workhouse, while the socialization of hunting and fighting gave rise to the men's society. But whether the head of the household was a man or, as among the Indians, a woman, there was always a traditional bondage and a corresponding patriarchal position within the house. In contrast, the socialization of hunting and fighting was carried out under the leadership based on merit or charism of a chieftain chosen for this purpose. Not his kinship connections but his warlike and other personal qualities are decisive; he is the freely chosen leader with a freely chosen following.

Corresponding to the house community in which the economic activity of the women is carried on, is found the men's house. During a precisely limited period of life, embracing from 25 to 30 years, the men live together in a club-house apart from their families. From this as a center are carried on hunting, war, magic, and the making of weapons and other important iron implements. The young men frequently obtain wives by capture, carried out in groups, so that the marriage has a polyandrous character, or they buy them. Women are forbidden to enter the men's house, in order to guard its character of secrecy. It is kept sacred by fear-inspiring surroundings, such as the duc-duc of the South Pacific Islanders. The avunculate is regularly connected with the institution of the men's house and often though not always with maternal kinship, while exogamy of the clan regularly obtains. As a rule also the group of men is divided into age classes. After a certain age they withdraw from the men's house and repair to the village and their wives. Generally the men's house also recognizes a novitiate. At a certain age the boys are taken out of the families, carried through magic procedures (circumcision being commonly included), receive the consecration of young manhood, and take up their life in the men's house. The place is a sort of barracks, a military institution giving rise on its disintegration to various lines of development, as for example, a magical association or a political secret society on the pattern of the Italian Camorra. The Spartan ανδρειον, the Greek phratry, and the Roman curia (coviria) are examples of the institution. This primitive military organization did not everywhere come into being and where it arose it disappeared quickly, either through a course of demilitarization or through the development of a military technique favorable to single combat with the requirement of heavy weapons and a special course of training for the warrior. Chariot and horseback fighting worked especially in this direction. The consequence was regularly that the men joined their families, living with their wives, and military protection was secured not through the communism of the men's house but through an arrangement which gave the individual warrior special rights in the land, enabling him to equip himself. At this time the blood tie becomes of especial significance, while accompanying it is the primitive theology of animism or belief in spirits, which everywhere in the world puts in its appearance in some form.

In the institution of the men's house is apparently to be sought the origin of totemism,3 resting on animistic grounds, although later it becomes independent of the latter. The totem is an animal, a stone, an artefact, any object whatever, which is viewed as possessed by a spirit, the members of the totem group standing in animistic kinship with this spirit. When the totem is an animal, it must not be killed, for it is of the same blood as the community; and out of this prohibition grow various ritualistic food prohibitions. Those belonging to a totem form a culture union, a peace group, whose members must not fight among themselves. They practise exogamy, marriage between members of the totem being considered incestuous and expiated by terrible punishment. Thus one totem stands over against others as a marriage group. In this regard the totemic group is a ritualistic conception which often cuts through household and political groupings. Although the individual father lives in domestic communion with his wife and children, maternal succession is rather generally the rule, the children belonging to the mother's clan and being ceremonially alien to the father. This is the factual basis of the so-called matriarchate which is thus, along with totemism, a survival from the period of the men's house. Where totemism is absent we find a patriarchate, or paternal dominance with paternal inheritance.

The struggle of the growing tendency toward the patriarchate with an older maternal system might be decided according to the established land tenure. Either the soil was allotted in line with economic principles, that is, it was regarded as the work place of the woman, or in line with military principles, in which case it was viewed as the fruit of conquest and a subject for military protection. If the main burden of tillage fell on the woman, the land was inherited by the maternal uncle as guardian of the children. If on the contrary it was viewed as "spear land" the title rested in the military organization; the children were counted as belonging to the father, and a further consequence was the exclusion of the women from rights in the land. The military group sought to maintain the economic basis of military service on the part of its members by keeping the allotment of land as a function of the paternal clan. Out of this endeavor sprang the levirate as well as the law regarding female heirs, to the effect that the nearest of kin had the right and duty of marrying a female descendant who was the last of a line. This institution is met with especially in Greece.

The other possibility was that individual property relations decided between the patriarchate and a maternal organization. Between economic equals the older form of marriage was apparently exchange of wives;4 especially as between households, youths exchanged their sisters. With differentiation in economic status, the woman is regarded as labor power and is bought as an object of value, as a work animal. The men who cannot buy a wife serve for her or live permanently in her house. Marriage by purchase and marriage through service, the one with patriarchal law and the other with maternal, may exist side by side and even in the same household; hence, neither is a universal institution. The woman always remains under the authority of a man, either in her own house community or in that of the man who has bought her. The marriage by purchase, like marriage through service, may be either polyandrous or polygamous. While the well-to-do buy wives at will, the propertyless, especially brothers, often club together for the purchase of a common wife.

Back of these relations is the "group marriage" which probably developed out of marriage barriers of a magical significance, as between totem groups or house communities. The man takes a group of sisters either one after the other or at the same time, or a number of women have to be taken over from the other house community, when they also become the property of the group thus "marrying" them. Group marriage occurs only sporadically and is apparently not a general stage in the evolution of marriage.

The wife obtained by purchase is regularly subject to the absolute patriarchal authority of the man. This supreme power is a primitive fact. It was always present in principle, as a characteristic of primitive peoples.

(D) The Evolution of the Clan

The evolution of the clan will now be described. The Gaelic word clan means "blood kindred," and like the corresponding German word Sippe is identical with the Latin proles. Different sorts of clans are first to be distinguished.

(1) The clan in the sense of a magical kinship of the members with each other, with food prohibitions, rules for specific ritualistic behavior toward each other, etc. These are totemic clans.

(2) Military clans (phratries) are associations such as originally occupied a men's house. The control over descendants which they exercised has very extensive significance. An individual who does not go through the novitiate of the men's house and submit to the exacting practices and tests of strength connected with it, or who is not received into the cult, is in the terminology of primitive peoples a "woman" and does not enjoy the political privileges of men or the economic privileges which go with them. The military clan maintains its earlier significance long after the disappearance of the men's house; in Athens, for example, it is the group through which the individual holds his citizenship.

(3) The clan as a blood kinship group of a certain scope. Here the agnatic clan is most important and the present discussion will relate solely to it. Its functions are, first to perform the duty of blood vengeance against outsiders; second, the division of fines within the group; third, it is the unit for land allotment in the ease of "spear land," and in Chinese, Israelitish, and old German law the agnates possess down to historic times a claim which must be satisfied before land can be sold outside the clan. The agnatic clan is in this connection a select group; only the man who is physically and economically competent to equip himself for fighting is recognized as a clansman. One who cannot do that must "commend" himself to an overlord or protector, in whose power he also places himself. Thus the agnatic clan practically becomes a privilege of property owners.

A clan may be organized or unorganized, the original condition being rather intermediate. The clan had regularly an elder, although this is often no longer true in historical times. In principle he was only a primus inter pares. He acted as arbiter in disputes between members of the clan, and divided the land among them, proceeding, to be sure, according to tradition rather than arbitrarily, as the clan members either had equal rights or were subject at least to a definitely regulated inequality. The type of clan elder is the Arabian sheik, who controls his people only by exhortation and good example, as the principes of Tacitus' Germans rule more by example than by command.

The clan met very different sorts of fate. In the Occident it has completely disappeared, and in the Orient been just as completely maintained. In the period of antiquity the φυλαι and gentes played a large role. Every ancient city was composed originally of clans and not of individuals. The individual belonged to the city only as a member of a clan, a military organization (phratry) and an organization for the distribution of burdens (phylum). In India also, a membership in a clan is obligatory among the upper castes, especially the knightly caste, while the members of the lower and later established castes belong to a devak, that is, a totemic group. Here the significance of the clan rests on the fact that the land system is based on enfeoffment through the head of the clan. Thus we find here also a hereditary distinction or charism as the principle of land distribution. One is not noble because one possesses land, but conversely one has an inherited right to a share in the land because one belongs to a noble clan. In the feudal system of the Occident, on the other hand, the land is divided by the feudal lord, in independence of clan and kinship, and the fealty of the vassal is a personal bond. In China today the economic system is still semi-communistic and based on the clans. The clan possesses schools and storehouses within its separate village, maintains the tillage of the fields, takes a hand in matters of inheritance, and is responsible for the misdemeanors of its members. The whole economic existence of the individual rests on his membership in the clan, and the credit of the individual is normally the credit of his clan.

The disintegration of the clan took place as a result of two forces. One is the religious force of prophecy; the prophet seeks to build up his community without regard to clan membership. The words of Christ, -- "I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother" (Matthew 10:34-35); and "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren and sisters -- he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26) express the program of every prophet in regard to the clan as an institution. In the middle ages the church strove to abolish the rights of the clan in inheritance so that it might retain land willed to it, but it was not alone in this regard. Among the Jews, certain forces have worked quite similarly. The clan retained its vitality down to the exile. After the exile it is true that the plebeians were enrolled in the clan registers which had earlier been kept for the upper class families. But this division into clans disappeared later, probably because the clan, being originally military in character, had no roots in the demilitarized Jewish state and there remained only membership in a confessional group based on descent or on personal adhesion.

The second force which aided in the disintegration of the clan is the political bureaucracy. In antiquity, we find the greatest development of the latter in Egypt, under the New Empire. There no trace of the clan organization is left because the state does not tolerate it. In consequence, there is equality between man and woman and sexual freedom of contract; children receive as a rule the name of their mother. The royal power feared the clan and encouraged the development of the bureaucracy; the result of the process contrasts with that in China, where the state was not strong enough to break the power of the clan.

(E) Evolution of the House Community

The primitive house community is not necessarily a pure communism. There is frequently a considerable development of proprietorship, even over the children, and further especially over iron tools, and textile products. There is also a special right of inheritance of the woman from the woman and of the man from the man. Again we may find the absolute patria potestas as the normal condition, or it may be weakened by other organizations as for example the totemic group or the maternal clan. In one respect the house community is almost always a pure communism, namely in regard to consumption, though not in regard to property. From it as a basis proceed various courses of development, to various results.

The small family may evolve into an expanded household and this either in the form of a free community or in that of a manorial household, as the oikos of a landed baron or a prince. The first resulted generally where the centralization of work developed on economic grounds, while the manorial development resulted from political conditions.

Out of the house community developed among the South Slavs the zadruga, in the Alps the commune. In both cases the head of the household is generally elected and generally subject to deposition. The primary condition is pure communism in production. One who withdraws from the group forfeits all rights to share in its common possessions. Occasionally in other places, as in Sicily and in the Orient, a different course of development took place, the community being organized not communistically but on the basis of shares, so that the individual could always demand a division and take his portion wherever he cared to go.

The typical form of the seigniorial development is the patriarchate. Its distinguishing characteristics are the vesting of property rights exclusively in an individual, the head of the household, from whom no one has a right to demand an accounting, and further the despotic position inherited and held for life by the patriarch. This despotism extends over wife, children, slaves, stock, and implements, the familia pecuniaque of the Roman Law, which shows this type in its classical perfection. This dominium is absolute and it is a deviation from principle to speak in connection with the woman of manus or in connection with the children of potestas. The power of the house father extends with only ritualistic limitations to the execution, or sale of the wife, and to the sale of the children or to leasing them out to labor. According to Babylonian, Roman, and ancient German law, the father can adopt other children in addition to his own and into full equality with them. There is no distinction between female slave and wife or between wife and concubine, or between acknowledged children and slaves. The former are called liberi only because of the one distinction between them and slaves that they have a chance sometime to become heads of families themselves. In short, the system is that of a pure agnatic clan. It is found in connection with pastoral economy, also in cases where a knighthood fighting as individuals forms the military class, or finally, in connection with ancestor worship. Ancestor worship must, however, not be confused with worship of the dead; the latter may exist without the former, as for example in Egypt. Ancestor worship involves rather a union of worship of the dead with clan membership; on this union rested in China and Rome, for example, the invulnerable position of the paternal dominium.

The patriarchal house community no longer exists in its original condition, unmodified. Its breakdown resulted from the introduction of class endogamy, according to which the upper-class clans married their daughters only to equals and demanded that they receive a status superior to that of female slaves. As soon, moreover, as the wife ceased to represent primarily labor power -- which also happened first in the upper classes -- the man ceased to buy her as labor power. Then a clan which wished to marry off a daughter had to provide her with a dowry sufficient to maintain the standards of her class. The operation of the class principle gave rise to the distinction between legitimate, monogamous marriage, and the patriarchal potestas. Marriage with dowry became the normal marriage, the woman's clan stipulating that she was to be the head wife and that only her children could succeed as heirs. It is not true, as the socialistic theory has assumed, that the interests of the man in legitimate heirs for his property opened the way to the development of marriage. The man's desire for heirs could have been secured in numerous ways. It was the interest of the woman in having assured to her children the property of the man that was decisive. This development, however, by no means involved by absolute necessity, monogamous marriage. In general, partial polygamy persisted; in addition to a head wife secondary wives were kept, whose children possessed limited rights of inheritance or none at all.

Monogamy as the exclusive form of marriage first arose, so far as we know, in Rome, being ritualistically prescribed by the form of Roman ancestor worship. In contrast with the Greeks, among whom monogamy was known but remained very flexible, the Romans maintained it rigorously. To its support came later the religious power of the Christian commandments, and the Jews also, following the Christian example, established monogamy, but not until the time of the Carolingians. Legitimate marriage involved a distinction between concubines and the regular wife, but the female clan went farther in protecting the interests of the woman. In Rome it first carried through complete economic and personal emancipation of the woman from the man, in establishing the so-called free marriage, which could be terminated at will by either party, and which gave the woman complete control over her own property, although she lost all right over the children if the marriage was dissolved. Even Justinian was not able to abolish this institution. The evolution of legitimate marriage from the marriage with dowry is manifest for a long time in the distinction found in many legal systems between marriage with dowry and marriage without dowry. Examples are the Egyptians, and the Jews of the middle ages.


1. Cp. the right to bear arms, which existed to the time of the Peasants' War. It will be seen that there is a right corresponding to the duty of the freeman to participate in the juridical community.

2. This investigation goes back to J. J. Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht, Stuttgart, 1861. The "matriarchal" (mutterrechtliche) origin of the family asserted by Bachofen was taken over into the works of L. H. Morgan (especially Ancient Society, New York, 1871), and of H. S. Maine (Ancient Law, London, 1861), and became the foundation of the socialistic theory. Cp. the works of Bebel, Engels, and Cunow. E. Grosse (Die Formen der Familie und die Formen der Wirtschaft, Freiburg and Leipsic, 1896) represents the reaction against a one-sided mother-right theory. Indicating the present state of knowledge, and in general free from bias, is Marianne Weber, Ehefrau und Mutter in der Rechtsentwicklung, Tuebingen, 1907.

3. Cp. J. G. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy, London, 1910.

4. Cp. Genesis, 34, 8ff.