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The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan [Paperback]

Friedrich Engels
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5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific analysis Oct. 21 2002
By Spagoli
Anthro major? You might be surprised how much and how many tools come from Engels, as in Marx and Engels of Capital fame. The same analytical tools they applied to economics (That are used every day) here are applied to anthropological study of the basis of our present day social institutions.
Relevant today, as much as for info as for seeing where the ideas discussed lead to the arguments and theories of today.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A political classic Aug. 10 2010
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall - Published on Amazon.com
I have always found Engels easier to decipher than Marx. Also, since much of this book is based on the new (in 1884) science of anthropology - a close cousin to psychology and psychiatry - I generally find it pretty easy to get my head around the concepts that he presents.

It stands out really clearly in this book that he and Marx trace the origins of class society to the agricultural revolution (when human beings started raising crops and animals instead of being hunter gatherers) - which immediately resulted in a "surplus" of food - which became the responsibility of an elite (chieftains and priests) to safeguard for the winter and hard times.

He also traces the necessity for men to trace their offspring once there is a surplus and they begin to accumulate wealth (the keepers of the surplus get to keep a little more of it than everyone else). Because by this time human beings have figured out how babies are made and want to bequeath their wealth to their descendents. This can only happen if they can trace their paternity, which means limiting women (but not men) to a single sexual partner. Thus the need to replace matriarchal society with patriarchy and to introduce the marriage contract to bind women to a single man.

Engels then traces how this primitive "tribal" structure, eventually led to the concept of private property - and of the feudalistic state. To have a state you have to have a king or supreme leader. He maintains power via a standing army and rewards "knights" in his army with gifts of private property. And because property is no longer owned communally, people are forced off the land they used to farm and have no choice but to go and work as serfs for the knights and lords who now own the property by the king's decree.

The book contains a fascinating section about the way the Iroquois Nation governed themselves - including their use of consensus in decision making, inheritance through the female line and their collective ownership of property. He also outlines how various Iroquois tribes were united in a Confederacy governed by a Federal Council (which formed the basis for state-federal structure the colonists adopted in the US Constitution).

The section about democracy in ancient Athens and the coalescence of Latin tribes into a single Roman government is also extremely interesting. The final section concerns the amalgamation of the various Germanic tribes into the states of Germany and France.


regard for all members of the tribe as having an equal voice (with men and women playing an equal role in leadership), , insistence on consensus decision making, their
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engels would be displeased March 27 2010
By Benjamin C. Paulson - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I like this book, of course. However, Amazon's "Print on Demand" leaves the buyer with a text that is almost incomplete. I guess I was warned, but I did not expect paragraphs of material lost due to the accuracy of the photograph. I could have rated this item five stars simply for the content of the book, however, the mistakes and unreadable content in the book would not allow me to rate it so high.

Here is an example of the mistakes in the text, in case someone is curious:

"1. The consanguine family. The co nganguine familv is th e first step toward the famtl. Heie the niarriage groups. are-arranged by generations: all the grand-fathers and grand-mothers T nt"BTir a certain famijylare. mutual husbands and 5 3 51?? J-the."

As you can see, these mistakes render the text less than intelligible. The frequency of occurrence seemed to be about once a page, with some excerpts worse (harder to understand) than others. There are a few pages that are full of this gibberish, and I was not able to read them. Nevertheless, this book is not common, and it is good to have my own copy (for cheap), albeit slightly incomplete.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An early exercise in data mining Oct. 12 2013
By Peter C. Patton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This modern Penguin Books edition of Engels' classic work is a must read. My only regret is that I had not read it years ago. Engels begins with an encyclopedic knowledge of antiquity, quoting from such classics as Grote's 'History of Greece' (12 vols), Mommsen's 'History of Rome' (5 vols), and Lewis Morgan's 'Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, through Barbarism to Civilization' (now available from Amazon). Into this "supersaturated solution" of received knowledge he dips his thematic string "the origin of the family" and draws it out encrusted with crystals of known but here-to-fore unrelated information. As a long-time university teacher of ancient history I was thoroughly familar with Engels' database but had never mined it for this particular theme. Most of modern anthropology has arisen long after Engels completed the fourth edition of this work in 1891, so he may be criticized for errors in detail and even method, but his overall message is still relevant and very important for civilization today! Born in Germany, Fredrich Engels was very well educated and seems to have been a reader of Latin and Greek, and fluent in German, French, and Russian as well as a skilled writer of English. A well-turned, if somewhat polemical example: "The downfall of Athens was not caused by democracy as the European lickspittle historians assert to flatter their princes, but by slavery, which banned the labour of free citizens." Throughout the book Engels is highly complimentary of the United States as the highest form of representative democracy in his time. But he does offer a criticism which is hard to gainsay, especially since 2008: "...the democratic republic no longer officially recognizes differences of property. Wealth here employs its power indirectly, but all the more surely. It does this in two ways: by plain corruption of officials, of which America is the classic example; and by an alliance between the government and the stock exchange, which is effected all the more easily the higher the state debt mounts ..."
Prof. Peter C. Patton, Ph.D.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History at its best Nov. 1 2013
By Jill Hickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Puts history in perspective and shows that women have been equal participants in society in times past and gives the scientific analysis of how and why women's position in society changed to one of a second class citizen becoming slaves to our male partners. If you want to know why, then read this book and others which challenge the status quo and which point to the ways to achieve full human liberation of not just women but the entire human race.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H. Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) was a German political theorist and developer of Marxist theory, who financially supported Marx for many years. After Marx's death Engels edited the second and third volumes of "Das Kapital."

This book (originally published in 1884) deals with many topics about which Marx never wrote. It was strongly influenced by Lewis Henry Morgan's famous book, Ancient society (1877).

Modern feminists may not agree with his assertion that matriarchy, "in the sense of power held by women over men comparable to that later held by men over women," had never existed (pg. 35). However, he enthusiastically agrees with Morgan that matrilineal clans, rather than the "family," was the precursor of later patriarchal clans, and that a "conspiracy of silence" is the cause of this not being more widely known. (Pg. 83-84)

He states that "The overthrow of mother right was the world historical defeat of the female sex." Woman became degraded and "reduced to servitude." (Pg. 120-121) By contrast, the modern industrial family is founded on the "open or concealed domestic slavery of the wife, and modern society is a mass composed of these individual families as its molecules." (Pg. 137)

This book in particular was very influential on the "Second Stage" women's movement in the late 1960s and 1970s.
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