- Round Table 9
- Family, Marriage, and Property Rights
- One of the central concepts in discussions
of family and social reproduction is the notion of "strategy,"
popularized by Pierre Bourdieu. For some scholars, the notion
seems too intentional, and fails to capture the emotional and
amity-based aspects of familial life. There has also been a tendency
to contrast early modern or medieval familial dynamics, based
on instrumentality, with "modern" familial processes
constituted around love and sentiment. Criticism of this dichotomy
has centered on language and codes, explicit and implicit ways
of doing things and describing relations. It seems naïve
to discuss the nineteenth-century bourgeois family without taking
into consideration property and ownership, but the problem remains
how to deal with the language of sentimentality and behavior
that often seems unrelated to material interest. In this Round
Table discussion, we have brought together historians of "traditional"
and "modern" Europe to discuss the usefulness of concepts
like "social reproduction," "strategy," and
"material interest." "Property" itself as
a notion might be considered less in terms of its reified materiality
than as a "relational idiom"-something that mediates
relationships, that can best be thought of in a field of rights,
duties, claims, and obligations.
Much of the discussion in this panel will be centered, of course,
on the property holding classes. But it will also be concerned
with the construction of class and class relations themselves.
Groups of interrelated people constructed ways of maintaining
connections through marriage alliance, property devolution and
transmission, paternal authority and fraternal alliance, maintenance
of kindreds, circulation of goods and services, gendering rights
and obligations, and constructing social milieus through familial
rituals, festivities, and socializing.
- Although most work on the family during
the past several decades has centered on the household or the
nuclear family, there is considerable new interest on kinship
and the ways families, households, and individuals connect with
the wider set of kin. There is renewed interest in the formation
of kindreds, the systemic forms of alliance between kin, the
dynamics of courtship, marriage, and alliance. How property considerations
play a role in the wider considerations of kinship is a problem
of crucial interest.
Lars Ivar Hansen is concerned with medieval principles of property
devolution and strategies of social reproduction. Among the issues
that he will bring to the discussion are: the formation of kindreds,
the residual claims to property of collateral heirs, and the
development of communal property rights of spouses. Gerard Delille,
working on Southern Italy, has analysed the "semi-complex"
forms of kinship alliance in a field of strong vertically constructed
patrilineal groups. How the circulation of spouses links up with
the circulation of goods is a crucial issue of his work. In his
understanding of the issues, capitalism and the formation of
bourgeois class values broke with forms of systemic exchange.
Christopher Johnson, who is studying the dynamics of French nineteenth-century
bourgeois families at once contests the centrality of property
for bourgeois marriage and underlines the fact of systematic
marriage alliance. Endogamous marriage was crucial for the development
of class hegemony. In contrast to Johnson, Rachel Fuchs puts
property at the heart of the modern French family, and argues
for a close interrelationship of property, paternity and family.
She challenges the split that Johnson wants to open between material
interest and emotion.