Category Archives: Class Note

The Family by F Engels

Avash Bhandari

Avash Bhandari (24)

This essay is a summary of a second chapter “The Family” from F. Engels’ celebrated monograph ‘The Origin of Family, Private Property and State’. Here, Engels discusses on the forms and features of families, from primitive past to the modern day (this book was first published in 1884). He builds his arguments upon researches of Lewis H. Morgan, who divided human history into three grand stages namely savagery, barbarism and civilization based on evolutionary model. Congruent with these stages were the forms of families: ‘For savagery- group marriage, for barbarism- pairing marriage and for civilization – monogamy.’ Let us dwell upon Engels’ theoretical approaches first.

Engels calls for a flat rejection on any approaches that rests upon physiological reduction and comparative sketch with other members of animal kingdom. He also adds that the relation between man and woman emerge from the actual conditions of life not from the religious ideas men hold. Convinced of his historical or ‘evolutionary’ materialist approach Engels subsides all conclusions that are based on parallels drawn between their (anthropoid apes) family forms and those of primitive man.

The most primitive form of marriage of which ‘undeniable evidence can be found in history’ is group marriage. We can infer from this the existence of less sophisticated and simpler forms of marriage and family. It is very likely that a period of promiscuous intercourse corresponded to the period of transition from animality to humanity. “Promisculty was characterized by the absence of any restrictions on sexual intercourse. There were no barriers set up by custom regulating / prohibiting sexual relations. Even the sexual relations between parents and children aroused little or no disgust ‘prior to the invention of incest (and it is an invention of utmost value). Sexual intercourse Continue reading →