Table des matières

Family Systems

In the 1999 republication of two of his books from 1983-4, “La Diversité du Monde” comprising “The Explanation of Ideology” and “L'enfance du monde”, Emmanuel Todd notes that his editor, Jean-Claude Guillebaud repeatedly asks him “but where do the family systems come from?” Work with a linguist, Laurent Sagart, led them to consider as model the diffusion of an innovation, which they published in the journal Diogène (No. 160, Q4 1992). In their model, they see the nuclear family as “primitive”, superceded by the communitarian (?) systems -the innovation–with a coincident decline in the status of women. The authoritarian system isn't mentioned in that context. He concludes by indicating that the origins of family systems are the focus of his research.

Since first reading this a few years ago, I've tried to note any clues I come across. Before considering the clues I've noticed, a too-brief summary of his scheme.

Todd's Scheme

Skipping Todd's biography and his motivations for undertaking this study, the basic principle is that people's ideology is influenced by their upbringing. This is hardly a new idea (cf. F. Le Play), but he is a historian by training, one with a social anthropological orientation, and does extensive data examination to check what he argues.

The scheme is to consider select descriptors of family systems which could be good predictors–leading indicators–of socio-political values (and even religious beliefs). The descriptors selected are historically and macroscopically verifiable, which is certainly scientific and pragmatic. Are they really “causes”? It is not clear we'll ever know, as it seems impossible to conduct experiments to find out; however, there may be “experimental” evidence at a micro level, waiting for future researchers to exploit. In any case, the descriptors–aspects–he has chosen are plausible, and the psychological mechanisms of their action he advances convincingly.

The Axes

How can the variety of family systems be classified? One should perhaps begin by defining a “family system”; for the purposes of this scheme, which seeks to understand the influence of the group in which a child develops, we can be satisfied by a very broad definition : a group in which a child develops. Historically, we are familiar with a couple and their children, a man with a harem, a woman with several husbands (is it called a harem, too?), serial monogamy, extended families (presence of grandparents, etc.), single parents, and possibly other arrangements.

To cut to the chase, Todd's choice is initially a two-by-two matrix : egalitarian/inegalitarian by authoritarian/libertarian. The egalitarian axis is based on rules of inheritance (egalitarian, primogeniture, and so on) and the authoritarian axis is determined by whether or not adult, married issue continue to live with their parents.

Secondarily, he nuances the classification by adding two other aspects. The first, exogamy/endogamy FIXMEto be continued

family_types.txt · Dernière modification: 2010/07/22 17:31 par suitable
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