All traditional family systems, Therborn argues, have comprised three regimes: of patriarchy, marriage and fertility (crudely summarized--who calls the shots in the family, how people hitch up, how many kids result). Between Sex and Power sets out to trace the modern history of each. For Therborn patriarchy is male family power, typically invested in fathers and husbands, not the subordination of or discrimination against women in general--gender inequality being a broader phenomenon. At the beginning of his story, around 1900, patriarchy in this classical sense was a universal pattern, albeit with uneven gradations. In Europe, the French Revolution had failed to challenge it, issuing in the ferocious family clauses of the Napoleonic Code, while subsequent industrial capitalism--in North America as in Europe--relied no less on patriarchal norms as a sheet anchor of moral stability. Confucian and Muslim codes were far more draconian, though the "minute regulations" of the former set some limits to the potential for a "blank cheque" for male power. Arrangements were looser in much of sub-Saharan Africa, Creole America and Southeast Asia. Harshest of all was the Hindu system of North India, in a league of its own for repression. As Therborn notes, this is one of the very few parts of the world where men live longer than women, even today.From a glowing review in The Nation of a new book on family, Göran Therborn's Between Sex and Power. (Via Pandagon)
By 2000, however, patriarchy had become "the big loser of the twentieth century," as Therborn puts it, yielding far more ground than religion or tyranny.