matriarchy

There are two uses of the term matriarchy. The first is identical to common usage, denoting a type of social organization in which mothers head families, and descent may be reckoned through them. The occurrence may be idiosyncratic rather than the basis of social structure.
The second usage, which is speculative and based in evolutionary theories , refers to a society in which mothers hold the main power positions. This theory was popular in the nineteenth century; it was, for example, a vital ingredient in Friedrich Engels's Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). Engels argued that early hunter-gatherer societies, in which property rights did not exist, would have been ruled by women because of their reproductive powers. However, once land and goods became private property, in the development of sedentary agriculture or pastoralism, it became important for men to ensure the legitimacy of their offspring in order to transfer wealth by descent. Thus arose the system of patriarchy , in which men began to control the reproductive power of women, who lost the political power they had enjoyed under matriarchy.
Like all evolutionary theories the claim that human prehistory was characterized by a shift from mother-right to father-right fell out of favour in the early twentieth century. Despite the attractiveness of this speculation for feminist theory, there is no accredited evidence from either archaeology or anthropology for the existence of matriarchy in this second sense, at any time in history or in any human society.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • matriarchy — formed in English 1881 from MATRIARCH (Cf. matriarch) + Y (Cf. y) (1) …   Etymology dictionary

  • matriarchy — [mā′trēär΄kē] n. pl. matriarchies [ MATRI + ARCHY] 1. a form of social organization in which the mother is recognized as the head of the family or tribe, descent and kinship being traced through the mother 2. government, rule, or domination by… …   English World dictionary

  • Matriarchy — Gynecocracy redirects here. For the pornographic novel, see Gynecocracy (novel). Matriarch redirects here. For other uses, see Matriarch (disambiguation). Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

  • matriarchy — /may tree ahr kee/, n., pl. matriarchies. 1. a family, society, community, or state governed by women. 2. a form of social organization in which the mother is head of the family, and in which descent is reckoned in the female line, the children… …   Universalium

  • matriarchy — UK [ˈmeɪtrɪˌɑː(r)kɪ] / US [ˈmeɪtrɪˌɑrkɪ] noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms matriarchy : singular matriarchy plural matriarchies a family, community, or society that is ruled by women, especially one in which women also own and control… …   English dictionary

  • matriarchy — [[t]me͟ɪtriɑː(r)ki[/t]] matriarchies N VAR A matriarchy is a system in which power or property is passed from mother to daughter. Ant: patriarchy …   English dictionary

  • matriarchy — matriarch ► NOUN 1) a woman who is the head of a family or tribe. 2) a powerful older woman. DERIVATIVES matriarchal adjective matriarchy noun. ORIGIN from Latin mater mother , on the false analogy of patriarch …   English terms dictionary

  • matriarchy — noun (plural chies) Date: 1885 1. a family, group, or state governed by a matriarch 2. a system of social organization in which descent and inheritance are traced through the female line …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • matriarchy — noun a) A social system in which the mother is head of household, having authority over men and children. b) A system of government by females. Syn: matriarchate …   Wiktionary

  • matriarchy — матриархат …   Термины гендерных исследований

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