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The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan 1st Edition
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Frederick Engels, coworker of Karl Marx, says no. Engels demonstrates that these three institutions arose in the fairly recent history of the human race, as a way to establish the rule of the many over the few. And, conversley, when these institutions are an obstacle to human progress, they can be dismantled.
Although this book was written about 125 years ago, the subject matter and his point of view sound surprisingly modern. Evelyn Reed, a Marxist anthropologist, writes a 1972 introduction that updates the original work from the point of view of 20th century anthropology debates abd the rise of modern women's movement. An additional short article by Engels, "The part played by labor in the transition from ape to man" is a lively piece that could be part of today's debates on human origin with almost no hint of its vintage (except maybe for his use of the term "man", instead of gender-neutral "humanity").
Was wealth and the means of producing more wealth always the private possession of individuals or a small section of society?
Were women always at the bottom of society, treated primarily as sex objects and machines for child-bearing and child-raising?
And is this humanity's destiny?
In this book published in 1884, Fredrich Engels answers the above questions in the negative. His book is based on anthropological data available in his day from societies around the globe. New discoveries since have confirmed his conclusions and the book is remarkably relevant today.
Here is an example of the mistakes in the text, in case someone is curious:
"1. The consanguine family. The co nganguine familv is th e first step toward the famtl. Heie the niarriage groups. are-arranged by generations: all the grand-fathers and grand-mothers T nt"BTir a certain famijylare. mutual husbands and 5 3 51?? J-the."
As you can see, these mistakes render the text less than intelligible. The frequency of occurrence seemed to be about once a page, with some excerpts worse (harder to understand) than others. There are a few pages that are full of this gibberish, and I was not able to read them. Nevertheless, this book is not common, and it is good to have my own copy (for cheap), albeit slightly incomplete.
Engels takes up the rise of the state and of the family and the oppression of women as early societies became more productive, making possible the division of groups of human beings into those who produce and those who live off them, and the need of the exploiters to perpetuate this state of affairs.
The Pathfinder Press edition also has a valuable introduction by Evelyn Reed, long-time socialist activist and author of works including "Woman's Evolution," "Sexism and Science," "Cosmetics, Fashion and the Exploitation of Women," and "Problems of Women's Liberation."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love how engels explained the origin of private property.. he did it by enumerating the three major stages of basic societal organization. Great read for all marxist scholars!Published 6 months ago by ashley peterson
i bought this for the spouse. he has read it in the past and wanted a new copy.Published 7 months ago by ccvasquez
the concept of family is a purely bourgeois concept. according the engels, it is the simplest form of exploitation. nice book.Published 8 months ago by Joyce Katz
I bought this for my Physical Anthropology teacher due-to the beginning of the work. I was very pleased with how quickly it arrived but find the edition to have text that is both... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jacob Hoppman
Great starter work for Marxist thought, especially on sociology and political history. Engels is an easier read than Marx, who can be tedious.Published 16 months ago by Peter Turner
Amazing to read how much was understood about human evolution in the nineteenth century. Really puts our modern assumptions about society into historical context.Published on April 14, 2014 by Ivy Shoots