Skip navigation

The patriarchal theory: some modes of explanation of kinship in the social sciences

The patriarchal theory: some modes of explanation of kinship in the social sciences

Coward, Rosalind (1981) The patriarchal theory: some modes of explanation of kinship in the social sciences. PhD thesis, Thames Polytechnic.

[img] PDF
Rosalind_Coward_1981_not_secured.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (10MB)


This thesis covers aspects of the history of the theorisation of sexuality and kinship in the period between 1860 and 1930. The history presented here' is selective. It is organised around a problem of contemporary relevance. This problem is why it has become difficult to produce a historically specific account of sexual organisation in society without falling into essentialist notions of sexuality.

The thesis argues that there are two dominant explanations for the emergence of this theoretical difficulty. One is that during the period under investigation there was consolidated a division of attention between various theoretical discourses. Aspects traditionally entailed in any consideration of sexuality - kinship, marriage, the family, reproduction, sexual instincts - were raised in different ways by different discourses. The divisions between these discourses was consolidated in part around this division of attention. The other factor influencing our contemporary problem is that in so far as sexuality has been treated within the social sciences, it has come under a theoretical division between the individual and society. Consigned in general to the realm of the individual, sex has fallen prey to a dispute between modes of explanation. The division is between those explanations which insist on the primacy of the individual attributes and those which seek to explain all phenomena by reference to the interaction of elements in a given society. The thesis argues for the need to transcend the limitations imposed by this theoretical division.

The thesis is in two parts. The first traces the treatment of sexuality which came to dominate in the second half of the nineteenth century through a particular study of kinship. It reveals both the dominant modes of explanation and the themes and preoccupations for which these debates were vehicles. These preoccupations reveal how discourses were consolidated with different objectives, modes of attention and modes of explanation. The second part traces the division of attention within those discourses which now have the greatest claim as explanations of sexual relations within society, that is between marxism and psychoanalysis. It shows how, and for what purpose, certain concepts were mobilised; it discusses whether the heritage of concepts drawn from earlier debates limits the advances which can be made while remaining within traditional disciplines.

The purpose of this study is to reveal primarily the limiting effect of the theoretical division between individual and society on studies of sexual division. It aims to show that while this division is operative, accounts of sexuality will be dominated by essentialist explanations. It argues for breaking down the divisions between existing disciplines, and in particular the division between psychoanalysis and some of the social sciences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: evolutionary psychology, kinship, patriarchy, social sciences,
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Pre-2014 Departments: Thames Polytechnic
Thames Polytechnic > Department of Social Sciences
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2017 13:11

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics