Paternalism – not Matriarchy – is the Problem

by W.F. Price on December 6, 2013

Some time ago, Jack Donovan wrote that matriarchy does not really exist, preferring to call women-centered societies “matrifocal” or matrilineal. He’s spent a lot of time studying cultures around the world to write books about men from an anthropological perspective, so he would know. Every supposedly matriarchal culture is, when you scratch the surface, ruled by men at the top; these matrifocal societies would be better termed “paternalist.” However, this does not mean that every culture is patriarchal, at least not in the customary sense of the word.

Paternalism grows out of the “big man” societies in which there is a top-down system for wealth redistribution. All wealth flows to the chief, and he doles it out to his subjects, often favoring those who support him or otherwise please him. In some contexts, we refer to this as patronage, which is a common practice throughout the world, and is not always a terrible thing.

This form of social organization worked fairly well in small societies, such as pre-contact Amerindian tribes. The chief was obliged to patronize his warriors, which put a check on despotism and arbitrary acts. In many tribes, the chief would be amongst the poorest in the village, because he had to dole out gifts and war spoils as soon as he obtained them to maintain his position.

Ultimately, in some cases, this led to the development of a formalized system of patriarchy, in which it was legally recognized that each male householder had a privileged status in regards to his own family, if nothing else, which gave rise to the practice of patrilineal descent. This laid the groundwork for the development of civilization from barbarism, as taxation and patronage now required recordkeeping and certain conditions. A shift then began to occur away from a purely paternalistic society to one in which rulers had to adhere to laws that placed controls on their wealth collection and redistribution. Thus, social hierarchies flourished, social organization solidified, and increasingly large and complex forms of government evolved.

However, the codified patriarchy that led to the development of cooperative societies hasn’t always lasted. When enough wealth and power has been accumulated, rulers tend to look for ways around it, because it isn’t always convenient for them to follow the laws and customs which do, after all, put a check on their power. Getting rid of these impediments often seems like a good idea when you’re in charge.

American politicians have been hard at work doing just that for decades. To increase revenue and political support, they have promoted and passed laws that shatter the concept of the patriarchal family. A few examples include preferential maternal custody, decriminalization of adultery, introducing no-fault divorce and preferential welfare to single mothers. Gay marriage, which is essentially a formal declaration that the government does not recognize patriarchy as valid or supported by any law or policy at all, is the latest example.

When patriarchy is smashed, as it has been in the United States, we are left only with primitive paternalism. We have local bosses, corporate titans, and a “benevolent” paternalist at the helm of our country. Perhaps it is fitting that the son of an academic feminist is the current president of the US. He is more a product of paternalism than any other president. I think it’s the only system he really knows and understands, despite his tragic efforts to assign some purpose and meaning to his relationship with his father (efforts I understand myself).

So, what we’re really facing today is not matriarchy, but an increasingly despotic paternalism, in which men’s autonomy and authority is being steadily eroded in the interests of those in power. Our intimate relationships, our conditions of employment, and taxes all conspire to subjugate us to the powerful, who are working steadily to remove any checks on their own power and challenges to their authority. Almost every government-led initiative, whether it be population replacement through immigration, women’s “empowerment,” or highway checkpoints leads in this direction.

Will it ever end? Only when outcompeted by another system that works better. It is the nature of power and government to preserve itself, and as long as there is no credible opposition it will not change. You may ask, “where’s the opposition?” The phrase “there’s a lot of ruin in a nation” has become common these days, and maybe there is some grounds for pessimism. But then again, look at who’s in charge and where things are headed. Our president is creating a destabilized, weaker United States, and this is an enormous country. It requires a lot of working parts to hold a country together, and that isn’t even taking foreign affairs into consideration. With a growing and belligerent China, an increasingly assertive Russia, and a Latin American pope who clearly doesn’t have much regard for the US, there will be plenty of challenges ahead.

The signs point to an increasingly factious era, in which allegiances will be strained and challenges mounted to authority. In all such situations, it pays to have a few good men on one’s side, and this is the hope we have for reform: challengers who offer a better deal to men will have an advantage. Politicians and businesses that treat men as slaves will find themselves abandoned by their male constituents, and although under the contemporary enforced equality system they may think this is OK, they’ll find out that this is not how things work. Personally, I think we’ve already begun to enter this era, but it may take a few years before it really shows.

In the meanwhile, as men, we should hold out not for “equality” with women, which will never, ever, turn out equal, but a more desirable system of democratic patriarchy, in which all men are afforded equal rights to independence in their own homes and affairs and freedom from arbitrary paternalism.

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