February 24, 2010 | Leave a Comment
“In addition to extramarital sex, premarital promiscuity and trial marriage may also alter the paternity probability. Indeed, at least one cross-cultural study suggests that in matrilineal-matrilocal societies sanctions against premarital sex, when they exist, are quite mild, whereas such sanctions are severe in patrilineal-patrilocal societies. (Goethals 1971). Although premarital sex is especially tolerated in matrilineal societies (e.g., Malinowski 1929), unwed mothers and illegitimacy leading to lower probabilities of paternity are not tolerated…In most matrilineal societies divorce is reported to be quite frequent, and can be initiated by either party without social stigma.” (Kurland, J. A., “Paternity, Mother’s Brother, and Human Sociality,” in Evolutionary Biology and Human Social Behavior: An Anthropological Perspective, N. Chagnon and W. Irons (eds.) (North Scituate: Duxbury Press, 1979), pp. 160-1.)
A fair amount gets written on changes in the nuclear family, increased divorce, marrying later, few kids, abortion, contraception, women becoming more fully employed outside the home, and now women often retaining jobs because they are often paid less, with their male colleagues getting let go. Not so much gets written about how this influences general social frames of reference. I hypothesize we are experiencing a dramatic shift from a patrifocal to a matrifocal foundation. Intuitions for how the commons positively impacts our life are becoming ubiquitous vs. the expectation that hierarchy will always be. Nevertheless, the shift suggests more than a little bit that we are also experiencing a synthesis, an integration of matrifocal and patrifocal points of view. The synthesis is difficult to describe, to verbalize, particularly because most don’t understand we are in the middle of a paradigm shift in social structure.
This shift we are in the middle of gets described in lots of different ways. Social structure is not just an anthropological principle, but a biological dynamic. It is extremely rare that current changes in society are described as biological shifts. Two reasons jump out that support the difficulty we have in seeing social changes as biological. First, it’s been over 6,000 years since the Indo-Europeans rode horses out of Southern Russia and changed the world. It’s rare that a Westerner views social structure as still integral to understanding current trends. Riane Eisler is one of the few with deep understanding in this area.
Second, biological anthropologists, evolutionary psychologists and others that describe confluence between biology and anthropology view evolution from primitive society to modern society as a succession of stages followed by different peoples across the world while at the same time they assign a universality of neurology and consciousness to all peoples, denigrating interpretations of integral differences between “primitive” and modern. The net result of suggesting that some cultures are more evolved than others, while at the same time stating we are all the same, obfuscates real differences among people. Of particular importance are social structure differences and the possible real physical, neurological and hormonal variation that accompanies difference in social structure.
A net result is a deep difficulty in our ability to interpret our own position (physically, neurologically and hormonally) as informed by social structure. We don’t seem to get that evolution is integrally tied to social structure, and that we as individuals and as a society are evolving.
Whether we live in a matrifocal society, a patrifocal society, or an integration of the two is huge. Right now we are in transition. Media do not describe the battle as one between social structures, or, from a Wilberian perspective, as a battle between societal maturation scales. My explanatory paradigm offers a cyclic perspective, featuring the push and pull of neoteny and acceleration over generations. The Wilberian/Habermas/Gebser paradigm looks at change from a linear, pyramidal position that nevertheless integrates many of the insights of the cyclic dynamic. Both interpretations work. One is more matrifocal or immanent in its perspective. The other is more patrifocal or transcendent in its point of view. Go far enough into either one and you come out the other side, inside the other.
Matrifocal/patrifocal, immanent/transcendent. There exists an integration of the two. That integration is where we as a society are headed. We get closer with every spiral round in our evolution.