Monday, September 5, 2011

Patriarchy vs. Paternalism

Well in this week’s reading we read chapter two in major Problems in American history Volume 1: to 1877. This chapter covered “The Southern Colonies in British America” and while some of the primary sources talked about the Indians the essays were mainly about Plantation owners and their ideologies and relationships in general. (Whether it be with slaves, family or in a political sense)

I would mainly like to touch on the essays. In both of the Essays provided there were two words that were used to describe the fibers that held together the plantation community. These two words are Patriarch and Paternal. As I read through these essays I discovered that both of these writers have a different idea of what the words hold for meaning. I will explain more about this but first I think it is important that we understand these words ourselves.

I will be using two sources to provide definitions for these words which are:

  1. The Bible dictionary – I will be using this source because many of the Plantation owners held biblical ideologies and in that this biblical view of the words might help us understand their warped views. I say warped because I think they probably missed the point of these ideas.
  2. Wikipedia – I know there a lot of people that frown on Wikipedia as a source. None the less I like it because it gives us an idea what people in today’s day and age think the words mean.

Patriarch: per the Bible dictionary is of Greek origin and it means father-ruler; the Hebrew word it translates is simply father. In some cases in the Bible they used this as an honorary name for leaders. Per Wikipedia “a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy.”

I would like to mention here that in the book they use the word “Patriarchalism” which I believe changes this word from a title to a form of Ideology. Although the word Patriarchalism is not on Wikipedia I did find this; “Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination.” Which really changes the way you look at the word and it’s meaning.

Paternal: per the Bible dictionary there was no definition given so we will move to Wikipedia. Per Wikipedia “A paternal bond refers to the relationship between a father and his child”

Once again in the book they change into an ideology by using the word “Paternalism” which changes the definition to “Paternalism refers to an attitude or a policy reminiscent of the hierarchic pattern of a family based on a paternal "CEO".”

I would like to apologize for this long winded explanation of these words however I do feel it is very important to understand these words if you want to get the most out what was written in these essays and my take on the whole deal. …….Anyway let’s move on.

As I mentioned before both of the essay used these words a little bit different. In the first essay “The Anxious world of a slave owning Patriarch” (By Kathleen M. Brown) it was emphasized that you couldn’t have one of these and not have the other.  In the second essay “The effects of Paternalism among Whites and Blacks” (By Philip D. Morgan) it was emphasized that the Plantation owners kind of evolved from one idea to the other. (From Patriarchy to Paternalism)

I myself agree with the first idea more than the latter. Morgan argued that as time progress that the Planters’ method or treatment towards their slaves became more humane and in this there was more of a paternalism forming. While he used a lot of great examples I think that this word was use out of lack for a better word.

I think these two ideologies were elements of the day’s social set up but I don’t know that they were in fact the main drivers. I think while looking at this set up from the Planters’ point of view, it was just business and usual. These words or ideas were really just tools to get the job done. (Attributes of a good leader)

Patriarchy was an image of power or dominion over the Planters’ organization. In a political sense I think it was a top priority to have a good Patriarchal image to show the other politically wealthy people and those that served you that you had control of your situation. With this image of control you demanded respect and position.

Paternalism on the other hand was just another means of getting your way. If you look at it from a “CEO” perspective, the boss man will always have to maintain a connection of some sort to persuade his peons to do as he sees fit. Whether this is in the form of conversing with servants from time to time, giving gifts of alcohol or providing a casual Friday in the end it is the same thing. It is a political ploy to encourage the employed to be productive.

I agree with Morgan in the fact that paternalism may have had a larger role in the later years of the Planter world, however not to take the place of patriarchy. Patriarchy still remained the only difference is the business men (The plantation owners) were finding more effective ways to get employees to be productive……. Seclusion and paternalism as opposed to brute force.  

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