TODAY the family is being attacked and defended with equal vehemence. It is blamed for oppressing women, abusing children, spreading neurosis and preventing community. It is praised for upholding morality, preventing crime, maintaining order and perpetuating civilization. Marriages are being broken more than even before and being constituted more than ever before. The family is the place from which one desperately seeks escape and the place to which one longingly seeks refuge. To some the family is boring, stifling and intrusive; to others it is loving, compassionate and intimate. And so it goes with the family, back and forth with no sign of agreement on the horizon. Just at a time when public concern for the family is widespread, social scientists have little theoretical clarity to offer. People are intensely interested in finding out how the family is faring, how it has evolved from the past and what forms it may take in the future. Yet social science does not have an adequate definition of the family, or a coherent set of categories from which to analyze it, or a rigorous conceptual scheme to specify what is significant about it. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the weaknesses of existing theories of the family in the fields of history, sociology and psychology and to offer at least the beginnings of a more adequate theory.
Family history provides an example of some of the theoretical deficiencies. With a dominant empiricist tradition, historians have come to the field of family history without a clear sense of what the significant questions are. They have not self-consciously theorized the family as a field of investigation. Instead they began by adopting the conventional wisdom of sociology which, going back to Frederic Le Play, saw a broad change in the family from an extended form of the Middle Ages to a nuclear form of modernity. This position maintained that before industrialization the family was composed of numerous kin living together in cohesive solidarity. Only the irresistible pressures of modernization could tear apart these bonds. This tradition of sociological history assumed that the family was defined by the quantity of kin relatives in a household.
Over the past several years the thesis of a pre-modern extended family was challenged by a group of Cambridge demographers led by Peter Laslett. Analyzing English parish registers from the sixteenth century on, Laslett discovered no extended family at all. On the contrary, the family was amazingly stable in size, consisting of the conjugal unit with a small number of children. There had been a significant demographic shift from a pattern of high fertility/high mortality in the old regime to one of low fertility/low mortality in the modern period. Some historians could claim that the change in demographic pattern, while not affecting family size, had considerable impact on the daily life of the family. Such factors as the length of interval between births seriously affects the condition of women, and high mortality among children has deep consequences for parents' attitudes toward their progeny. Yet for Laslett the stability of family size over the past four hundred years was the major finding, one which led him to question the family as a suitable object for historical investigation since it seemed impervious to change.
Laslett's conclusions were criticized effectively on several counts. Lutz Berkner pointed out that Laslett had done his counting in a static way, forgetting that the family has a life cycle. If families of the old regime are studied over the course of time, it becomes clear that in a significant number of cases in the regions studied by Berkner the grandparents live with the conjugal unit. Hence the family begins to resemble the extended model more than the nuclear one. Numerous instances were also found, in southern France for example, where brothers banded together with their families apparently for reasons of economic survival. A more complex picture than Laslett offered of family size thus emerged for the pre-modern European peasantry. Although the finding of Laslett and Louis Henry, the French demographer, of the late age of first marriage (apparently unique to premodern Europe) has not been challenged, the notion of a stable nuclear pattern cannot be maintained.
Yet another blow to the Laslett thesis came from Roland Mousnier and Jean-Louis Flandrin, who faulted Laslett for his aggregate figures. If the national figures were broken down, it became apparent that certain groups, especially the nobility, did not conform to the general nuclear pattern. These high-ranking families consisted of large groupings of from 20 to 200 souls. While the members of these households were not all blood relations, and their composition was not at all stable, they did constitute "families." Flandrin reminded Laslett that the word family in the old regime included all members of the household. Hence Laslett's picture of a baker's family in The World We Have Lost, consisting of thirteen people (parents, children, servants and workers), was closer to premodern reality than the statistics of small family size.
The theoretical question intervenes at this point. Lasiett and many other family historians simply assumed that family was defined by size and by blood relations. The criticisms of Laslett's work make it clear that this definition is sorely inadequate. While quantitative, demographic studies are needed, they cannot provide historians with a concept of the family that can pose the important questions and render the family intelligible in pre-modern and modern Europe. The nuclear family that emerged in the transition to modernity is a unique configuration of behaviors and attitudes, decisively different from what existed before it.
A superior beginning was made by Philippe Ariès in his classic study Centuries of Childhood. On the surface, Ariès was concerned only with the idea of childhood and how it changed from the old regime to the modern era. He studied an uneven mass of evidence, from portrait paintings to village games, to prove his thesis that there was no concept of childhood under the old regime. One important consequence of his work was that it showed how historians of the family might make use of evidence like portraits, which are normally employed in other fields of study. Hence the old bugbear that there exists no evidence for a history of the family was put into doubt: the family could be studied by the use of indirect evidence. More significantly, however, Ariès' book opened up questions well beyond the confines of the intellectual history of childhood. He concluded that the modern family brought with it a new set of attitudes toward children. Bourgeois types in mid-eighteenth-century France began pulling away from wider networks of sociability, as Ariès termed it, by separating their workplace from their home, creating their home as a private world and initiating new forms of intimacy, especially between parents and children. The important question raised by Ariès is that family history ought to concern itself not simply, with family size but with the emotional qualities of family relations. He implied that family history can raise questions about intimate life, the "private" world, and that perhaps changes in family structure lead to changes in emotional or psychic structure. Without any theoretical discussion of the object of family history, Ariès suggested a most fruitful line of investigation. In broaching the question of the forms of intimacy between parents and children, Ariès' book led directly to the route of psychological theory. For only psychological theory can enable the investigator to explore the rich set of meanings surrounding feelings between parents and children. This study will examine several traditions of psychological theories of the family in order to construct a theory of the family which can approach the problems opened by Ariès.
In addition to Laslett and Aries, a third framework or general orientation for family history was proposed by Edward Shorter in The Making of the Modern Family. Influenced deeply by the Parsonian theory of Fred Weinstein and Gerald Platt, Shorter wrote the first comprehensive history of the family in Europe. He argued that the bourgeois family emerged as a nest of domesticity, as a private world withdrawn from society, when the capitalist economy liberated individuals from community constraints. The capitalist market eroded the collective authority of the village and other corporate bodies over the intimate affairs of the individual. Shorter claimed that love and sex based on spontaneous and empathic emotions replaced relations based on calculation and interest. In Parson's words, the expressive function replaced the instrumental function. Once capitalism gave individuals the opportunity to escape from parental restrictions and to choose mates freely, nothing could hold back what Shorter termed "the surge of sentiment." The nuclear family was established, he continued, when couples paired on the basis of romantic love and regarded the intrusions of the community as unwarranted interference with privacy. Domesticity, romantic love and maternal love, all built around privacy and isolation, were the cornerstones of the nuclear family to Shorter. One basic problem with Shorter's presentation is that he regarded these features of the modern family as natural impulses which arose inevitably once individuals had any say in the matter, once, as he said, capitalism fulfilled the "wish to be free."
Historically, there are many errors and dubious generalizations in Shorter's account. For example, he asserts that a sexual revolution began in the nineteenth century along with the rise of domesticity, romantic love and maternal care. He makes this argument on the basis of his view of the peasants as sexually repressed. Hence only in the nineteenth century do we find, according to him, an explosion of sexual exploration. Even if Shorter's view of peasant sexuality is correct, which by no means should be conceded, he can make his claim only by offering a series of outrageous secondary arguments. First, he ignores the aristocracy completely. This is a class which is characterized by libertinage and extra-marital affairs-certainly not a repressed group. If there was a sexual revolution in the nineteenth century it hardly outdid the aristocracy of the old regime. Second, Shorter fails to make crucial class distinctions. In the early nineteenth century, the rise of romantic love, domesticity and maternal care were bourgeois phenomena. But this group certainly did not participate in any sexual revolution; if it did it was a "revolution" toward frigidity for women and perversity for men, as Freud demonstrated. The sexual revolution of which Shorter speaks, based on a rise in illegitimacy figures, was if anything confined to the early industrial working class. The "promiscuity" of this class, so bemoaned by nineteenth-century moralists, can hardly be considered part of the same phenomenon as the rise of domesticity. The latter was associated with the emergence of the bourgeois nuclear family. Hence to claim, in a blanket way, that the sexual revolution was part of the same process of "liberation" as the rise of romantic love obscures the fact that the two things went on separately at different levels of society. Finally, Shorter uses sexist arguments which distort the history of women. He actually claims that prostitutes were participating in the "sexual revolution." For bourgeois women who were experiencing the new feelings of romantic love, maternal care and domesticity, Shorter suggests a criterion of a "sacrifice test" which these women pass; they thus receive a diploma of modernity. While it is true that bourgeois women devoted themselves to maintaining their homes as a nest and refuge, the use of the phrase "sacrifice test" to account for the phenomenon obscures the confinement of women in the nuclear family and makes their protest against it appear as a failure to pass a moral exam. In all these ways, Shorter's account and conceptualization of the sexual revolution fails the "historical test" of intelligibility and adequacy.
The main question raised by Shorter's book concerns the theoretical problem of defining the bourgeois family. If one views this family structure as the spontaneous consequence of "freedom" which wells up from deep within each individual rather than as circumscribed by social structure, one is essentially presenting it as natural to mankind. Therefore one is presenting it as the fulfillment of human needs, as an ideal social arrangement. This is of course ideological, justifying a given social structure on- the basis of a metaphysics of human nature; more specifically it is a theodicy, justifying the ways of the bourgeoisie to all humanity. For Shorter, society today has attained a family structure which allows human beings the freedom to experiment with their personal lives, which guarantees them a free quest for individual development, and which supports their basic needs for spontaneous, intimate relations. But Shorter recognizes the crisis of the bourgeois family of the past few decades, although he has no adequate explanation for it. Speaking of the loss of communal sociability, of the tragic rise of divorce rates, of the communication gap between parents and children which beset the bourgeois family, he can state only this: "It's just like my mother said: nothing comes free in this world." I would not repeat this remark, which accepts social irrationality as a product of fate, except that it marks the collapse of Shorter's whole position: there can be no historical view of the bourgeois family structure in his account, no critical assessment of its limits and its changing features, no prescription of its weaknesses and needed transformations.
In addition to the ideological weakness of Shorter's view, another difficulty stems from his lack of a psychological theory. The advantage of a position which includes a psychological theory can be seen best through examining Shorter's inability to show the mediations between society and the family. Without a psychological theory of family structure the relative autonomy of the family disappears in his argument and the intelligibility of family history is lost. He is unable to present the nuclear family as a structure in its own right and indicate properly just where the economy determines it and where it determines the economy. Confusions abound when he claims that the capitalist market requires an "egotistical economic mentality" to "spread into various non-economic domains of life." In Shorter's account, the market forced individuals to look out first for themselves and this individualism extended to the family as romantic love and maternal care. There are three errors here: (1) How was it possible for the economic system to rely on individualism when there was no psychic or emotional preparation for it, no emotional structure of the family that would internalize values so deeply within the individual that he would appear to be an autonomous agent? (2) Individualism was not supported by the economic realities of the working class because there was little chance of upward social mobility for them, little chance for them to squeeze pennies and accumulate capital. Yet Shorter sees the working class as the vanguard of sexual innovation, the standard-bearers of modernization, just that group which was most "individualistic" and "spontaneous" in sex. How could capitalism be the cause of these sexual changes among the working class when it did not produce parallel changes in the group's economic life? (3) Shorter confuses a determinist explanation based on market forces and an individualist explanation based on personal wishes to be free. If the market is forcing people to be individualists, then they are not free to do so. But this is a basic problem in much of liberal theory, an irresolvable antimony of determinism and freedom. At the level of family history, it means that Shorter presents large-scale social actions as if they were undertaken by individuals in multiple, separate, accidentally contemporaneous decisions: women all over Europe suddenly decided to give loving care to their infants, boys all over Europe suddenly decided to resist their parents' wishes and marry the girls of their dreams. But the task of social history is to avoid the obscurity of presenting change as the simple, private decisions of millions of people. Instead its aim is to depict the conjuncture, to analyze the social structures leading in one direction or another, to present the choices of individuals not as arbitrary coincidences on a massive scale but as occurring in a concrete, definable situation.
The Making of the Modern Family is a central book for family history. It brings together and summarizes studies of the European family by historians from Europe and the United States. It outlines the kinds of documents that are available to historians. Above all, it pioneers many compelling, questions about the change from pre-modern to modern family forms. More than any other study so far, it courageously poses basic questions for historians to pursue. Yet Shorter's theoretical confusions detract seriously from his advances, discrediting in many ways the very questions he so boldly proposes.
I want to argue in these pages that we must redefine family structure away from issues of family size and toward issues relating to emotional patterns. The significant questions that can be posed in family history do not concert, the number of people in the household or in the kin-group residence unit. Instead, family history can contribute to the knowledge of social history by looking at the emotional structures in the daily life of various family types. Such historical investigation will enable social science to shed light not only on the past but also on the present dilemmas of family life which concern, to a great degree, feelings, sexuality and psychic stability. In this way, family history can contribute substantially to our understanding of current discontents as they relate to the isolated, conjugal family type. This study will also suggest that historians and social scientists in general have gone astray by viewing the family as a unitary phenomenon which has undergone some type of linear transformation. I will argue in the concluding chapters that the history of the family is discontinuous, involving several distinct family structures, each with its own emotional pattern, and that these family structures cannot be correlated, in their development, with any single variable, such as modernization, industrialization, patriarchy, capitalism, urbanism or empathy. In all these ways I hope to contribute to a reconceptualization of family history, to aid in redefining the important questions raised by studying the family, and to outline the future tasks of family studies.
The question of family history extends to major issues of contemporary life. It raises the problem of women's liberation---although feminists, with the exception of Juliet Mitchell in Women's Estate, have in general not shed much light on family theory. It raises the problem of the class consciousness of the proletariat, since workers at all levels give much support to the social'-system in part because it allows them, or so they think, privacy with their families. If the worker himself cannot get ahead socially, at least his children can; if work itself is alienating and exploiting, leisure time in the family compensates for it. In addition to the types of domination generated to a large extent within the family---those of age and sex-the family plays an important ideological role in the stability of the social system.
The tendency of Marxist social theorists is to view the family as a dependent variable, a secondary structure, unintelligible in its own right, which will change after the revolution. There are two problems with this position: (1) the family generates precisely those needs which make radical consciousness difficult in the first place, and (2) there are inequities and sources of oppression within the existing family form which are overlooked. Marx saw the proletariat as a radical class because workers had no interests which they would bring to the revolution as a basis for a new class society. Workers had no property; hence, Marx reasoned, they formed a universal class. But even the degraded and propertyless proletariat did have interests in domination: workers had interests in dominating their women and children. This made workers---and still makes them---something less than "universal." Only a theory that can account for the specific coherence and relative autonomy of the family will overcome Marx's mistake.
The book is organized into two sections. The first reviews critically what I consider the major theories of the family. of There are discussions of Freud, of Parsons and Erikson Engels, of Reich and the Frankfurt School, of Lacan and of the family therapists. Some might dispute my choices, like the omission of LePlay, of anthropological theories, and of the psychological theories of Piaget or Adler, but I believe that a critical study of the theories I have chosen raises the important questions. I am convinced that the major questions of the family concern the psychological level, the types of emotional structure which change as the family changes, generating change as the family changes, generating changes in the deepest needs of individuals. Emotional restrictions have been the most overlooked aspect of our recent history, that aspect very much in need of critical investigation. Because of the importance of Freud I have been most critical of him, pointing out more sharply than elsewhere the deficiencies of his position.
The second section offers my own suggestions on family theory and outlines models of family structures from the early modern period to the present. I call my theory critical, as opposed to ideological. By this I mean that a theory must account for its object as historical in nature and must fix the location of the object socially, defining the limits of the structure in terms of the freedom of people to regulate their lives collectively and democratically. A critical theory, as I see it, is "normative" providing a basis for reform of the structure in question. Theories which do not accomplish these ends I call ideological. By this I do not mean that they have political overtones, since a critical theory is itself political; I mean instead that ideological theories present the social structure ahistorically, as a natural, inevitable, unchangeable or universal feature of human existence. Any theory that tells us that what we have is what we must have is ideological. It serves to legitimize and reinforce the given system, regardless of that system's deficiencies. I contend also that there is no basis epistemologically for ideological theories, since human beings have no ground for saying that a given social arrangement cannot be changed. If ever human being had the right and capacity to participate equally in determining the nature of the social system, then perhaps the problem of ideology would be reduced considerably. Ideology always implies that some groups of people cannot or should not attempt to remove some obstacle to their freedom. This notion of critical and ideological theory stems from the Marxist tradition, especially that of the Frankfurt School and Sartre's existential Marxism.