Perry Anderson reviews Between Sex and Power, Göran Therborn on the family

I’ve long been a fan of Göran Therborn’s work, ever since I came across his 1977 New Left Review piece on the rule of capital and the rise of democracy.  Perry Anderson reviews his latest book Between Sex and Power in this week’s The Nation.

“Surveying the world, Therborn distinguishes five major family systems: European (including New World and Pacific settlements), East Asian, sub-Saharan African, West Asian/North African and Subcontinental, with a further two more ‘interstitial’ ones, Southeast Asian and Creole American. Although each of the major systems is the heartland of a distinctive religious or ethical code–Christian, Confucian, Animist, Muslim, Hindu–and the interstitial ones are zones of overlapping codes, the systems themselves form many ‘geocultures’ in which elements of a common history can override contrasts of belief within them. . . Most striking of all, in a field so dominated by social or merely technical registers, is the political construction Therborn gives to the history of the family in the twentieth century.

What are the central propositions of the book? All traditional family systems, Therborn argues, have comprised three regimes: of patriarchy, marriage and fertility (crudely summarized–who calls the shots in the family, how people hitch up, how many kids result). Between Sex and Power sets out to trace the modern history of each.”