Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke, And Rousseau on the by Eileen Hunt Botting

By Eileen Hunt Botting

Compares the function of the relatives within the political considered Rousseau, Burke, and Wollstonecraft.

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Additional info for Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke, And Rousseau on the Transformation of the Family

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From early on in his writing career, Rousseau expressed fear about the destruction of the patriarchal, sex-roled structure of the family in his homeland, Geneva. Rousseau believed that the husband ought to be the legally and socially recognized head of the family, as was general practice at the time. He moreover affirmed that men, not women, should be citizens. 31 Although he viewed absolute patriarchal power as illegitimate, Rousseau still argued that the family should practice a system of sex-role differentiation, so that males and females engaged in distinct occupations based on the socially useful and stabilizing qualities and abilities of their respective sexes.

49 The building of homes does not only spur conflict, but also the first stirrings of love and family life as we know it: “The first developments of the heart were the effect of a new situation that united the husbands and wives, fathers and children in one common habitation. The habit of living together gave rise to the sweetest sentiments known to men: conjugal love and paternal love. ”50 The transition from nature to society results from the introduction of the family home, which in turn spurs the development of distinct sex roles for men and women.

The difficulty of ever realizing this goal is perhaps the reason why Rousseau separated his most prominent treatments of the family, in Emile and Julie, from his classic meditation on the state, in the Social Contract. Yet by providing important textual and philosophical links between these texts, Rousseau keeps open the door to contemplating the moral and political desirability of reconciling the ends of the family and the state in a symbiotic whole, no matter whether the ideal can be fully achieved in reality.

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