How we got here: From the biology of love to capitalist patriarchy

This is a humongous category which, similar to and somewhat overlapping with feminist theory, includes many more people than I can remember and name. The totality of what I have learned, reflected on, synthesized, and integrated from these many people and others is captured most fully in the “Why Patriarchy Matters: Making Sense of how We Got Here” packet, which is the culmination, still ongoing, of thirty-seven years of reading and research. A few individuals stand out that I want to honor in particular.

Heide Goettner-Abendroth continues to do pioneering research that decodes archeological, anthropological, and other findings into a coherent framework that she calls “Modern Matriarchal Studies.” Although I differ from her in the choice to use the term “matriarchal,” I am in awe of what she has been able to piece together and it influences everything about my ability to hold vision.

This combines with the work of Humberto Maturana Romesin who, along with Gerda Werden-Zöller, put together the book The Origins of Humanness in the Biology of Love which is an astonishing complement to both Genevieve Vaughan and Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s contributions. I don’t believe he actually knew of their work, which feels like a loss, and at least I sense, within my own writing, that I am finding ways of integrating. Specifically, his evolutionary biology framework about how we evolved into a lineage of love matches in specific details Genevieve’s understanding of the maternal roots of the gift economy and Heide’s (and others’) reconstructed descriptions of how pre-patriarchal societies function and, also, what may be possible if we manage to free ourselves, individually and collectively, from patriarchy.

Although I read Maria Mies meticulous book Patriarchy and Accumulation On A World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor in the 1990s, it wasn’t until I read Silvia Federici’s  Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation that all the pieces about capitalism and violence in the context of patriarchy fell into place fully for me as she put together the enclosures, the slave trade, colonization, and the witch hunts into one agonizing and clarifying tapestry of what has befallen us to get us here. I have called this book a “before and after” book because I feel changed by reading it.

David Graeber, whose unexpected death still rocks me two and a half years later, was another thinker and researcher whose work connected many dots for me and made sense of phenomena which previously seemed disparate and yet relevant to each other. Taking in his analysis in Debt: the First 5000 Years about how markets, states, debt, money, and slavery all appeared together made immense sense to me. David didn’t connect this analysis to patriarchy, which I believe is a loss, as connecting these dots might well have deepened his capacity to shed light on the causes of what happened in what he described as well as more strongly point to vision and what can be done, which is missing from most of what I have read over the years.

Manfred Max-Neef used to be a “normal” economist at UC Berkeley, and he left to develop unusual theories about macroeconomics in addition to his primary work on needs (which also influenced Marshall) within the context of human-scale development, his response to industrial development paradigms. His Threshold Hypothesis article about the inherent limitation of being able to increase well-being through economic growth and the global and environmental implications of that is short and deep and complements everything else that has landed me in the deep understanding of the total impossibility of sustaining the current paradigm.

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Nonviolent Global Liberation Community