Bachofen, Johann Jakob


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Bachofen, Johann Jakob

(bäkō`fən), 1815–87, Swiss legal historian and antiquarian. Bachofen studied in Berlin, Göttingen, Paris, and Cambridge, and accepted only honorary offices in order to safeguard his independence. He analyzed myths and archaeological artifacts in an attempt to reconstruct the spiritual and social worlds of ancient societies. He postulated an evolutionary sequence of symbolical, mythical, and logical modes of thought. He also demonstrated that marriage, family, and kinship take on different forms in different societies, and assumed an evolutionary sequence of primitive promiscuity, leading to matriarchal, and finally patriarchal forms of social organization. See matriarchymatriarchy,
familial and political rule by women. Many contemporary anthropologists reject the claims of J. J. Bachofen and Lewis Morgan that early societies were matriarchal, although some contemporary feminist theory has suggested that a primitive matriarchy did indeed exist
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. Bachofen's selected writings are included in Myth, Religion and Mother Right (1967).

Bachofen, Johann Jakob

 

Born Dec. 22, 1815, in Basel; died there on Nov. 25, 1887. Swiss legal historian.

Bachofen laid the foundations for the study of the history of the family. In his work Matriarchal Law (1861) and others he put forth the thesis of the universal historical development of primitive mankind from an original promiscuity (“heterism”) to matriarchal and later to patriarchal law. Bachofen erroneously viewed the evolution of religious ideas as the basis of this development. After criticizing and rejecting Bachofen’s idealistic ideas, K. Marx and F. Engels made use of his work in creating a materialistic conception of primitive history.

REFERENCES

Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Kosven, M. O. Matriarkhat: Istoriia problemy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
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