Johann Jakob Bachofen

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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.


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.
References in periodicals archive ?
The first important reference to Vico occurs, significantly, in Benjamin's essay "Jacob Johan Bachofen," which he wrote in French in 1934-5 for the Novelle Revue Francaise (which eventually rejected it).(51) It consists of just a brief remark, albeit a most significant one, for in it Benjamin ascribes to Vico--and not to Bachofen!--the discovery of the matriarchical principle.