firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
Patriarchal Familism and Individualism
Patriarchal Familism and Individualism
Recently such issues as "family" and "home" are drawing gradual attention. As "family disorganization" and "family destruction" have become everyday words, more and as more people stay single or choose divorce, a decreasing population growth and child-care issues are emerging as serious social problems. Although family matters should be private, and marriage or divorce is an extremely personal matter which cannot be settled in the public light, public discussions over the issue are unavoidable because its social controversy is quite huge.
The most recent social controversy surrounding the family occurred when the Korean Constitutional Court found Korea's Hoju System - head of the family system - unconstitutional, amid soaring social interest about the family and home. The Hoju System, whose existence has been a subject of intense dispute for a long time, will most likely be abolished soon, at least in terms of law through the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled that the system itself, which mandates that the family is centered on the family head, the so called Hoju, is unconstitutional, saying that 'The Hoju System is a system based on sex roles to discriminate women from men without just reason". The Court understood that the system was in violation of the current Constitution which advocates individual dignity and gender equality in terms of marriage and home life. The court made clear that conservation of traditional values, such as family harmony or respect for the elderly, have nothing to do with the Hoju System, by saying that, "Since traditional ideas or good custom and manners, such as family harmony or respect for the elderly, can be succeeded or developed in the light of culture or ethics, the gender-discriminative property of the system cannot be justified."
In response to that, those who have advocated the system warned that, "Without the Hoju system, home training will collapse, leading to more social crime and divorce." Meanwhile opponents of the system hailed the ruling by declaring, "Liberal and equal democracy which was declared as the most fundamental value of national community should be pursued even in home life as well." The fact that these contrary viewpoints came out on the issue clearly reveals that the ethics and social implication of the Hoju System has two totally different aspects. Although the most convincing argument against the system is the undeniable social value of "gender equality", which is seemingly denied by the Hoju System, the proposition by feminists that the Hoju System is a patriarchal product lies behind the theory.
Evils of Patriarchal Familism
The recent analysis on patriarchy as developed in terms of feminism has provided many insights that have been disregarded. Though patriarchy is defined as a ruling structure where the father has the greatest power within the family, feminists exaggerated the idea to be a male-ruling structure that echoes in all of society as well as at home. In social and economic terms, since the patriarch of a producing family controlled the family labor by representing his family and solely ruled and owned products of the labor in agricultural economy before the current capitalist society, agricultural production was understood as a patriarchal production method. Henry Main once defined patriarchy as a family form where the eldest man among the family members reigned over the whole family composed of his children, wife and slaves, as an absolutistic ruler who could even grant life or death and give or seize properties of other members, and where the rule of succession was the core concept of family unity. The patriarch was determined through succession, and the individual patriarch exerted absolute power over all of his family members.
The father represented his family and was entitled to pass on his properties and household economy to his son. The father managed and ruled all family members as an absolutistic power. The patriarch had a centralized power structure with absolutistic influence on marriage, dwelling site, or economic activities of other family members.
Although the patriarch had been the strongest ruler within the family at least before feminism developed, the relationship between the patriarch and other family members was not understood to be comprised of subordinate relations, as patriarchal authority was believed to exist for the best interest of the whole family. As feminism developed in modern society, some feminists regarded patriarchy as gender-discriminative relations, and interpreted the system as a concept that indicated men's rule over women, thus ignoring the traditional foundation upon which the patriarchal system was built. They began to interpret patriarchy as a male-ruling gender system that created unequal power relations. Such patriarchal familism is a system where the family members below the patriarch have their will and autonomy denied and suppressed.
As patriarchal familism considers family an organization with same destiny, family members are compelled to satisfy themselves for common interest of the family. In other words, they widely believe that a single member can be satisfied for others within the family. Such a family system implies a power structure that justifies suppression. Not all family members can be regarded as an individual who has his own competence and individuality.
This patriarchal familism puts priority on the overall well-being and prosperity of the family over individual freedom or autonomy. In patriarchal familism, the totalitarian belief of family is that it is based on a group of people sharing the same blood lines, rather than focusing on a single individual. The Implicative System can be said to be a product of such a belief. The bloodline-centered idea naturally led up to patriarchal society. The predominance of men over women is a natural phenomenon in such s society. Women and children could not be properly treated in the family-oriented traditional society since all family members lived under the patriarchal authority. This patriarchal familism shows a stark contrast with liberalism which believes that family originates from mutual agreement.
Patriarchal Familism and Individualism
As the feudal system collapsed and the capitalist system emerged, patriarchal familism gradually degraded, leading up to a couple-centered structure and a gender-equal small family system. Yet, people still easily see patriarchal familism practices that place more value on the commonality of members of a family rather than on the individuality of its group. This system endows the patriarch with absolutist power, and promotes and apply the spirit of family relations to individual-society relations and individual-nation relations. Although patriarchal familism was weakened through the changed social relations of 'social position to agreement', the tradition that had seen a nation as an expansion of the family, and a king as an expansion of the patriarch of an absolutistic monarchy is still found in this society.
Today, the oftentimes the relationship between employer and the employee is one between a patriarch and his family-like members, not as relations through agreement. This is a remnant of traditional patriarchal familism. Family-like nations or enterprises still exist. The patriarchal family-centered attitude naturally gives rise to the welfare state theory whereby a nation is obligated to relieve those in need as the patriarch should take care of members of his family who are in need. In addition, just as the patriarch and other family members are not on equal footing, a nation cannot be equal to people who comprise it, which leads to the idea that a patriarchal nation should train and control its people. The idea that a nation should take responsibility for people's well-being through public education is also in line with the patriarchal attitude in terms of structure. Liberalism which respects individuals as autonomous and independent subjects can hardly prosper in this situation.
Since the authoritarian and collective feature of patriarchy is in a stark contrast to the individual autonomy and self-responsibility of liberalism, patriarchal familism needs to be broken for liberalism to be activated.
As the individual is a purpose unto himself/herself, not a means unto others, the liberalist human view that believes a society or nation exists for individuals, but not vice versa, is incompatible with the authoritarian and totalitarianistic nature of patriarchal familism. According to the fundamental principle of liberalism, an individual should make decision for himself/herself and take due responsibility for the decision. It is the individual who best understands the benefits, and the individual is well aware in which way he/she can gain the best benefits. Individualism believes that individual development contributes to the welfare of the whole society. Individualism values independence, privacy and respect for others, It is against all forms of control to individuals. The individualist idea laid the theoretical groundwork for liberalism and the market economy. Extreme individualism can degrade into anarchism, but liberalism based on individualism believes that the government should intervene on behalf of individuals to prevent someone from unlawfully intruding unto another's private life, to make people autonomously fulfill the agreement, and to use every possible means to achieve security. Individualism supports the ownership system that an individual or family should be provided with the best opportunity to acquire, manage and transfer his/her properties.
Beyond Patriarchal Familism
As people begin to take seriously several social problems, such as the low marriage and birth rates, high divorce rate, the advent of Wild Goose Daddies resulting from private tutoring cost and deteriorating public education, the soaring ranks of abandoned elderly people, social concerns about the "Family Crisis" or "Family Destruction" are increasing. If the family unit, which has fulfilled a number of tasks including achievement of sexual desire, reproducing social members through nurturing and education, emotional stabilization and economic cooperation, is faced with a crisis regarding its continued existence, all of society will be susceptible to danger. The family is playing a key role for society as well as for each individual.
However, the collective and authoritarian primitive instinct based on patriarchal familism is an obstacle to be removed in order for individual freedom and human prosperity. It is advisable that we should break away from patriarchal familism which is still lurking in this society, and build desirable families where all members can love and respect one another on an equal footing, so as to settle such problems as "family crisis" and "family destruction", as well as to promote individual freedom.
Shin Jung-Sop (Prof. of Philosophy, Kangwon Univ. firstname.lastname@example.org)