I have, however, since entering the field, restricted the meaning I attach to the term “patriarchy.” For many, it is synonymous with “the subordination of women.” It carries this meaning for me, too, but with this qualification: I add the words “here and now.” This makes a big difference. When I hear it said, as I often do, that “patriarchy has changed between the stone age and the present,” I know that it is not “my” patriarchy that is being talked about. What I study is not an ahistoric concept that has wandered down through the centuries but something peculiar to contemporary industrial societies. I do not believe in the theory of survivals—and here I am in agreement with other Marxists. An institution that exists today cannot be explained by the fact that it existed in the past, even if this past is recent. I do not deny that certain elements of patriarchy today resemble elements of the patriarchy of one or two hundred years ago; what I deny is that this continuance—insofar as it really concerns the same thing—in itself constitutes an explanation.
Many people think that when they have found the point of origin of an institution in the past, they hold the key to its present existence. But they have, in fact, explained neither its present existence nor even its birth (its past appearance), for one must explain its existence at each and every moment by the context prevailing at that time; and its persistence today (if really is persistence) must be explained by the present context. Some so-called historical explanations are in fact ahistorical, precisely because they do not take account of the given conditions of each period. This is not History but mere dating. History is precious if it is well conducted, if each period is examined in the same way as the present period. A science of the past worthy of the name cannot be anything other than a series of synchronic analyses.
The search for origins is a caricature of this falsely historical procedures and is one of the reasons why I have denounced it, and why I shall continue to denounce it each and every time it surfaces—which is, alas, far too frequently. (The other reason why I denounce the search for origins is the use of its hidden naturalistic presuppositions.) But from the scientific point of view, it is as illegitimate to seek keys to the present situation in the nineteenth century as in the Stone Age.
Since 1970, then, I have been saying that patriarchy is the system of subordination of women to men in contemporary industrial societies, that this system has an economic base, and that this base is the domestic mode of production. It is hardly worth saying that these three ideas have been, and remain, highly controversial.
Psycho-analysis divides people into two types—introverted and extraverted. Introversion represents error in man, a straying away from reality into self, a going of the mind into mind. Both psycho-analysis and criticism agree that this process cannot, or rather should not produce art. Both processes, or their possibility, exist in each individual (psycho-analysis is forced to admit that introversion always exists; extraversion exists if the individual is “successful”). They may, it is held, be combined in phantasy; and phantasy produces “living reality,” art. But what is this phantasy but the whole introversive world of man behaving extraversively—the collective-real? Unless it is introversion actually transformed in the individual into extraversion, individual mind into matter of “more than individual use” (as Mr. Read defines creative phantasies)—the individual-real? The opposition between collective-real and individual-real disappears in the general agreement between all parties that, by no matter what method, introversion must be extraverted. Likewise the opposition between romanticism and classicism: romanticism is acceptable if it has an extraverted, classical touch; classicism is not necessarily damaged by an introverted, romantic touch, so long as it does not lose complete hold of extraversion.