Book Review: The Family: A World History
Mary Jo Maynes, Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, and Ann Waltner, Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota, briefly explore the notion of family across the ages in their concise book, The Family: A World History. Rather than tell the rise and fall of empires, the authors put the family at the center of their world historical story. Their main thesis in this book is that family construction is not natural, but instead is socially and historically constructed and these structures change over time in relation to social and political processes. The authors claim that the family structures affect the social, political and economical aspects of society and that in all places households have been and are the basic units of production, consumption and ritual. The authors write, “Cultural capital and religious values are also transmitted within families; families shape individual and collective predisposition and destinies. Arrangements made by and within families (such as marriage choices, or bequests of property, or decisions about educating children) contribute to social dynamism or stability, alongside and sometimes even more powerfully than economic systems, government policies, or intellectual movements” (X).
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