Johannes Althusius on Husband and Wife

Althusius was a Reformed political philosopher writing at the dawn of the 17th century. He drew deeply from Aristotle and the Western natural law tradition. One of his most important emphases was on the family as the base of society, and subsequently federalism and subsidiarity.

The following represents the virtually unanimous voice of the Christian, and specifically Reformed, tradition’s understanding of the family. From his Politics:

“…The conjugal association and symbiosis is one in which the husband and wife, who are bound each to the other, communicate the advantages and responsibilities of married life. The director and governor of the common affairs pertaining to this association is the husband. The wife and family are obedient, and do what is commanded.

The advantages and responsibilities are either proper to one of the spouses, or common to both. Proper advantages and responsibilities are either those the husband communicates to his wife, or those the wife communicates to her husband. The husband communicates to his wife his name, family, reputation, station in life, and economic condition. He also provides her with guidance, legal protection, and defense against violence and injury. Finally, he supplies her with all other necessities, such as management, solicitude, food, and clothing.

The wife extends to her husband obedience, subjection, trust, compliance, services, support, aid, honor, reverence, modesty, and respect. She brings forth children for him, and nurses and trains them. She joins and consoles him in misery and calamity. She accommodates herself to his customs, and without his counsel and consent she does nothing. And thus she renders to her husband an agreeable and peaceful life.

There are also common advantages and responsibilities that are provided and communicated by both spouses, such as kindness, use of the body for avoiding harlotry and for procreating children, mutual habitation except when absence may be necessary, intimate and familiar companionship, mutual love, fidelity, patience, mutual service, communication of all goods and right (jus), management of the family, administration of household duties, education of children in the true religion, protection against and liberation from perils, and mourning of the dead.”

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