Althusius on the Clan

It struck me as a I read Chapter Three in Althusius’ Politca that I’ve never seen an explicit teaching on the extended family. When a society is as mobile as ours is, you end up functionally without a family. The result of this is to replace the natural support system with a civil support system; I’m not convinced that has worked out well. An upshot of what Althusius is saying here is that we have a duty to stay close to our family geographically, unless extraordinary circumstances arise.

The kinship association is one in which relatives and in-laws are united for the purpose of communicating advantages and responsibilities.

This association arises from at least three persons, but it can be conserved by fewer. Frequently it consists of a much larger number.

He is called the leader (princeps) of the family or of any clan of people, who is placed over such a family or clan, and who has the right to coerce (jus coercendi) the persons of his family individually and collectively.

The rights communicated among the persons who are united in this natural association are called rights of blood (jura sanguinis). They consist partly in advantages, partly in responsibilities, and in the bringing together and sustaining these advantages mutually among the kinsmen.

Such advantages are, first, the affection, love, and goodwill of the blood relative and kinsman.

From this affection arises the solicitude by which the individual
is concerned for the welfare and advantages of his kinsman, and
labors for them no less than for his own.

Second among the advantages of the family and kinsmen I refer
to the communion in all the rights and privileges belonging to the
family and relationship. And to this point I refer the enjoyment of the clan or family
name, and of its insignia.

Third among the common rights of the family and relationship I refer to the provision for support in case of necessity or want.

Fourth, a privilege granted to one of the kinsmen is extended by right of relationship to his family, wife, children, and even brother.

The responsibilities of the family and relationship are services and works that the member owes to his kinsman, such as forethought, care, and defense of the family and of the members of the household.

The leadership in meeting these responsibilities rests upon the paterfamilias as master and head of his family.

Upon the older members of the family rests the duty of correcting and reprehending their younger kinsmen for mistakes of youthful indiscretion and hotheadedness.

These advantages and responsibilities are intensified as the degree of relationship among the kinsmen increases. Therefore they are greater between parents and children. For parents should educate their children, instruct them in the true knowledge of God, govern and defend them, even lay up treasures for them, make them participants in everything they themselves have, including their family and station in life, provide suitable marriages for them at the right time, and upon departing born life make them their heirs and provide optimally for them.

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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.”