chapter  3
7 Pages

Absolutism, democracy and God

In 1576, in a country ravaged by religious wars, the French philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin outlined his conviction that peace could be restored if the monarch was accorded absolute and indivisible power. In England, the patriarchal theory of obligation constituted the official doctrine of the Anglican Church and was accepted by the dissenting clergy. Compelling as it was, the parallel between domestic, political and Godly authority did not provide sufficient guidance for the administration of increasingly complex territorial units. Generations of radical critics have drawn attention to the fact that even in theory the eventual demise of patriarchalism as the organising principle of political life did not mean that all children would grow up to be equal under the law. More recent feminist reading of the texts shows that the fathers of liberal democratic theory invariably ended up agreeing with their patriarchalist opponents that women, as future wives, were naturally subject to men and husbands.