Revolutionizing the family had been an important part of the socialist project since the 19th century. Several studies have shown the attempt to liberate women through extra-domestic work and the collectivization of housework and childcare. However, few have analyzed the figure of the father in the (future) socialist family. Though, ... (Show more)
Revolutionizing the family had been an important part of the socialist project since the 19th century. Several studies have shown the attempt to liberate women through extra-domestic work and the collectivization of housework and childcare. However, few have analyzed the figure of the father in the (future) socialist family. Though, paternal authority and his power to bequeath property lay at the basis of the critique of capitalism, for instance in Friedrich Engels’ writings.
Engels believed that equality between man and woman would be established if private property was abandoned. The utopian socialist Charles Fourier suggested equally to “exempt” fathers from “material worries.” Furthermore, they should be released from all the “repugnant” components of education (authority, reprimand, punishment). Only then could they build an intense, emotional relationship with their children, based on mutual love. At the turn of the century, German socialist feminists such as Käte Duncker and Clara Zetkin combined too the critique of (capitalist) industrialization with an appeal for a “new” fatherhood: They condemned 19th-century industrialization for having “taken the father away” from his family and proposed, as being part of the new, proletarian family, to bring him back into childcare and education, for these were considered as being shared responsibilities of mother and father.
“Socialist fatherhood” was not a stable entity in history and its understanding evolved over time. However, the idea of equality (between man and woman as well as between parents and child) and the idea of a relationship based not on material constraints, but on emotions, remained one of its central elements.
This idea was reinforced in socialist countries, for instance within marriage counselling or in advice books. In socialist psychology and educational theory, father involvement in early childhood was increasingly considered a precondition for a lasting, close, and emotional relationship between father and child.
In this paper, I will discuss the idea of a caring and emotional fatherhood as a part of socialist ideology in a long-term perspective, with case studies from France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. The paper will present theoretical conceptions about (future) socialist fatherhood and will discuss different attempts to implement it. Therefore, I will draw on ego-documents, press reports, and contemporary sociological surveys. (Show less)