By Eva Izsak-Niimura

Charente_webWhat constitutes a “family?” What is this corner stone of society? The definition of “family” continues to be an evolving topic. Yet, the “traditional” family is not collapsing. As a matter of fact, it demonstrates an amazing capacity for survival in light of all revolutionary forces. There are, undeniably, many alternatives nowadays to “old fashioned” family values—gay marriage, French Pacs, single parenthood—a smorgasbord of possibilities. Nonetheless, the institution stubbornly persists.

The historical background of the family lingers today, and helps create many of the different economic outcomes we witness in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Having lived both in the U.S. and in France, I can testify firsthand to some of these differences in an account that is more anecdotal than scientific, painted with a broad brush, which may be recognized by my fellow expatriates. *

The traditional European family is vertical—that is, the family line moves down the generations from the founding fathers to their descendents. The patriarch views his future incarnation in his, until recently male, offspring who carries on the family name, title, and fortune. The structure remains rooted in the mechanism of feudal society: land being the main, sometimes only, asset, and the methods of begetting it determine what the future generations would eat. In very rough terms, the eldest boy ended up inheriting the land, farming it, and passing it on to his own eldest son. The second became a priest, rendering the issue of inheritance, by definition, quite irrelevant. And the third, usually took on soldiering as a career, and either conveniently died in battle or acquired his own fortunes, looting being a probable option. Continue reading »