MPIDR Working Paper
The genealogy of Eastern European difference: an insider’s view
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2011-014, 50 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (August 2011)
The view of Eastern Europe as a locus of complex family organisation and familistic societal values has reached the status of general dogma in Western social sciences and demography. By offering an overview of almost entirely unknown scholarly achievements of Eastern Europeanists, this essay represents an attempt to persuade scholars to accept less stereotypical images of families from outside ‘Western Europe’. Well into the late 1990s, Eastern European literature on family forms remained screened off from the main current of European thought. Thus, not surprisingly, tracing the lineage of work from east of the ostensible Hajnal Line reveals the sharp differences between the findings of Eastern European researchers and the dominant assumptions of Western science. These
marginalised discourses need to be integrated into mainstream research and discussion, so that scholars can better understand marriage, family, household and community patterns in Europe and elsewhere. The diversity of family forms and the rhythms of their development in historical Eastern
Europe revealed in this literature also provide us with an excellent opportunity to free ourselves from a simplistic view of the continent’s familial history, and particularly from the one implied by the notion
of a ‘dividing line’.
Keywords: family forms, historical demography, household composition, marriage