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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Sin of the Father: Reflections on the Roles of the Corporation Man, the Suburban Housewife, their Son, and their Daughter in the Deconstruction of the Patriarch

Close to the heart of the postmodernist project is the denigration of the father, typically called the patriarch. This widely ranging denunciation, which has its theoretical roots in the work of Foucault and Derrida, has continued, primarily with feminist writers, in virtually every field. (For a recent example in the management field see Sinclair, 1995). It is unrelievedly negative. According to this view, the father has oppressed and marginalized all those who are not like himself, fashioning the discourses of 'civilization' to support and obscure this oppression. Under cover of this camouflage, he has pursued only his selfish interest, not caring at all for anyone else. More than just controlling, he represents control itself, and were it not for his domination, freedom and self-expression would have reigned. Were it not for him, the different voices that he has silenced would have been able to create their own discourses, making a world full of difference and multifarious beauty. So terrible is this tyrant and the social order he created, that resistance to it can provide a basic direction for an individual's life. Now this is a very heavy indictment and a skeptic might wonder at its balance. Surely there have been malignant fathers. These fathers have sinned, this skeptic might agree, but have there not been benign and even beneficent ones, as well. If it is fair to say that civilization has represented patriarchal domination, certainly it has also manifested concern for the well being of the groups he has led. How does one account for the unqualified character of this denunciation? To make sense of it, one must assume that the evil he has done has so far outweighed the good that it is not necessary even to measure the latter.But what was this evil? What did the father do, or what was he believed to have done, that was responsible for this absolute condemnation? Surely this cannot have been just the collection of sins that fathers have committed, on the order of the sins that all human beings commit. It cannot have been just the sins of fathers. It must have been more than that. Let us call it the Sin of the Father. What, then, was the Sin of the Father? My contention is that one cannot answer the question of the Sin of the Father without a comprehension of the meaning of the accusation itself. But the idea of patriarchal evil cannot be understood in isolation. It did not emerge out of no place. Rather, it expressed and represented a social dynamic of the time. Understanding it, then, must require understanding that social dynamic and seeing the place of the idea within it. That will be the purpose of this essay. I will examine the roots of the belief in the badness of the father, looking at its social origins and its psychodynamics, trying ultimately to reveal its meaning. My course of investigation will require the elucidation of the connection between the father and the corporation man, a figure who is deeply involved in this play of meanings. I will proceed from there to an analysis of his family. In the end, we will be better able to understand the nature of the Sin of the Father.'