David d’Avray
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Lay kinship solidarity and papal law
in Law, laity and solidarities
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Medieval kinship structures varied according to period and region. In the course of the Middle Ages, however, a unitary kinship system was increasingly imposed on the laity by the church. This chapter aims to answer some precise questions about the rationality of this kinship system. Like most good questions about rationality, these are ultimately derived from Max Weber. Firstly, the chapter talks about the surface rationale propagated by the church. The distinction between 'instrumental rationality' and 'value rationality' seems to me especially useful for the study of kinship rules. In Weber's conceptual scheme these two kinds of rationality were complementary. The 'four degrees' rule may have been irrelevant to England, but in Italy and in other areas, where clans were the norm, the kinship law regulated by the popes was a powerful force for lay solidarity.

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Law, laity and solidarities

Essays in honour of Susan Reynolds


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