Good Example Of Extended Definition Of “Home” Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Home, Women, Concept, Sociology, Labor, World, Men

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/12/17

The concept of the “home,” which comes from the Greek term “komi” and translates as “village,” has been defined by two types of moralists, both of which wield a significant amount of power in society at-large. This notion functioned as the cornerstone for the domestic moral canon that figured largely in securing the property of the family in western societies. Moreover, the notion of the home functions as a critical discursive tool that reified traditional social hierarchies, thereby catering to the interests of the elite rather than the masses. The middle class mediated the meaning and gendering of the home and workplace to discursively prescribe middle-class mores and morality and to control women's labor (Gamber 3). Concurrently, the concept of a “homeland” figured largely in fomenting patriotism, which drove men and women to sacrifice their lives in countless wars that often solely benefited the small, ruling class and thus sustained a hierarchical status quo. Both uses of the concept of the home veil the original meaning and definition of the concept itself.
Originally, in both an ontological sense and a geographical one, the notion of the home referred to the sacred space at the center of the world that structured and tamed societies around the globe. Cultural theorist Mircea Eliade contends that the world was founded on the home as a sacred space because it was “at the heart of the real” (Eliade, as quoted by Winterson, ). Eliade further asserts that the home is the intersection of vertical and horizontal lines, and the vertical plane represented heaven while the horizontal plane represented, traffic and chaos. As such, the home emerged as a “place of orderwhere the order of things come together—the living and dead—the spirits of the ancestors and the present inhabitants (Winterson). Such logic suggests that without the home, social cohesion would disintegrate, and fragmentation and non-being would manifest themselves.
However, the concept of the home has figured largely in modern western discourses as a mechanism to preserve a moral canon that stripped women of political agency in the public sphere. Underlying assumptions regarding the proper and/or natural roles for men and women have been quite influential trans-historically for western societies. However, due to the division of labor according to one’s gender within the separate spheres ideology, men made “their living and their reputation in the world; women tend the hearth and raise the children” (Tosh 1). Such notions remain a signifier of an outdated and antiquated past rather than a “rational basis” for western society within the context of modernity. Scholar John Tosh brilliantly lambastes such reductive, pejorative, and oversimplified images of the Victorian family in England. Rather, he contends, a dynamic between manhood and the home did exist and functioned as a litmus test for family honor and respectability. Thus, the home became imbued with immense moral currency, which deviated from its original intent.
Moreover, in nineteenth-century America, the home and workplace were continually negotiated in order to impose middle-class values while also regulating female wage labor. The concept of the home emerged as an evocative ideal during the nineteenth century that undergirded the dichotomized depictions of the home versus the nascent boardinghouse institutions in order to regulate women's domestic labor in the public sphere, propagate the middle-class lifestyle as the ideal way to live, and shift the way that urban working-class members lived, especially women, within the context of consumerism. Urban growth propelled middle-class writers to limn the institution of the boardinghouse as an exigent social problem that threatened the romanticized notion of the home with all of its intrinsic flaws. Indeed, they postulated that boardinghouses fomented immorality amongst the sojourners who mingled together in rooms and areas that lacked clear-cut divisions and/or boundaries. Some middle-class writers conflated the boardinghouse with the brothel because women's paid labor formed the backbone and sustenance of each. Moreover, they articulated overt disdain for the boarding house because it fomented indolence amongst married female sojourners. The corollary to this sinful institution was the home as the embodiment of social order that proffered solace from the morally bankrupt consumer market in the public sphere: “If the home furnished a refuge from the market; indeed, if its existence justified the ruthless pursuit of self-interest in the marketplace, what then of the boardinghouse?” (Gamber 7). The distinction between the home and the boardinghouse in reality remained both contested and nebulous. Nonetheless, middle-class homes deployed various discursive and linguistic tactics in order to sanitize the image of the brothel-like boardinghouse.
The concept of the home was originally defined as an institution necessary for order and social cohesion to endure in a modernizing world. However, the home has emerged as a mechanism to preserve social hierarchies as well as a discursive tactic to cultivate patriotism so that men and women sacrifice their lives for a greater cause. Modern contingencies have shaped and reformulated the true meaning of the home, a nuanced concept that still retains immense social and cultural currency today.

Works Cited

Gamber, Wendy. The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth-Century America. United States: The John Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Tosh, John. A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-class Home in Victorian England. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1999.
Winterson, Jeanette. Why Be Happy When you Could be Normal? Canada: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.

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