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II: At home: Arab Spring, gender, and human rights

The sources of public patriarchal authority in Morocco

Fatima Sadiqi


This chapter focuses on the major sources of public patriarchy and their impact on the main social changes in Morocco from precolonial times, to the 2004 law reform, to the present.1 This chapter builds on the author’s previous work, “The Central Role of the Family Law in the Moroccan Feminist Movement,” which conceptualized patriarchy in North Africa as both private and public, with the latter regulating social change and law. This chapter narrows the focus to the operation of patriarchy in Morocco.

To address these issues, this chapter proceeds in three sections. First, given the complexity of the Moroccan multilingual and multicultural realities, and the overarching sociocultural and historical conditionings. Section “On the concept of authority” examines and defines the primary and secondary sources of authority in this country that affect how patriarchal structures operate in Morocco. Section “History of patriarchy in Morocco” provides a brief historical overview from pre- to postcolonialism on the operation of patriarchy in Morocco. This section is important because it establishes the foundation for Section “Impact of primary and secondary sources of patriarchal authority in Morocco and primary sources of patriarchal authority in Morocco,” which interrogates the primary sources (religion and the monarchy) and secondary sources of patriarchal authority in Morocco (the family, the mosque, the school, the street, the workplace, and the systems of justice). In conclusion, I state that, without understanding the sources of authority in Morocco, it is impossible to envisage any ways of addressing patriarchy in the Moroccan context.

On the concept of authority

The term authority refers to a complex abstract concept with sociological and psychological components. I conceptualize authority into primary and secondary sources. Primary sources have stronger abstract cultural weight and include religion, language, the urban/modernity nexus, and monarchy. Secondary sources include the family; the mosque; the school; the urban street and workplace; and modern institutions, particularly the invisible rulers’ immediate circles, the parliament, and the court of justice. Each primary source is “relayed” or “executed” by a secondary source: for instance, patriarchy is relayed by the family, religion by the mosque, language by the school, the urban/modernity nexus by the street and workplace, and the invisible entourage by the parliament and the court of justice. Accordingly, the two sources of authority feed into, intersect with, and strengthen each other.

Gender is central to the maintenance of this cross-feeding and the power dynamics it generates. The most important source of authority in Morocco is patriarchy, and, in an endeavor to circumvent its tantalizing impact, a periodization framework is adopted with regard to this particular source. This framework has the advantage of contextualizing the nature and status of patriarchy within larger sociocultural and political boundaries, and gives meaning to the various types of impact it has on the other sources of authority. Patriarchy and its periodization are indeed central in understanding Moroccan women’s changing status and their corresponding agency potential, or lack thereof.

The complexity of the concept is rooted in its entanglement with two other concepts: power and legitimacy. Power is often defined as either a personal or social ability to achieve certain ends.2 Thus, the ability to impose one’s will (or that of a group) over others is an example of individual or social power, respectively. As for legitimacy, it is often characterized as the right to exercise power as constructed by society and psychologically internalized by the members of that society.

As a result, a monarch’s rule or a fqih's (religious man) fatwa (religious decision) is generally accepted as legitimate in Morocco. In theory, an individual may possess legitimacy without having actual power or possess power without having actual legitimacy. A classic example of the former is the legitimate heir of monarchical power, who is forced to live in exile and, of the latter, the usurper who exiled the heir to the throne and appropriated his monarchical functions. Power and legitimacy relate to authority in the sense that an individual or a group possesses authority only when they have both power (social sanctioning) and legitimacy (unconditional acknowledgment and acceptance). In other words, the social and psychological aspects of authority are essential for its viability and its inclusiveness of power and legitimacy—hence, its cultural strength.

With the advent of social sciences, the concept of authority began to occupy center stage in explaining various power dynamics in a given society and culture. The most influential theory of authority in modern times is that of sociologist Max Weber, who proposed three types of authority: traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational.3 The first type is typically embodied in the traditional norms of feudalism or patrimonialism, which strived to maintain a grip on individuals and communities by blocking any law that opposed feudal interests. Traditional authority depends on long-established customs, habits, and social structures, and its legitimation resides in the sanctity of tradition itself. This type of authority often creates systems of structure that do not change or evolve;4 additionally, it perpetuates the status quo and does not facilitate social progress. The second type of authority, charismatic authority, is typically embodied in a leader whose

Sources of public patriarchal authority 59 vision and mission constitute a source of inspiration for others. Weber associates such a leader—for example, a prophet—with perceived extraordinary characteristics and divine or supernatural powers. In the realm of religion, charismatic authority plays an integral role in traditional authority in the sense that charismatic authority is “routinized” or “ritualized” by becoming “traditionalized.”’ In other words, a specific charisma in a specific culture tends to melt into tradition, and followers change into legal or “estate-like” (traditional) buttressing “staff.”6 The third type of authority, legal-rational authority, is typically embodied in the formalistic belief in the content of the legal law as natural rational law.7 According to Weber, political and economic bureaucracy is the typical example of legal-rational authority.8 Such a form of authority is best embodied by the modern state, the city government, the private and public corporations, and various voluntary associations. In Morocco, the rational-legal authority is embodied in the Maliki School legalized interpretations of the Qur’an, which the Moroccan state adopted after independence and turned into state laws. These are generally perceived as “natural” laws.9

In sum, the importance of Weber’s types of authority resides in the fact that they create solid belief systems that are difficult to resist or change. Weber’s thoughts opened the door to further research on authority. For example, Coser highlights the interconnectedness and overlapping nature of Weber’s types, which, in theory, may give rise to other types of authority.10 This distinction demonstrates how the nuances of Weber’s categorizations were singled out by scholars such as Blau, who qualifies traditional authority as “impersonal” in opposition to charismatic authority, which he describes as “personal,” and associates the legal-rational authority with “irrational” traditional authority.11 Blau also notes that whereas charismatic authority is dynamic, the traditional one is not. For Blau, the viability and power of a specific type of authority depend on its ability to retain the traits that make the authority type unique.

Therefore, traditional authority may be weakened by a charismatic authority’s revolutionary ideals or by a rational authority’s pursuit of ends via abstract formal principles. Conversely, a charismatic, revolutionary movement can be translated into a traditional order or incorporated into a rational, formal organization. Similarly, the irrational power of tradition or charisma can weaken legal-rational authority. In addition, humanity has witnessed several social movements started by charismatic authorities who rose in the face of traditional or legal-rational authority. In sum, there are ways of circumventing what would appear as solid authority.

Authority is linked to hierarchy, as the latter ensures the necessary superiorsubordinate relationship that defines the former. Being a concept where items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) are represented as being “above,” “below,” or “at the same level as” one another, hierarchy can link entities directly, indirectly, vertically, or horizontally. Indeed, a combination of authority and hierarchy is crucial for an efficient organization of power structure in the sense that, for the latter to work, it needs an intersection of hierarchy and authority at some point. This intersection is deemed necessary for a well-ordered society, as itis supposed to ensure and maintain a certain status quo or serve a specific party. In turn, this specific party will endeavor to maintain the status quo. It is these various intersections that make challenges to authority difficult and explain the fact that authority can and usually is delegated or transferred. Yet another significant development of Weber’s characterization of authority is the work of Collins, which links Weber’s categories of authority to a larger network of concepts that include class, status groups, and parties. Collins argues that while traditional authority underlies status groups, charismatic authority underlies market schemes, such as the potential for life chances.12 This view runs counter to Weber’s, which sees charismatic authority as an outcome of class and parties as the codification of legal-rational authority, especially in the case of bureaucracies.

Today, authority is generally understood as a function of power—that is, as the supposed legitimacy and symbolic power that institutionalize it. In modern social sciences, authority is becoming increasingly important in researching a variety of empirical settings, social patterns, and human behavior, such as the family (patriarchal or “father” authority), the mosque (religious authority), the school (knowledge authority), and politics (institutional authority).13 These sources are created locally and tend to be culture specific. In Morocco, for example, authority is primarily perceived and lived through the prism of culture. A consideration of the sources of authority in Morocco suggests that they are of two main types: primary and secondary. The primary sources have strong cultural weight and include patriarchy. This chapter addresses the roots of current patriarchy in Morocco because without knowing the nature, history, and workings of these roots, we cannot understand the overall status of women in today’s Morocco. Knowledge and appreciation of the roots also allow better ways of reforming the state’s legal system, which still restricts women in private and public spaces. Education has been instrumental in giving Moroccan women a female consciousness of their roles and potentials in society; however, these roles and potentials can be further enhanced by their knowledge of the sources of patriarchy that still reinforce a restrictive legal system: (and its immediate circles),14 the parliament, and the court of justice. The Moroccan historian Abdallah Laroui defines the term makhzen, which literally means “warehouse,” in the following terms: “Makhzen refers both to an administrative apparatus and to particular social and cultural symbols, as well as to practices and rituals that have always buttressed functions of the state.”15

Administratively, the Makhzen relies on a system of advisors with a full-fledged and highly influential administrative structure that focuses on specific issues, such as education, business, civil society, and so on. The sociocultural and symbolic aspects of the Makhzen arc mainly embodied in the practices and rituals that reinforce the state, such as the annual formal allegiance, whereby representatives of the various regions in Morocco express their formal allegiance and that of the people they represent to the king. The Makhzen concretizes the primary authority of monarchy (and the state) and constitutes a notorious source of political power in Morocco. Its longevity stems from its capacity to adapt to changing times.

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