Economy is the act of managing people or resources effectively. The root of the word economy comes from the Greek term oikos, which is the home. The family is the smallest form of a community that can be defined in a society and runs in a similar fashion to the society. Civil law manages the larger community, but once the threshold is crossed, civil law has almost no authority and domestic law assumes the role. Traditionally, the man of the home represents the legislative, executive and also judiciary arm of domestic law. It is he who is responsible for the Gk. oikonomia (Gk. nomos is the act of managing) of the home. Effective management of the home is necessary in an absolute democracy, because a strong and healthy household made strong and healthy citizens who could participate in government.
In Europe, due to the feudal structure of society during the post-classical era, mL oeconomia was applied to larger bodies, and was more commonly replaced with the term mL. dispensatio, which was the act of distributing wealth to others. The strength of the home took secondary importance to increasing the wealth of the feudal lord. Not only is dispensation applicable to feudal system, but also theological institutions, where the strength of the family is put below contributing to the strength or the Church. Most of the labour used to construct the Gothic cathedrals was citizen volunteers.
However, once Western culture progressed into the Renaissance and beyond, the strength of the family unit returned to the forefront as ancient Greece was used as a model. In order to become active and upstanding citizens, oikonomia had to be understood -“Three great Ministers, who could exactly compute the Accompts of a Kingdom, but were wholly ignorant of their own Œconomy” (Swift, 1733). In an industrialized society, strength of the family is what provides a strong labour force for industry. Strong industry develops a strong commercial economy, thus the correlation between the oikonomia and a nations economy becomes important. The effect that a weakening oikonomia in modern Western society will have on the commercial economy is yet to be seen. The current middle class in the West has an excess of disposable income, or at least has the illusion of such an excess, and the relaxing of fiscal management has spread throughout the home. The average Canadian continues to carry greater and greater debt, and a financially fragile family is far weaker than a financially stable one. Another trend that threatens the economy of the family or home is the dissolution of family rituals. Technology is a large distraction, but also simple ignorance of rituals such as the family dinner results in a family structure that is beginning to crack at the seams. Some of the greatest periods of progress in the Western culture had at their core a focus on the economy of the home and strength of the family, and ignorance of this results in periods of stagnation.
Holden, Richard, ed. Oxford. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Accessed November 16, 2012. http://www.oed.com/search?searchType=dictionary&q
Irwin, Sean. “All That We Leave Behind”. Lecture. University of Waterloo School of Architecture. October 10, 2012.