Thursday, June 05, 2014

Monogamy: The Practical Form of Marriage

About the Book:
William Tucker documents the historical and anthropological story behind how monogamous, lifelong partnerships are the driving force behind the creation and rise of civilization.

My Comments:
Not exactly a long blurb, is it?  Nevertheless, it was a very interesting and very readable book.  

Those favoring modern morality (or lack thereof) often say that monogamy is unnatural.  Those in favor of traditional values often say that sexual arrangements other than monogamy are immoral.  William Tucker agrees that monogamy does not come naturally, but opines that those societies that have chosen and enforced monogamy have been far more economically successful and far more peaceful than those which have chosen other mating schemes.

Tucker begins by looking at the animal world, particularly at our cousins, the primates.  In most species, males try to mate with as many females as possible, while females try to mate with the superior or alpha males.  The problem with this system is that the males put forth a lot of effort to keep other males away and even kill infants fathered by other males.  

Next Tucker takes us through the stages of civilization from early hunter-gatherers to early herders and farmers and onto the famous civilizations of the past.  He looks at their marital relationships and comes to the conclusion that for monogamy to work it needs to be supported and enforced by the culture, but that cultures that practice monogamy are the most successful.  

One interesting observation was that today's well-educated economically comfortable Americans are quick to hypothetically deny the need for monogamy in child-rearing.  They say it is ok to have children outside of wedlock, to have multiple partners of whatever persuasion, but when it comes to action, these are the people who will delay childbearing until after marriage and who will stay with their spouses (at least) until the children are raised.  These, of course, are the economically successful people in our society.  It is the poor who have children early and without a permanent partner.  This contrasts with earlier generations who, if they weren't married before conception, got married shortly thereafter.  One quoted statistic was that years ago (can't remember the date) 40% of first babies were conceived out of wedlock, but only 5% of babies were born out of wedlock.  

One point  Tucker makes is that for monogamy to succeed, society has to support it, and lately our society has not.  Prior to "The Great Society", it was expected that a man would support his family.  Married women, particularly those with children, were not expected to work.  Keeping them out of the workplace (or in "women's" jobs) kept unemployment among men low and wages high enough to support a family on one income.  Like all systems, this one had winners and losers.  The losers here were highly educated ambitious women; the winners were married women with children. Now many lower class women, instead of looking to husbands for support, look to the government.  

All in all, I found this to be a very interesting book and I'm glad to recommend it.  Grade:  A.

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