Wednesday, May 25, 2005

New Kids on the Block

Tough times, I had a whole thing to blog about, and when I started putting together the background something jumped out which demanded some love. Here's the meaty bit:

"I wish people would stop and think about the actual meaning of marriage in human society up until recently. And yes, this means Christian marriage, too. It's a property arrangement. It's to keep agnatic descent clear. It's not primarily about love."
An agnate is a relation through patrilineal descent, for those of you who have not wasted enormous amounts of your brain's computing cycles studying kinship. I think it would have been much better for the author to limit comment to marriage in modern civilizations, rather than broadly applying the generalization to all human societies. Modern humans have been on the planet for upward of 150,000 years. Agriculture has been around for about 10,000. What we would call modern civilizations, around 6,000.

That's an extremely small slice of the human historical pie. Prior to the sad arrival of agriculture, foraging societies dominated the scene, and those tend strongly toward matrilineal/matrilocal organization. Subjugation of women by men is a feature of patrilineal/patrilocal societies, but finds ultimate expression when we add wealth to the mix (agriculture=food surplus=wealth).

I strongly believe that cultural abcesses like radical gender inequality are the product of societies which are still in their infancy. Maybe toddlerhood. It is concerns like "keeping agnatic descent clear" which are recent cultural products, hopefully ones which will soon be outgrown.