First, some basic facts. It turns out that historical and anthropological research suggests that about 85% of human societies observed were polygamous, where men are legally or socially permitted to have more than one wife (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 657). In the last century, however, there has been a powerful development towards monogamous marriage in many countries, even where polygynous marriage was traditionally permitted.
Furthermore, monogamous marriage has certainly been the norm in the Western world for about 2,000 years.
There are many reasons to think that monogamous marriage and nuclear families make a society better and more successful than polygamous or highly promiscuous societies.
Why is monogamous marriage with the nuclear family the basis of gender equality?
It can be explained fairly easily:
(1) in a society built on monogamous marriage, the most attractive, wealthiest, or most desirable men tend, generally speaking, to pair off with the most attractive, wealthiest, most desirable women.The gender equality here should be easy to understand: generally speaking, as long as the society is roughly made up of 50% men and 50% women who wish to marry, most people have a reasonable shot at finding a mate, who, ideally, will be their only and devoted partner.
(2) then the moderately attractive, moderately wealthy, or moderately desirable men tend, generally speaking, to pair off with the moderately attractive, moderately wealthy, or moderately desirable women.
(3) then the least attractive, least wealthy, or least desirable men tend, generally speaking, to pair off with the least attractive, least wealthy, or least desirable women.
But monogamous marriage also forces men to devote their time, energy and resources to one woman and her children by him, and vice versa.
It is also no surprise that the historical evidence suggests that monogamous marriage is more common in small-scale human societies where men are generally equal in terms of wealth or status, such as tribal or agricultural communities: a more egalitarian society tends to produce monogamous marriage (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 659), whereas as the development of societies with great economic or status inequality amongst men was associated with higher rates of polygamy. Still, some societies where economic or status inequality developed nevertheless have practised monogamous marriage (often under the influence of religion) and this seems to have clear benefits, not just confined to gender equality.
To see why monogamous marriage is the best and most important foundation of gender equality and socially superior, let us consider the only major alternative to monogamous marriage: polygamy.
What tends to happen in a polygamous society?
Once again, this can be explained fairly easily:
(1) the high status, most powerful, wealthiest men tend to monopolise women (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 657), even with and without arranged marriages, since women, generally speaking, have an innate tendency to favour high-status or wealthy men, not just highly handsome men (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 658). But, in a polygamous society, some women and their children can frequently be neglected by their husbands, who might shift their attention and care to younger, more attractive wives. This is grossly unfair to women, and, as we will see below, to men.In a polygamous society, you tend to get a pool of less wealthy, low-status unmarried men (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 662). This is grossly unfair to men.
(2) it is more difficult even for the moderately attractive, moderately wealthy, or moderately desirable men to attract wives, as women tend to compete with other women for the high status husbands.
(3) it tends to be much more difficult for the least attractive, least wealthy, or least desirable men to attract wives.
The poor man has less chance of getting a wife, and more women will tend to live in polygamous households, where competition and social conflict arising from numerous wives and children are likely to increase.
There is also the issue of inheritance: even the rich man must divide his property and resources between multiple wives and children, and this, paradoxically, might actually decrease the per capita resources available to each individual wife and her children, as compared with having married a moderately wealthy man.
But, in a monogamous marriage society, women get one husband who is socially and legally obliged to devote all his attention and resources to his one wife and children.
There are, furthermore, many other deleterious effects of a polygamous society, as follows:
(1) a polygamous society increases intrasexual competition amongst both men and women, in ways that cause deleterious effects on society (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 660). For example, in a monogamous society, once a man is married, he is formally taken off the marriage market, as it were. In a polygamous society, by contrast, married men still remain on the marriage market and they can still compete for women (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 663). Polygamy increases the intra-household competition between the wives of one man (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 664–665). Polygamy and increased intrasexual male competition tends to cause men to strive for greater control over women, whether their sisters, wives and daughters, and to promote gender segregation (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 663). Polygamy in traditional societies also tends to drive down the average age of first marriage for females and increases spousal age gaps (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 663–664), which causes an age gap that is a form of gender inequality.In short, a polygamous society is objectively worse than a monogamous society, and this is in addition to our first fundamental point: that monogamous marriage is a foundation of real gender equality.
(2) the evidence suggests that polygamous societies tend to produce higher rates of intra-household personal violence and conflict and competition for resources (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 660–661, 665), because of increased social tension within such polygamous households;
(3) polygamous societies tend to produce pools of unmarried young men who gather in groups, and who cause increased public disorder, crime and violence. Young, unmarried men, for instance, take greater risks and engage in more socially undesirable behaviour (including violence) in their efforts to attract women (Pinker 2011: 125). Young, unmarried men associating in groups tend to engage in higher levels of socially undesirable behaviour such as crime, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, gambling, murder, male-on-male violence in public spaces, rape, and sexual assaults on women (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 661–662) than married men. Studies show that men’s likelihood of committing a crime falls sharply with monogamous marriage and children (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 661), so it is in the interests of society as a whole to get as many men as possible into stable marriages with children. An interesting research finding is that monogamous marriage, but not polygynous marriage, reduces a man’s testosterone levels and so lowers the propensity to violence and aggression (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 661). Even when the causes are different (that is, not because of polygamy), large groups of young, unmarried men cause social chaos in society after society. Because of sex imbalances in the population (owing to the preference for male children), both India and China had horrendous problems with crime-prone, unmarried men in gangs in the 20th century (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 662). The violence in America’s Wild West period was caused to a great extent by gangs of young, unmarried men (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 662).
(4) historical evidence suggests that polygamous societies are more prone to violence against other societies by groups of young, unmarried men for the purposes of abducting women and making them wives, concubines or sex slaves (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 663).
(5) polygamous societies tend to result in lower male parental investment in children, and in wives who become less desirable than newer, younger women (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 661).
(6) polygamous societies tend to have higher rates of abuse, neglect and homicide of children, given that polygamous households are subject to intra-household competition between genetically unrelated wives (Henrich, Boyd and Richerson 2012: 665). By contrast, children in monogamous nuclear families experience much lower rates of abuse, neglect and homicide.
Some on the cultural left are trying to urge our societies to engage in experiments with polygamy or polyandry.
This is completely mad: our society isn’t some petri dish in a lab for unhinged cultural leftists to do experiments on.
Monogamous marriage with the nuclear family is a superior form of social organisation. And Old Leftists, sensible Social Democrats, Realist Leftists and Alt Leftists should strongly defend it. Don’t try and “fix” something that ain’t broken.
I can’t help but respond to a comment below here.
No, the cultural leftist attempt to promote polyamory and polyandry is just as stupid and unhinged. It will have the following consequences:
(1) polyandry can never be anything but some delusional feminist fantasy. There are hardly any men who would want to engage in such a practice. How many men would want to share their girlfriends or wives with other men?In short, cultural leftists are effectively engaged in trying to turn our sexual behaviour back to the mating patterns of the baboons and chimpanzees: that is, a world where alpha males dominate most of the females.
(2) polyamory is just another attempt to destroy gender equality that monogamy does actually provide, and would most likely result in de facto polygamy anyway as the most attractive, wealthiest, or most desirable men attract more women as partners, because women – general speaking – are attracted to such men.
It’s just a recipe to create more groups of unattached, unhappy men who cause social chaos and a hedonist society where women call all the shots, which would probably result in fewer people finding a partner or having sex, because women will generally chase after the most attractive, most desirable, wealthiest men.
Furthermore, we’ve already had an experiment in promiscuous lifestyles since the 1960s. And how has it worked out?
We had a catastrophic crime wave from unmarried, young men congregating in groups in the mid-1960s, 1970s and 1980s (see Pinker 2011: 127).
Cashdan, Elizabeth. 1996. “Women’s Mating Strategies,” Evolutionary Anthropology 5.4: 134–143.
Henrich, Joseph, Boyd, Robert and Peter J. Richerson. 2012. “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences 367.1589: 657–669.
Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. Viking, New York, NY.
Realist Left on the Internet:
Realist Left on Facebook
Realist Left on Twitter @realistleft
Social Democracy for the 21st Century: A Realist Alternative to the Modern Left
Realist Left on Reddit
Realist Left Blog
Realist Left on YouTube
Lord Keynes on Facebook
Lord Keynes on Twitter @Lord_Keynes2
Alt Left on the Internet:
Alternative Left on Facebook
An Alt-Left closed Facebook discussion group can be accessed through this page as well.
Samizdat Broadcasts YouTube Channel
Samizdat: For the Freedom Loving Leftist
I’m on Twitter:
Lord Keynes @Lord_Keynes2
To be honest, I am not that worried about a large pool of unmarried and jobless men. Why?ReplyDelete
Once upon a time, jobless single men used to form violent gangs or join fascist or communist movements. Today, with videogames, pornography, and anime to distract them, they will not even have to move out of their house.
Oh? And what about the return of the far right, popular amongst unmarried Millennial young men?Delete
What about the huge number of unattached young men brought into Western Europe by Merkel's open door polices?
The internet alt right just posts a lot of edgy memes, but is politically inactive.Delete
Do you think an internet alt righter is proactive enough to make a list of 50 friends to call up and encourage to vote and drag them out on election day?
No, they will just go to vote themselves and will go back home and play World of Warcraft.
A society with large numbers of people reduced to spending their lives playing video games seems more like a cyberpunk film than a decent place to live. If we have to drug people up and get them addicted to junk food and electronic entertainment just so they don't explode into mass violence or join extremist groups or street gangs then I think we can say that we have failed as a society. In any event, there are still areas where this kind of dysfunctional scenario for young men is playing itself out.
Even with the recent declines in violence and criminality, many American cities still suffer from gang violence and crime and our prisons are overflowing with young men.
Also, I suspect that social isolation and alienation are causing a spike in mental illness and probably leading to some of the recent mass shootings we have seen. How many alienated young men will eventually put down the video game controller and decide to join extremist groups or decide to massacre a bunch of people at a mall?
If you look at the profiles of these mass shooters and terrorists many of them suffered from social isolation and mental problems caused by living in a society that does not do much to help low-status men.
For a general discussion of the issue of social isolation see: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-depression-cure/200907/social-isolation-modern-plague
I think Robert Putnam is right. We have to strengthen civil society.
Unfortunately, both the Right and the Left have overdosed on radical individualism and cannot even understand why living in communities with high social capital is so important. I fact, without high social capital and a strong civil society I don’t think we can have a progressive social democracy at all.
If we still use any kind of utilitarian analysis for public policy, we can not fault the existence of adult videogamers.Delete
Adult videogamers are the happiest segment of the population. There is no way we can force them to make a life choice that will make them less happy.
This came up through discussion of polyamory though. Polyamory and polygamy are not the same thing (neither is it the same as polyandry), conflating them is effectively a straw-man.ReplyDelete
Polyamory is more about allowing multiple partners for both men and women (with the boundaries of this depending on what is agreed in the specific relationships):
The negatives of a polygamous society are not that difficult to intuit (though is still interesting to have it spelled out like in this post) - but they are not a comment on what a more polyamorous society would be like.
No, polyamory and polyandry are just more mad culturist leftist nonsense.Delete
See the appendix above.
Polyamory does not lead to polygamy. If anything, women would have the greater opportunity to develop multiple relationships, due to the social advantages they have in this regard.Delete
There is nothing to back your claim that it would lead to polygamy (in the form of men with multiple wives), or that it would lead to a hedonist society, or that it would lead to fewer people finding a partner.
Much of the crime wave you mention was likely caused by lead:
I would guess that young low-skilled men aren't working because their prospects are so forlorn; they don't see a place for themselves in the world, so they abandon hope and opt for cheap thrills. What else is there for them?Delete
There was an excellent article in the Daily Beast about poor millennials. They've been shamed, for instance, for eating out a lot, not investing in homes, not buying cars, not investing in their future ect. But it's a symptom of a disease; they can't afford houses, or cars, or children, so they go out for dinner or go to the bar instead; splurging on weekends is quite affordable compared to modern family life, which is now a luxury good.
I meant to append the above comment to Prateek's comment, rather than JohnB's. My apologies.Delete
LK, apologies in advance for a stupid question. Does it matter to the realist left whether the nuclear family consists of opposite gendered parents, or is the real concern that children be raised by two monogamous parents, regardless of gender?ReplyDelete
Question aside, great piece. It's rather shocking to consider that there are cultural leftists who somehow believe society organizing on polygamous grounds would be better for anyone. If memory serves correct, Bill Ayers and other members of the SLA tried to 'destroy patriarchy' while in hiding by engaging in a polyamorous relationships with the significant others of SLA members. Surprisingly enough, rather than destroying patriarchy, it destroyed any semblance of unity left within the SLA.
If proper research does show same sex parents on average raise children just as well as heterosexual couples, then fine.Delete
The whole polyamory thing is a classic selfish male patriarchal construct. It's a cult where men try to convince women to suppress their inner-nature toward jealousy and allow the man to misbehave. It always results in chaos and, occasionally, violence and criminal behavior.ReplyDelete
It's so manifestly obvious that this is the case it is truly bizarre that any rational person would deny it. But the cultural left seem to gain some perverse pleasure in denying the emotional make-up of human beings.
If they want to destroy themselves and make themselves unhappy in polyamorous cults - just as they did in the 1970s - then let them. But if they start trying to impose this lunacy on the rest of society they should be stopped.
The evidence suggests that polyamory would just result in de facto polygamy anyway as the most attractive, wealthiest, or most desirable men attract more women as partners, because women – general speaking – are attracted to such men.Delete
See the appendix above.
You're assuming it's only the man misbehaving--but there's nothing to stop the woman from being the one with multiple suitors.Delete
I'd think it likely, LK, that the inverse would also occur in a modern polygamous society--the most attractive women would attract multiple husbands and the most suitors.
Polyamory is childish nonsense, of course, but don't forget women can exploit it as much as men. TheIllusionist speaks as if only women get jealous. On the contrary--polyamory doesn't work because men are equally prone to jealousy. Both sides of the relationship must engage in ritual denial of their natural impulse towards jealousy.
I don't wish to speak for Illusionist, but while he seems to be suggesting that women are more prone to jealousy than men, I doubt he would deny that jealousy also manifests in men; particularly men who feel their significant other is being unfaithful. It's a rather common and reasonable response to such a situation, which may explain why the blank slate left denies it.Delete
We need a "wife guarantee"! Sending surplus males off to the battlefield is such a waste.ReplyDelete
That was one of Daesh's selling points for the surplus males in Europe who ended up joining them on the battlefield!Delete
Basically correct (although women are not 'hypergamous', men are; I don't know where this bizarre myth came from). This will be the defining theme of the 21st century.ReplyDelete
The truth is that it is already too late. The ship has sailed; the birth rates are floored.
Western civilisation is in a Wile-e- Coyote moment where it has already run off the cliff but has yet to fall. There is literally no way that anyone or anything can turn both the laws and the culture that is leading to declining birth rates.
I'd just add that we'll get a right-wing pushback against the immigration policies, especially in Europe, which will just result in confusion.
"When women become wealthier and more powerful in society, they don't have the same need to marry men for their resources and will instead chase men for their "alpha" characteristics"ReplyDelete
Are you saying there is something morally wrong with the acquisition of wealth and power by women that is not equally wrong with the acquisition of wealth and power by men?
It's not wrong, but it's a worthless pursuit for women because they are not respected for having power and money. That was the great lie of feminism.Delete
Very good, indeedReplyDelete
I never really understood why some Leftists had a hatred for monogamy. I sometimes think that they take these positions just to spite what they perceive as the Western, Christian tradition, which they seem to have an irrational hatred of.ReplyDelete
By the way, a good example of a modern polygamous society working within a developed country would be some of the fundamentalist Mormon cults in the U.S., where the older, powerful men run off many young men in order to eliminate competition for young females. So progressive!
Totally convincing about monogamy being better for almost everyone involved. But you did not proove that polyamory is necessarily polygamy or polyandry and not a kind of free love (as advocated by many hippies back in the 70's)ReplyDelete
Even a thinker so remote from regressive leftism as Bertrand Russell advocated some kind of free love.
Anyway my guess is that a vast majority will stick to some sort of monogamy (be it "pure", or a 10 years long contract, or some victorian compromise...)
Gender equuality implies having the same gender, because genders aren't magnitudes. Is this possible, is this desirable? Is western society not loosing too many formal rules as such, regardeless of the content (Durkheimnian anomy)? The confusion implied by this causes psychiatric disorder and anomist suicide.ReplyDelete
I think the discussion is absoloute today is 21 centuary and nobody will be punished for polymoury or polygamy and yet its rarely seen phenomen.ReplyDelete
Its clearly showing that people prefer monogamous relationships (i am not speaking about how much stable tjey are) than any other type and this what important.
Gary Becker, whom I much admire, wrote a famous and foolish article, arguing polygamy was good for women. He did this by sneaking into a footnote stipulations that have never held in any polygamous society!ReplyDelete
In every society marriage, as opposed to sex, has been a public institution, despite what the Libertarians say.
Yeah, the open hostility to marriage among Libertarians and others on the Cultural Left is pretty astonishing. It's like they don't understand what monogamous marriages have done for Western Civilization for the dozen or two centuries.Delete
Morality means more than "anything between two consenting adults is 100% okay, and any opinion thereof is none of your business!". Might as well start condoning incest too while we're at it.
I like the Realist Left idea, and the provocative case put forward here. I would share this with friends and family, but see an opening for rebuttal with regard to homosexuals. One of the horrific side effects of the generally beneficial mandate of monogamy is that homosexuals have been treated horribly. And of course there were other problems with mandated monogamy in terms of domestic abuse and lack of opportunity for women. So I would prefer to see a more progressive case made, accepting where we are as a starting pointing instead of the unrealistic hope that we will return to the good old days.ReplyDelete
i am thinking that monogamy (inculding homosexual monogamy) is better but i dont want anybody to punish people if they think otherwise.Delete
I'm sure you can make a very strong argument of encouraging monogamy among homosexuals, pointing that it could (and maybe does) lead to lesser rates of STD transmission, lower rates of Depression, higher rates of wealth accumulation, etc. However, I'm not sure if there's enough data about this subject just yet.Delete
Great post and discussion, except for some comments which express concerns about declining birth rates. Hopefully LK will address this issue in some future post.ReplyDelete
Even in advanced countries over-population is a primary cause of many of the world's problems - depleted resources, environmental degradation, climate change, poverty, internal and international migration, overseas contract workers, etc.
Why doesn't the Realist Left have a view on this vital issue?
Wouldn't a 50% reduction in world population be better than the expected 50%+ increase?
Sadly enough XXIst century might indeed end up in a terrific vindication of Malthus...ReplyDelete
But as allways the real issue is about the means. What means would you be willing to resort to in order to prevent population to grow ?
Who is arguing against monogamy? I haven't encountered any relevant political group campaigning against monogamy. A fringe minority of lunatics on the Internet is not exactly a formidable social movement.ReplyDelete