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Marriage has never been more fragile. But the same things that have made it so have also made a good marriage more fulfilling than ever before. In this enlightening and hugely entertaining book, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the sexual torments of Victorian couples to demonstrate how recent theMarriage has never been more fragile. But the same things that have made it so have also made a good marriage more fulfilling than ever before. In this enlightening and hugely entertaining book, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the sexual torments of Victorian couples to demonstrate how recent the idea of marrying for love is-and how absurd it would have seemed to most of our ancestors. It was only 200 years ago that marriage began to be about love and emotional commitment, and since then the very things that have strengthened marriage as a personal relationship have steadily weakened it as a social institution. Marriage, A History brings intelligence, wit, and some badly needed perspective to today's marital debates and dilemmas....

Title : Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy
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ISBN : 8481003
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 452 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy Reviews

  • Maede
    2019-03-10 18:53

    چقدر خوشحالم که اتفاقی با این کتاب آشنا شدم و تصمیم گرفتم بخونمشموضوعاتی وجود دارند که شاید انقدر در روزمره مخفی شدند که واقعا به نظر نمیاد در موردشون اونقدر که باید نمی دونیماصولا فکر می کنیم همیشه همینطور بوده یا حداکثر چیزهایی که از بزرگ ترها شنیدیم رو به عنوان گذشته در نظر می گیریمازدواج یکی از اون هاستچقدر سوالات زیادی داشتم که جواب داده شد و از اون بهتر سوال هایی بودند که حتی نمی دونستم دارم ولی وجود داشتنداین کتاب کامل تاریخ ازدواج رو از چند صد سال قبل شروع می کنه و تحولاتش رو شرح میده و یک تصویر بزرگ از مسیری که طی کرده در اختیار قرار میده، درسته که انقدر حجم مسایلی که مطرح میشه زیاده که شاید گیج کننده به نظر بیاد ولی به نظرم از کتابی که سعی داره همه ی این تاریخ رو مرور کنه توقع این هرج و مرج میره، مخصوصا تاریخی که در مورد جنگ و سیاست نیست. تاریخ یک مساله ی اجتماییه که به سختی باید از لابه لای نوشته ها، دفترهای خاطرات، کتاب ها و امثال این ها بیرون کشیده بشهطرز تفکرم به خیلی از مسائل به شدت عوض شد. نسبت به تعاریف درست و غلطکه این جمله چقدر غلطه " قدیم ها بهتر بود...". قدیم ها توقع از سطح زندگی پایین تر بود فقط همین. نوستالژی همیشه شیرین تر از واقعیتهدرسته که کتاب بیشتر بر اروپای غربی و آمریکا تمرکز داره ولی کمکم کرد درک کنم که بخشی از مشکلات حال حاضر جامعه خودم در این موضوع از کجا نشأت می گیرهجامعه عجیب ایران در حال تجربه ی تمام اتفاقات و تغییراتی که در جامعه‌ای مانند آمریکا در طول صد سال اتفاق افتاد به طور همزمان هست حدودا از سال 1920 تا الان هر الگوی ازدواجی که در این کتاب گفته میشه در جامعه ما وجود دارهاز نظارت شدید والدین در آشنایی و ازدواج تا محوریت ازدواج های نان آور مرد تا کار کردن و استقلال زنان تا پارتنر هایی که بدون ازدواج زندگی می کنند و همه ی الگو های دیگر که در یک قرن جامعه هر کدام رو به مرور تجربه کرده و باهاش کنار آمدهاینجا همه ی این ها باهم در حال اتفاق افتادنه و نتیجه هم آشوب موجوددر مورد اینکه کدام درست و کدام غلطه حرف نمی زنم، جامعه ای رو میگم که تمام این هارو در کنار هم تجربه می کنه و به همین دلیل حتی نمی دونه چرا یکی رو داره به دیگری ترجیح میدهسنت، دین، مدرن بودن و دنبال نکردن روش گذشته رو دلیل می دونه، به دلیل این طرز فکر به شدت متفاوت اختلاف و شکاف و تنش زیاد میشهشاید در شرایط حاضرتنها کاری که میشه کرد اینه که درک کنیم هر فرد حق داره روشی که می خواد رو انتخاب کنه و تا وقتی قانون و جامعه آزادی و مساوات رو تضمین کنه ( که نمی کنه) و الگویی رو تحمیل نکنه هرکس در انتخابش آزاد هست:فقط تعدادی از سوالاتی که جواب داده شد(view spoiler)[از چه زمانی ازدواج با عشق انجام شد؟ایده ی "ازدواج بر اساس عشق"، تفکری که ما امروزه داریم در واقع در ابتدای قرن هفدهم در حال شکل گیری در اروپای غربی بود. برای اولین بار در پنج هزار سال ازدواج به جای یک رابطه سیاسی و حرکت اقتصادی به عنوان رابطه شخصی دو فرد دیده شد. در همین دوره نقش زن و مرد هم تغییر کرد. مرد پایه ی اقتصادی و زن پایه ی عاطفی یک ازدواج در نظر گرفته شد. هرچند این تغییر تا قرن نوزدهم برای فراگیری زمان بردچه زمانی این طرز تفکر که زن از مرد پست تر است شروع به تغییر کرد؟در قرن هفدهم این طرز تفکر به "تفاوت" تغییر کردچرا "زن خوب" با باکرگی و پس زدن میل جنسی تعریف شد؟پیدا کردن زوج بر اساس عشق باعث رابطه های جنسی زیادی شد که آمار بچه هایی که خارج از ازدواج متولد می شدند را به طرز هشدار دهنده ای زیاد کرد. از طرف دیگر زن به عنوان موجودی از پایه پاک تقدیس شد. این عوامل جامعه را به این سمت برد که زن خوب را فاقد میل جنسی بداند و لذت بردن از آن برای زن تابو باشد. هرچند از مرد ها هم توقع می رفت که این میل حیوانی را سرکوب کنندآیا همیشه ارتباطات بسیار صمیمی با هم جنس برای مردم عجیب بوده؟ در قرن نوزدهم که ضعف های فرهنگ جدید خودش را نشان می داد و فکر "تفاوت" پایه ای زن و مرد در ذهن ها ریشه کرده بود مرد ها به مرد های دیگر و زن ها به هم نزدیک تر شدند. اگر مردی با مرد دیگری به عنوان دوست در یک تخت می خوابید یا زنی به زن دیگری نامه می نوشت که در اشتیاق دیدن تو می سوزم برای مردم عجیب نبود و به عنوان حرکتی دوستانه در نظر گرفته می شد! که اگر دقت کنیم دوستی های بسیار صمیمی در کتاب هایی که از این دوره هست دیده میشه چرا به نظر میاد ازدواج های این دوره پایدار تر بود؟زنان در دوران ویکتوریایی وابسته به مردان بودند و آرزو ها و ناامیدی هایشان را نشان نمی دادند.سرکوب جنسی زن و مرد کجا خودش را نشان داد؟سكس در ازدواج یک مسئله زننده برای زن بود و یک فشار برای مرد. افزایش تعداد مجله های پورنو، فاحشه ها و زن هایی که برای درد هایی به دکتر مراجعه می کردند که به سرکوب جنسی مربوط بود نشان دهنده اوج این مشکل بود.جالبه که ویبراتور ها در اواخر قرن نوزدهم به عنوان یک وسیله پزشکی ابداع شدند تا زن ها رو از این درد ها رها کنند!چه اتفاقی افتاد که زن ها تونستن به عرصه کار برگردند و به تنهایی زندگی کنند؟با دبیرستان و کالج رفتن دختر ها در اوایل قرن بیستم دور کردن آن ها از کار سخت شد و در کارهایی مثل حسابداری و تایپیست و منشی و غیره مشغول به کار شدند. در این سال ها فعالان حقوق زن ها باعث تغییرات زیادی در نرم های جامعه شدند به طوری که بعد از جنگ جهانی اول زن ها در انگلیس حق رای پیدا کردند. تمام این تغییرات باعث استقلال بیشتر زنان شداز کی "قرار گذاشتن جای شیوه های قدیمی را گرفت؟(date)در اواخر قرن 19 شیوه ای رسم بود که دختر به پسر نشان می داد که او را پسندیده است و پسر برای ارتباط بیشتر به خانه دختر رفت و آمد می کرد که تحت نظارت خانواده بود. ولی در اوایل قرن 20 قرار گذاشتن جایگزین شد که در بیرون از خانه بود و به همین دلیل پول بخشی از آن شد. از آنجایی که پسرها قطب اقتصادی در نظر گرفته می شدند وظیفه پول دادن به عهده آن ها شد و برای همین هم دختر دیگر نمی توانست درخواست کند که او را بیرون ببرد و شروع کننده باشد پس پسر درخواست می کرد. این روش با گسترش اتوموبیل رایج تر از همیشه شد(hide spoiler)]95.11.2

  • Jessica
    2019-02-17 12:42

    And to think I could have taken a course with Stephanie Coontz back in the day when I was a student at The Evergreen State College... Alas, I was not interested in the history of the family then.Now as a Lit prof., how I wish I had. Teaching works like 'Trifles,' 'A Doll House,' 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' stories by Kate Chopin and others which center on marriage, I find myself constantly trying to correct students' notions of marriage in history. Many of them really do believe that marriage as we know it--based on love, like interests and monogamy--is how it's been throughout history.It's nice to find a concise history of marriage in the Western world I can refer to...for myself and my students. On a personal note, I find marriage--the idea of and desire for--increasingly mysterious...The book is fascinating for its exposure of gender roles and the changing notions of women. For instance:"Throughout the Middle Ages women had been considered the lusty sex, more prey to their passions than men. Even when idealization of female chastity began to mount in the eighteenth century, two recent historians of sexuality say, few of its popularizers assumed that women totally lacked sexual desire. Virtue was thought to 'be attained through self-control; it was not necessarily innate or biologically determined.' (end note: 43) "The beginning of the nineteenth century, however, saw a new emphasis on women's innate sexual purity. The older view that women had to be controlled because they were inherently more passionate and prone to moral and sexual error was replaced by the idea that women were asexual beings, who would not respond to sexual overtones unless they had been drugged or depraved from an early age. This cult of female purity encouraged women to internalize limits on their sexual behavior that sixteenth and seventeenth authorities had imposed by force." (159)No wonder I've long been fascinated by The Middle Ages...

  • ian
    2019-03-04 18:36

    Reminds me of just how culturally marginal intellectuals are in general--not just queer ones. The traits that probably make this book accessible and engaging for a mass audience drive me wild on a scholarly level. I want citations!! And really, I'm not solicited by the cuteness of chapter titles like "Soap Operas of the Ancient World." I suppose the first two sections, which offer a sort of cross-cultural & historical context for white bourgeois Western marriage norms, are well-intentioned. It's unfortunate that Koontz's abandonment in any cross-cultural analysis later in the book gives the impression that marital diversity is characteristic of the past and of relatively primitive societies. This suggestion is inevitable when the only people of color discussed appear as anthropological examples. So, for instance, Koontz tells us that over thousands of years in which human societies became "more sedentary, populous, and complex," marriage "became a way of consolidating resources rather than creating a circle of reciprocal obligations and connections" (44). I'm no expert on "the" black family, but I've read enough sociology to have an idea that kinship relations among U.S. African-Americans have often looked a lot more like a circle of connections than like a savings account. So I find myself wondering what's sacrificed, analytically, by the assumption that white norms and ideals define what "marriage" is in the modern world.

  • Shaun
    2019-02-27 15:50

    I borrowed this book from our local library. It wasn't recommended or out on display, and I honestly am not sure why I picked it up, but I'm glad I did.Jammed packed with interesting tidbits, Coontz has put together a tremendous history of marriage, which in the process examines not only the evolution of marriage and its role in society but also the changing ideas about men and women and their relationship to each other.She starts by talking about how people have this tendency to believe things were better in the past and share a longing for the way things used to be. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to matter what the past is. She discusses the current marriage crisis, this idea that marriage as we know it is under attack. Then she spends 300 plus pages and 100 pages of references describing why "marriage as we know it" is a relative term since the reasons people marry, the accepted norms and tradition, the choice of partners, its function in society, and the laws and societal constraints governing it have changed and evolved to reflect the needs and desires of various times and various peoples.In that sense, marriage is and has always been what society as a whole has decided it should be. From entering into loveless unions designed to expand resources to forming business-like partnerships to maximize your family's output to providing a system whose primary purpose is to establilsh legitimacy to children and ensure suitable heirs to fulfilling the sexual and/or emotional needs of two individuals, the only thing sacred about the institution of marriage is that it has and can be whatever we decide it should be.Coontz does an excellent job of showing how changes in technology coupled with economic, political, and cultural influences have led to changes in marriage. Once a means of protecting and passing down a family's wealth, marriage has slowly evolved into a means of self-fulfillment. In the process, there is an interesting discussion of the feminist/civil rights movement and how ultimately they (along with technology) have freed up both men and women to pursue relationships that are meaningful rather than merely useful. Changing gender roles and women's ability to earn a living and receive equal pay in addition to the invention and proliferation of birth control have absolutely impacted why, with whom, and when people marry or don't marry. I came across a book about the "pill" a year or so ago which has since fallen off the radar but after reading this book, I'm likely to go and pick it up.Some interesting passages (and there were many) that got me thinking (view spoiler)[Decades later a black woman commented that it was really Hitler, not Lincoln, who had freed the slaves! referring to the opportunities that World War II afforded some women who for the first time were not only allowed to work (yes there were some laws/policies that prevented either women or married women from working various jobs) and also get paid a fair wage.There were kids down South being beaten up, even killed, just for trying to go to school. And we grownups were sitting around worry about the immorality of rock and roll. A man commenting in retrospect about attitudes in the '50s and '60s. This kind of thing happens all the time, but I think this passage makes the point rather well.A 1962 Gallup poll reported that American married women were very satisfied with their lives. But only 10 percent of the women in the same poll wanted their daughters to have the same lives that they had. Instead they wanted their daughters to postpone marriage and get more education. This one just made me stop and think. This seems to be an oxymoron on face value. But on deeper thought, I suppose it is possible to be content with what one has and yet still want more for your children.But never before have so many people lived alone. And never before have unmarried people, living alone or in couples, had the same rights as married adults. The spread of solitary living and cohabitation reduces the social weight of marriage in the economy and polity, creating tastes, habits, expectations, and voting blocs that are not tied to the role of wife or husband.In the 1950s married couples represented 80 present all households in the US. By the beginning of the twenty-first century they were less than 51 percent, and married couples with children were just 25 percent of all households. For the first time ever, there were more single-person households than those with a married couple and children. Married persons were still a majority of the workforce and of the home in 2001, but unmarried individuals were gaining fast, accounting for 42 percent of the workforce and 40 percent of home buyers.Bottom line, there are lots of people who are growing up and not getting married. (hide spoiler)]There was a lot here not only on the history of marriage but also on the history of civilization. When I hear people pining for the "good old days" I'm often inclined to remind them that the "good old days" where women and minorities were second class citizens, where people (men and women) were trapped in loveless marriages, where people (again both men and women at different points) were shamed for their sexuality, where choices were often limited between bad and worse, weren't all that good.

  • El
    2019-02-24 12:59

    Marriage is one of those things that doesn't appeal to me on a personal level. I think it's fine and dandy that people choose to get married, but in my own little world it's never really been something I consider an important task to complete. This doesn't mean I don't believe in monogamy or commitment. I've been with the same man for 11 years now, we've lived together pretty much as long, and marriage is just not a road we will be taking. We are also not having children. We may be that "small" population Coontz refers to once in this book as "bohemian".Her book on the history of marriage was published in 2005. It already feels fairly outdated. She spends maybe a half-page talking about same-sex marriage. I understand this was published ten years before same-sex marriage was legal across the United States, but it could have still been given a bit more attention in her book. Additionally, she could have given some attention to cross-cultural marriages, since marriage is not exclusive just to white, heterosexual, Western Europeans and Americans. Very early on Coontz throws in a few anecdotes about marriages in other cultures which made me believe there would be chapters on those things throughout the book. But beyond pretty much the first chapter, all of that fell away and the rest of the book was pretty damn white.I also had difficulty with the information provided. There was nothing new to me here. Perhaps this would be more groundbreaking for people who don't read much else, and that would be great for them to gain the information by reading this book. But for those of us who do read history, historical fiction, and whatever else comes our way, there's very little here that I found to be new or exceptionally interesting. It was pretty basic, and her citations lead me to believe she did a lot of research but essentially just reiterated what was already stated previously. I'm not convinced she did provide much new information to the topic. She did, however, put it all in one convenient package - a one-stop-shop for readers.I wanted to enjoy this, to see if I felt any differently towards the institution of marriage or not, but I really do not. It's not intended to change a reader's mind, though, it is supposed to be a "history". And that's fine, it accomplished what it set out to do. But I personally found it long and difficult to get into. Coontz didn't really take off until she reached maybe the Victorian era, which is of course already pretty well known by most regular readers, as is the 20th century and into the 21st. Where Coontz could have provided better information was in the earlier chapters talking about Roman and Greek ideas of marriage - this was the area my mind perked up thinking it might learn something - but it was short-lived, and the rest of the early chapters were pretty basic as far as "and in this century...". The more recent centuries were broken down into bite-size pieces, such as the 20s, the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, etc. etc. I wish this had been better. It seems readers really appreciate this book, and that's great. It wasn't for me, and that's fine too. I would like to see this book updated now that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, and I would like to see Coontz write more about cultures that aren't Western European or American. Leaving those things out was a huge missed opportunity in making this a cross-cultural history. This is a very one-sided view of marriage and its history, which is a damn shame because I am certain there is better information out there that tells me more than what I already know as a white, heterosexual American.

  • Abbey
    2019-03-06 18:56

    If you don't have time to read this amazing academic history of marriage, here is the Cliffnotes version: "traditional marriage" lol Her treatment of Victorian-era sexuality and marriage was absolutely riveting. You can skip ahead to that part, I won't judge you. My only complaint (and it's a small, nitpicky polypoint) is that while she presents a lot of disparate pieces of information about monogamy, multiple marriages, as well as more fluid arrangements, she neglects to weave them together to make this point: holy crap, monogamy* is a REALLY recent arrangement**. No wonder we struggle with it as a culture/species/whatever (as evidenced by the disconcertingly high rates of marital infidelity). The author sums up the book by saying, "yay, now we have equality in compulsory monogamy!" And with no honest outlets for extramarital attractions, men and women cheat in almost equal numbers! I guess I was hoping for a more nuanced discussion what it means that we've taken away all of these old pressure-release valves. Certainly the current monogamous system is not without its benefits, but it's also REALLY difficult for a lot of people to put into practice, so can we talk about that, instead of writing it off as a universal good? At least she didn't reference prairie voles? Goddamn, I hate prairie voles. I nominate myself to write the chapter on the future of marriage. Spoiler alert: it's going to be awesome. *the monogamous ideal has been around for a little longer, but I'm talking about the real-life, actually-refraining-from-extradyadic-sex type of monogamy. Monogamy has historically been accompanied by various pressure-release valves (which the book discusses in detail), usually involving wives "sucking it up" while their husbands have affairs or visit prostitutes. ~*~super fun~*~**well, for dudes, anyway. Women have had their sexuality controlled, repressed, and commodified since forever.

  • Kimba Tichenor
    2019-03-13 16:54

    This book may be of interest to those who have not studied the history of marriage in the western world. Certainly, it offers a good overview of how the institution of marriage has changed and adapted over the centuries in response to larger cultural, political, and socioeconomic changes. However, the book suffers from several flaws. First it is too ambitious and ultimately bites off more than it can chew. The result is important topics such as Christianity's responses to changing attitudes about marriage, gender, sexuality receive too little coverage. For example, the book largely leaves undiscussed theological responses to changing understandings of marriage in the 19th- and 20th century and the conflicts within various religious communities over how to respond to changes in "tradition" both within secular society and within their own communities. As a result, the author creates a binary of religion v. secular that does not do justice to the complexity of the issue. Also, because it tries to cover too much, there is much undigested information. For example, at the end of the book, the author discusses at much length why low income individuals today are more likely to live in extramarital relationships than middle and upper income individuals; the reasons that she highlights are largely economic. Women in low income neighborhoods complained that the men they met were less likely to have stable jobs. As a result, they feared that marriage would actually increase their economic burden. In fact, the author quoted one woman as saying that she decided against marrying someone that she truly loved, because she could not afford to support both him and her child. This rationale (for marrying or not marrying) is highly reminiscent of marriage's original rationale, i.e. to consolidate and safeguard property. Yet, the author never considers the possibility that love's conquest of marriage is incomplete or how growing economic inequalities might over time change the institution of marriage yet again.Finally, the book seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. It begins as a history of the institution of marriage (focusing on the western world), but the last 3 chapters move into the realm of sociology and psychology, replete with admonitions about the flaws found in contemporary marriage manuals.

  • Tanya
    2019-02-17 16:48

    In general I have a very conservative opinion on marriage, and though this well-researched and convincingly written book enlarged my perspective, it did not change my view that "traditional" marriage is the ideal. I don't know that Coontz so much intended to dismiss that view, as to help readers realize that my traditional ideal is not "how it's always been," and certainly isn't how it always will be.The bulk of the book traces the gradual change in marriage, from its long existence as the economic unit of society (where the wife assisted the husband in whatever his trade was, from farming to shopkeeping to managing a noble estate) to being primarily an emotional and psychological haven from the world. Coontz makes it very clear that until the 18th century "love" was not a reason for marriage. In the non-industrialized world it was impossible for one person to do all the tasks necessary to feed, shelter, and clothe himself, let alone children. Finding a spouse was more like forming a business partnership - you chose someone who was best equipped to help run your personal business and brought connections (particularly in-laws) that would help you. It wasn't until industrialization that living standards were raised to the point where people had the luxury of choosing a partner based on emotional attachment. This trend reached its apex in the 1950's, when the "Father Knows Best" stereotype had its heydey. Earning power had reached the point that a large segment of the population could live on one income, and gender roles became more defined than ever with professional (male) and domestic (female) spheres separating completely. Many psychologists believed this new "traditional" form of marriage would spread throughout the world and last indefinitely. However, a mere decade later the "perfected" institution began to unravel. At the root of the problem is that a marriage based on emotional attachment is put in jeopardy when emotions wane. If the only reason to get together is to find personal satisfaction, why stay together if that satisfaction evaporates? Through the '50's and '60's the collapse of traditional marriage was delayed, however, by the simple fact that women were still so economically dependent upon men. By the 1980's when real wages for female workers were relatively comparable to their male coworkers', many women saw going it alone as a realistic option. This also increased the value placed on the female gender in general, which has improved satisfaction in marriage for both men and women. Coontz elaborates on other factors that affected marriage through the decades that I won't go into here, but are very worth learning about.She also discusses the fact that modern people no longer see traditional marriage as the only way to structure life. Many opt for cohabitation, same-sex relationships, single-parent homes, and even permanent solitary living. In today's world all these are workable, and in the author's mind are perfectly acceptable. However, she (somewhat grudgingly, I thought, and almost between the lines) admits that the ideal situation is an equal marriage between a man and a woman. For those husbands and wives who can make it work, marriage in today's world can be the best it has ever been. Thus in the end I can more-or-less agree with nearly everything Coontz says in Marriage, a History and still be an advocate for "The Proclamation on the Family" that my church holds dear. Though I had a few questions along the way, I'm glad to have read this book.

  • James Steele
    2019-03-06 15:43

    A trip through the history of marriage, from its earliest beginnings in prehistory to the present day. What is "traditional marriage?" It takes an entire volume to do justice to the complete answer.Marriage started as a way for families, tribes, and villages to form alliances and secure aid during hard times. Who is more likely to help you in times of need: a stranger, or family? Marriage made family out of strangers, and in the days before government, individual tribes and villages had to look out for their own survival, and creating relatives in other communities was a good way to avoid conflict over resources, gain allies in times of trouble, and increase landholdings. In this era, marriage was seen as a way to get beneficial in-laws and ensure possessions passed down smoothly from one generation to the next.Overtime, marriage evolved into two distinct groups: the upper class and the lower class. Among the upper class, the history of marriage is the history of politics. Fathers married daughters and sons to other heads of state in order to secure allegiance with other nations, or often within his own domain. In this way, marriage was for gaining a voice in another king's court, and ensuring your will was represented within your kingdom as well. Among the poor, marriage was a means to acquire more land, more livestock, and a source of labor on the family farm.Prior to the rise of the market economy, the family farm was the economy, and one person was unable to run a farm by himself. It required at least two people to tend to land and manage all the tasks necessary for basic survival. A wife was expected to do work on the family's land, and a good wife was seen as an industrious woman. Men and women not of noble birth married to help each other survive, not because they loved one another. Children were born to labor on the farm. Marriage was seen as a public affair that affected the whole community, so there was a great deal of scrutiny from neighbors, family, and local authorities. If a couple did not produce an economic benefit to the town and all families involved, it was not allowed. In all instances, the husband was never seen as part of the family, but rather the ruler of the family--a miniature version of a kingdom. This system persisted for millennia. It wasn't until the market economy began to take over that people became able to survive independent of a spouse. When marriage became optional, things changed. People began to marry because they wanted to marry, not because they had to. At the same time, the French and American revolutions shook up the notion that the man was king of the household. The revolutions ushered in a new idea: power was not absolute, and if the king himself was not absolute, what about man as the head of the house?The 1800's saw the first major change in marriage in Western culture. Prior to the Victorian period, women were perceived as the lustier sex who tempted men into sin. But when economic and social change in the world called traditional roles into question, the perception of men and women also changed. Now that men and women did not have to marry for economic reasons, why should they marry at all?The perception of male and female roles changed to compensate. Now women were thought to be pure and asexual, while men were the ones who drew women into impurity and sin. The genders were separate, but together they made a complete whole: men were industrious and ambitious, but women were moral and able to guide their husbands down the right path. Marriage was seen as a way to give balance to both sexes. People began to marry because they wanted to marry, because they felt emotionally attached to one another. This radical idea--that the married couple should like one another and want to be together--changed everything, and at the same time made marriage unstable. With fewer external forces keeping a marriage together (survival, family pressure, land possession, etc.), there was less incentive to stay together. Divorce has been part of marriage since people had a choice in staying together.After a couple generations of this, people rebelled against the system again, and in the early 1900's women began to break out of their angelic role in the household. The Depression and WWII saw still more shifts in gender roles and marriages. Women worked harder than ever during the Depression, when men could not find work, and while men were off to war.The postwar prosperity of the 1950's through the early 60's saw the biggest change in marriage yet. Incomes were high, jobs were plentiful, people did not need to marry for alliances or beneficial in-laws, women did not need to work, so it became fashionable for men to do all the work, and women to stay home and keep house. The love-marriage was finally stable, it seemed.But economic conditions changed. Wages began to fall, and more women entered the workforce to make up the difference, thus ending the ideal of the male-provider/female-homemaker union.The history of marriage is complex, and varies a great deal between centuries, social classes, cultures, and economic and legal conditions. Marriage did not begin with the Bible, and it does not end with it. A look at the whole history reveals it has never been consistent, or traditional. Marriage was more often than not used to forge alliances with neighbors and secure property. Sons and daughters were sometimes pawns in their parents' game to acquire in-laws with influence and money. Love was never part of it, and husband and wife had to accept their union for financial and political reasons for the good of the family or community, while they found emotional and physical fulfillment outside the marriage. The idea that the married couple should find such fulfillment in each other is a relatively new idea, and it was only made possible by external changes in economics and politics.The book focuses almost exclusively on Western marriage, which is fine, but I was also curious about marriage customs throughout history in other cultures. That might've made the book twice as long, so I understand why the author focused on the West, but I still would have liked a more complete picture. Also, towards the end the author becomes bogged down in statistics, and it's tiresome, but by then the book is almost over and Coontz has made her point.A brief history of the Western world from the point of view of marriage. It's an insightful, awe-inspiring way to study history. "Traditional marriage" is a myth conjured by short-sighted people who think the way things were in the 50's is the way they always were, and they way things always will be. Marriage is still changing, and given what marriage used to be, change can only be good.

  • AB
    2019-03-13 18:32

    Not a hint or anything, dudes; just an interest.

  • Jamila
    2019-02-28 15:51

    This is one of my favorite books on the history of marriage, though it's not without its flaws. Coontz does an excellent job of taking a wide range of scholarly work and summing it up for a public audience. Through a discussion of marriage dating back to the ancient times, Coontz demonstrates that our current conception of marriage-for-love is a recent invention. Rather, marriage for the majority of history was an institution that was entered into for practical and pragmatic reasons, an institution that knit together networks of kinship and material resources. The emergence of romantic love, along with the focus on the sanctity of the individual couple and the male breadwinner family structure, is an invention dating back roughly 150 years. Coontz has mastered the art of public writing. Her tone and style are briskly casual, at times glib, but almost always easy to follow. I do, of course, have my issues with the text. While Parts 1 and 2 offer an international perspective on marriage, drawing on case studies and examples from countries like China, Japan, Greece, and Rome, the latter portions focus exclusively on marriage in the United States. This presentation of US marriage doesn't take into account the practices of African Americans or ethnic immigrant populations (which differed, sometimes drastically, from the dominant model that Coontz highlights), which I find to be a major oversight. Still, for those looking for an easy-to-read overview of marriage practices over time, this offers a great start.

  • thefourthvine
    2019-02-27 17:45

    This is a fascinating, compelling, well-written, and lucid history of marriage. It's the fun kind of history book - the kind with enough anecdotes to make the individual pages fun and enough meat to give your brain something to chew. (Eeek, that metaphor needs to be put out of its misery. I promise I won't do that again this review.) This book is a must-read for everyone who is concerned with the current status of marriage - the divorce rate, gay marriage, traditional family values, whatever. And the overwhelming message is: marriage has always been under threat, because it is not a static thing; we continually redefine it, and what we believe to be "marriage" is probably not actually marriage as it is practiced in our generation. This also has a lot of fascinating information on gender issues and economics. I do wish it had been a little clearer in scope; she begins with a focus on marriage in (mostly Western) history, and ends with a focus on marriage in mostly American society. But this is a massive, challenging topic, and she makes it interesting, lucid, and fun, so I'm not going to nitpick. Definitely a book to read and own.

  • Mehrsa
    2019-03-18 13:53

    A history of marriage and also womens rights. Great storytelling and research. It could have been so much better--there was too little analysis and too much detail and history.

  • Brooke
    2019-02-20 14:51

    This is probably my favorite non-fiction book that I've ever read. I want to shove this book into the hands of everyone who clutches their pearls and laments the death of the "traditional" family. The author slowly and meticulously details the history of (mostly Western) marriage. Of note for the pearl clutchers, the marriage of the 1950s is noted to be an "unprecedented marriage system" that "was the climax of almost two hundred years of continuous tinkering with the male protector love-based marital model invented in the late eighteenth century. That process culminated in the 1950s in the short-lived pattern that people have since come to think of as traditional marriage."Prior to the eighteenth century, marriage was missing both the love and the male protector bits. They were essentially working partnerships needed to carry out activities of daily living involved in running a self-sufficient household. The individuals in the marriage had essentially no say in who they married, as their extended family and community arranged people into matches that benefited larger society.While I've always been aware that our traditions are not as traditional as we think, and that marriage was quite different in the past than it is now, this book really made clear not only what marriage has looked like over time, but also WHY it changed each time that it did. Every change, including the ones in the 1950s, makes complete sense when placed in the context of the larger societal shifts (economic, legal, political, medical, etc) taking place. The marriage of the 1950s was a direct result of the the end of the Depression, the subsequent end of WWII, and the new mass market consumer conveniences such as the washing machine. The author's explanation of how these factors led to the Ozzie and Harriet years make it all sound so reasonable that they ended up there. And it also makes it unquestionable that we can't return to it. The author has clearly done her research, and despite what another review states, the book has 100 pages of citations at the end.It struck me as so important to understand this history before deciding anything about marriage today - from opinions on gay marriage to the personal choice to get married. I found the discussion at the end of the book very poignant. Essentially, the author posits that marriage today is much more fragile than it's ever been, but also more deeply satisfying and intimate than it's ever been. We're once again redefining marriage and demanding more from it, which has the result of people being more hesitant to enter it and quicker to leave it when it doesn't meet our newer standards. Highly recommended.

  • Alechia
    2019-03-11 13:58

    As a history book, this is pretty decent, although the title should really be "A History of Marriage in the Western World," since she mostly focuses on marriage in Europe and America. I read the whole book, which wasn't the easiest thing to do, since it is a history book and I was compelled to take notes on everything. Throughout the book, Coontz kept mentioning how marriage was hard in the modern world, and I kept waiting for some practical advice about this. When it finally came, I was infuriated! *spoiler* The only practical advice in the whole book is that we should get the government and our employers to change things in order to make marriage easier for us! Really? What kind of advice is that? Basically it boils down to, "Marriage is hard, but instead of dealing with the difficulties, we should pass the buck and make someone else responsible.I was so upset that I yelled about it to anyone who would listen for about a week. I still give it three stars, though, because it's not an advice book; it's a history book, and doesn't make any claims otherwise. As a history book, it serves its purpose (unless you want to know about marriage in Eastern cultures). It may be that the "advice" at the end was thrown in merely because the author thought it would be expected. Its intrusion is unwelcome as far as I'm concerned.

  • Kay
    2019-03-04 12:56

    Stephanie Coontz does an excellent job of explaining that all the stereotypes about marriage today are largely the products of long and gradual social and economic factors over time. Now, instead of arguing about marriage in a bar based on my instincts, I have Coontz's data to back me up.Although the book is largely history, some of the most interesting stuff comes at the end, when she demonstrates with data that a lot of stereotypes about highly educated women either never get married or experience higher rates of divorce are simply untrue. Today's marriages are largely about achieving equal partnerships. Although marriage can have great benefits if it is a happy one, an unhappy marriage can lead to severe mental and physical problems for both men and women.In the end, this book is valuable for anyone that's curious about the timeline of marriage. Instead of basing your arguments on bullshit instincts and you're parents' (yikes!) marriage, read Coontz's book to understand it in a historical, social, and economic context.

  • Inder
    2019-02-26 15:50

    I was actually reading this book when my husband and I decided to run off and elope. Which is funny, because the history of marriage is something your average modern woman wants nothing to do with!But what is so great about this book is the way that it contextualizes our current obsession with a 1950s marriage and "family values" in a much larger history. Turns out (surprise surprise) that marriage meant something very different in Medieval times, and something very different again in the 18th Century and Victorian times. Marriage as an institution has faltered and almost failed several times before the 1970s. The 1920s saw an exlosion in divorce - who knew? And so did the "good ol' days," the 1950s! This, despite stricter laws governing divorce. Don't read this book if you are heavily invested in nostalgic portrayals of the past!

  • K
    2019-03-19 18:59

    What a stimulating and worthwhile read. It took me a while, but I'm glad I stayed with it. The writing, though dense and detailed, is accessible and engaging. And I think this is a great topic.In this ambitious book, Stephanie Coontz takes us through the history of marriage from early days until today. In early times marriage was an entirely practical decision. It was a necessary way to organize the sharing of labor, since survival necessitated more than one person's efforts. As societies became more economically heterogeneous with "haves" and "have-nots" as opposed to everybody simply wandering and living day-to-day, marriage also became a way to link up with the right set of in-laws and expand one's resources that way. This was particularly true among ancient royal families, as any student of the histories of Egypt and Rome will tell you. In medieval times marriage continued to be a largely economic decision, influenced by neighbors and entire communities as well as the families of the couple. Marriage was often a business partnership, with the wife assisting her husband with the family livelihood and the husband assisting his wife with housework. Egalitarian though that was in some respects, wives were still clearly subordinate to their husbands who ruled the roost. Love may have developed between some couples, but it was hardly the driving force in a marital relationship. In fact, excessively loving one's wife or expecting too much love in marriage was frowned upon.Several factors contributed to the evolution of the "love match." The decline of feudalism led to a rise in individual wage-earning, so that married couples became an economic unit rather than part of an interdependent community of serfs. The Protestant Reformation led to challenges to Catholic idealization of celibacy and a new emphasis on the marital relationship. The Enlightenment led to more secularism and ideals of personal happiness for individuals, which influenced goals and priorities in choosing a spouse. By the 1800s, the marital relationship became idealized as a source of fulfillment rather than being viewed as a business partnership.Prudish mores of the 1800s began to decline in the early 1900s, and by the 1920s sexual experimentation and acknowledgement of feminine sexuality became the norm, further affecting people's ideas and expectations of personal happiness and fulfillment in marriage. Not surprisingly divorce rates rose, but were then tempered by two crises -- the Great Depression and World War II. Women joined the workforce in large numbers, although the 1950s brought a backlash as postwar optimism, new technology, and economic growth led to what we see as "traditional" marriage -- male breadwinner and female doing domestic chores. Ironically, this "traditional" marriage was actually a new and very short-lived development; prior to the 1950s, even if women didn't work outside the home (and many did), their financial contribution to the household was significant as they sewed their own clothes, shopped in multiple stores to save ten cents (which made a real difference at that time), etc. Men may have worked more outside the home, but being a housewife meant a lot more than it did in the later Donna Reed days. My personal theory is that our tendency to assume Donna Reed represents "traditional" marriage comes from the advent of television. Before the 1950s, visual images and information about what other marriages looked like was far less widespread; television brought images of "typical" families into lots of people's homes and had a ubiquitous influence on the way we envision marriage. My theory is that, had television been invented fifty years earlier, our views of what "traditional" marriage may have looked like would have been far more complex and multifaceted. Just my two cents.Anyway, then came the 1960s and the pill, which meant that sex, marriage, and reproduction could now be distinct. Additionally, marriages began to collapse under the weight of people's expectations of fulfillment and marital bliss, expectations that were far more tempered earlier when marriage was a more economic arrangement and sex was less idealized. Women began to work more and to achieve more financial independence. The desire to conform to others' expectations gave way to an emphasis on autonomy and voluntary choice. Economic changes in the 1970s meant that women's working was more of a necessity. Gender tensions and divorce increased as both men and women struggled to adjust to the new norms. All of which led, gradually, to what we have today, a situation where marriage seems increasingly optional and less desirable or necessary than it once was.Overall, Coontz tells us, marriage is now both more fulfilling (when it works) and more fragile these days than it ever was. Women are better able to advocate for having their needs met in marriage, and the knowledge that either party can leave if they feel dissatisfied influences people's willingness to make changes. It also influences the longevity of marriage, though, since it's easier to walk away than it ever was before. These trends actually have their roots in the 1790s, but were held back by factors such as the strong societal need to conform, unreliable birth control, and women's dependence on men, factors which only truly gave way in the 1960s.Of course, this review, long though it is, is a vast oversimplification. The book contains a wealth of fascinating information and illustrative anecdotes, and makes many more interesting points than I could possibly make in this review. I guess this review may serve as a litmus test -- if you've reached the end and are saying, yes! I want to read more! Run out and grab this book. If you abandoned the review several paragraphs ago or are thinking, thank God I've reached the end of this longwinded diatribe, then the book is not for you. From me, though, it gets five stars. Just realize -- it's a commitment.

  • Kristin Holt
    2019-02-23 12:32

    As an amateur historian, and one intensely fascinated with history, I found this title by Stephanie Coontz to be a perfect combination of accurate history--and why attitudes prevailed during various eras of the world's history. Why marriage was never about love, until a certain point in history, makes complete sense to me now. I listened to the audible edition and can't help but give the narrator, Callie Beaulieu, 5-stars on her own. The content is a 5-star read, whether in print or audible edition. Ms. Coontz has tremendous capacity to take historical events, snips from letters and journals (from antiquity) and draw conclusions that seem spot-on. Conclusions I can understand! Highly recommended!

  • Jeff
    2019-03-06 15:50

    If you judge this book by its cover, you will probably hit the mark: the queer reader must wade through lots of heterosexism to find nuggets of interest. The author’s feminist lens falls short because it isn’t in the least bit intersectional. With that said, it’s worth reading for a fascinating, thorough account of marriage as an institution over time.

  • Jonna Higgins-Freese
    2019-02-24 19:56

    Reading Coontz's work is always a breath of fresh air. She's grounded in thorough historical and sociological research, and she scrupulously avoids any inflammatory rhetoric -- she's the antidote to moral panic around family, marriage, etc. She points out that that, while people have always fallen in love, only recently, and in Western culture, has this been seen as necessary or even a desirable basis for a marriage (15).Coontz demonstrates convincingly that what some on the right call "traditional" marriages are actually quite a recent, cultural specific invention. Marriage in the past has included dozens of different models, polygamy being the most common. Polyandry was not uncommon, and a variety of other forms can be found -- Inuit co-spouses (in which two couples pair such that each has sexual relations with the other), intentional multiple partners during pregnancy, with each man so involved being named as a co-father (and thus contributing to the health of the baby), etc. "In this Western model, people expect marriage to satisfy more of their psychological and social needs than ever before. Marriage is supposed to be free of the coercion, violence, and gender inequalities that were tolerated in the past. Individuals want marriages to meet most of their needs for intimacy and affection and all their needs for sex."Never before in history had societies thought that such a set of high expectations about marriage was either realistic or desirable. Although many Europeans and Americans found tremendous joy in building their relationships around these values, the adoption of these unprecedented goals for marriage had unanticipated and revolutionary consequences that have since come to threaten the stability of the entire institution" (23).She points out that for thousands of years, marriage was a social institution with strong legal and economic implications such as "regulating sexuality, legitimizing children, organizing the division of labor between men and women, and redistributing resources to dependents" (49). Now, however, there is a more informal way of contracting and dissolving relationships that more resembles the patterns often found in more egalitarian band-level societies, which is problematic -- not for reasons the right might contend, in terms of lack of the above functions, but because "in hunting and gathering bands and egalitarian horticultural communities, unstable marriages did not lead to the impoverishment of women or children as they often do today . . . Today's winner-take-all global economy may have its strong points, but the practice of pooling resources and sharing with the weak is not one of them. The question of how we organize our personal rights and obligations now that our older constraints are gone is another aspect of the contemporary marriage crisis" (49).I was intrigued to see that France and Canada have already instituted an idea that I've long proposed: given that I believe access to health care is a human right, and given that in the US such access comes mainly through employers, but can be extended by an employee to spouses, I've argued that people should be able to "marry" whomever they wish -- neighbor, cousin, etc. in order to extend health care to that person. So I was delighted to discover that "In France and Canada, an individual can establish a legally recognized caregiving or resource-pooling relationship with any other person and receive many legal and financial benefits that used to be reserved for married couples. Two sexual partners can take advantage of this arrangement. So can two sisters, two army buddies, or a celibate priest and his housekeeper" (279)

  • Stephanie
    2019-02-25 20:34

    Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, A History: What Tradition?http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201...Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.As someone who reads a love of romance, and a lot of romance wherein marriage is the HEA, a book on marriage presents a really tempting read. I often wonder if marriage at any time before the 20th century was about love or if the books I read, and the movies I see, are all foolish fantasy or if they represent the highest ideal of an imperfect institution.What I found in this easily understood audio was not anything I didn’t expect. Marriage was regarded very differently and people placed less importance on the sexual aspect of their being. It was a survival mechanism and not, in the vast majority of instances, about romantic love at all. And, I also learned that one’s sexual identity was given less importance, which makes the entire business and survival aspect seem much more possible.She tells us that in may cultures from ancient Greece to 19th Century France romantic love in marriage was an aberration. Surely people fell in love, but it was seen as transient and volatile – not a good basis for marriage.It’s just one word, “Marriage,” and yet there is so much to say about it. She found that while every permutation on marriage has occurred at some time or other, that today’s expected interpersonal relationship between spouses is unique. What is most evident is that throughout history marriage was a way of organizing labor in a family, where no one person could do all that was needed in a subsistence existence. And, in most cases was, or became, a way of organizing and allotting property and inheritance rights.And, this is is also a history book — the result of scholarly research and a lifetime of study — and at times it feels like a lecture or like reading of a dissertation.As far as the narration goes, I found the narrator had an easy voice to listen to with one exception: the word “nuclear” appears 25 times within the book and she pronounces it nuk-U-lar. This is wrong in any book. but is even worsened by its inclusion in a scholarly work.All in all, it was a fascinating book and left me to wonder why it is often seen as men being “dragged to the altar” or “leg shackled,” “wearing the old ball-and-chain,” when it is women who have historically borne the worst of the negative aspects of the relationship: having no property rights, being subjugating to the will of one or more men, being “put aside” for whatever reason. The author cites Jane Austen’s published writings and her letters including a quote to the effect that marriage without affection is not the ideal but that single women were often poor and marriage prevented that poverty (p. 185).Coontz posits that conditions used by American political and religious leaders: divorce rates and out of wedlock births, have been higher at other times and the actual demise of the traditional marriage, which did not exist until rather recently (and is actually not a worldwide concern) are based in the actual conditions that created the so-called “traditional marriage,” the insistence that “love” be the primary consideration in mate choice and equality in the relationship.Interesting? I thought so. It may change the way you see marriage. In any event, it will probably change the way you see romance novels. I thought it was actually necessary reading for my understanding of the relationships described in the novels I read.

  • Paul
    2019-03-08 16:32

    I think this is an excellent overview of the history of marriage through the ages and across many cultures (though, probably reasonably, Coontz does devote a pretty big poprtion of the book to the evolution of the modern institution in America), and is a good amount of food for thought when thinking about how marriage is viewed today.I think it is admirable that despite the fact that the question of what marriage is and has been in the past is currently (and, if the book is to be believed, has been many times in the past) a highly politicized area of inquiry, Coontz manages to keep things factual and largely neutral (at least in my opinion). I don't have much in the way of reference, though, so it's possible (though I think somewhat unlikely) that she's providing a somewhat skewed view of history.The only reason I'm not giving this a full 5 stars is that I found the last part of the book surprisingly US-centric, with periodic dips into comparisons between the US view of marriage and customs in Europe. I am very interested in whether marriage has evolved into a mostly love-centered institution in almost all countries as they become rich or if that's a uniquely western thing.I also am not sure she totally drove home her point about how love-based marriages may spell the end of marriage. It seemed to me that they are much more likely to end before the death of one of the partners, but she does an excellent job of explaining why the rise of the love marriage and the rise of more ephemeral marriages may be two effects from the same cause (rising wealth). I think it's a minor point, but she refers back to it so frequently that it seems like it should be the major theme of the book, but I'm not really seeing it.Still, this is definitely recommended reading for "microhistory" buffs like myself. 4.5 stars.

  • K. O'Bibliophile
    2019-03-16 19:33

    History makes so much more sense now.Everyone knows that you didn't marry for love in Ye Olden Days because It Was a Business Transaction and You Should be Glad with What You Got. But the idea of marriage is intrinsically wrapped around emotion today, and no matter how many times you hear that marrying for love is a recent thing, I've never seen marriage portrayed as anything but--as in, no matter what period of history you lived in, you still viewed marriage as emotional.So now, having read this, history honestly makes more sense now that I have a feel for the way marriage was viewed and approached. Explanations, I heart you. Like how people approached it, what they expected within it, how it was shaped and used the the society, etc.I was surprised by how readable I found the book--unusual for a nonfiction book that doesn't have a first-person format (a la Mary Roach) or doesn't focus on individuals' stories. The majority of the tome goes through western history, focusing on what marriage was used for, the different levels of society, what was changing and why, etc.The last few chapters do switch to a first-person format, but since that's dealing with more recent history and it's therefore harder (or impossible) to look at current marriage with the emotionless removal of marriage from centuries past, perhaps that's for the best. But there's a lot of guesswork because nothing's set in stone: X could indicate Y, or X might be related to Z, or in fifty years we may say that Y was a fluke. Compared to the fun history in the rest of the book, it wasn't nearly as good.Still, it's a great read, if only to get a better idea of how [in]accurate your historical romance is.

  • Daniel
    2019-02-17 16:41

    Well, I learned from this book that the conception of marriage that my generation has inherited is mostly from the 1950's. (yes, to be fair I should say it's my conception of marriage, but I really don't think I'm alone in holding it.) I was quite surprised by the number of features of marriage I thought to be old-fashioned which were from a recent high-water mark of the male-breadwinner love-choice marriage. I am reading up on marriage these days to understand our cultural background for the gay-marriage debate, as it has always seemed 'obvious' to me that marital benefits in our cultural and legal history stem from a desire to raise children. This book largely confirms that impression, so long as "raising children" is understood to comprise "having legitimate children to transfer power and property across generations." But, at the heart of marriage in the west (and east, too) has been the idea of children. Here's another thing to ponder as we insist that all that is needed is one-on-one marriage: the historical 'norm' seems to be polygamy. Surely that's buried somewhere in the California state constitution...

  • SoManyBooks SoLittleTime (Aven Shore)
    2019-03-18 14:41

    Stephanie Coontz makes the case that the current condition of marriage in our culture is an inevitable destination from the confluence of social forces at work since the Middle Ages (Western culture). Although sampling Eastern culture and tribes (mostly as proof of the great diversity of partnership contracts possible), it is primarily focussed on the Western marriage and transformation of the marriage contract socially and politically. The list of expectations we have of our partnerships grows, thanks to the emergence of the love marriage. Extremely interesting; the single wage earner family that we collectively seem to think is the traditional “gold standard” is but a brief blip on the timeline. Women waiting until they were financially secure and in their late thirties before marriage? Happened before. Socially recognized same-sex partnerships? Ditto. Church freaking out at the collapse of the institution of marriage? Yep. All happened before. It’s time now to create our own marriage and partner contracts - we have arrived at a time of wide social choice - rather than signing the dotted line of a contract with only historical utility.

  • BHodges
    2019-03-15 15:58

    According to Coontz's popular survey, perhaps the most "traditional" thing about marriage is its ongoing renegotiations—its shifting iterations, its changing role in the structure of society, and the changing expectations people have when they enter into, suffer through, enjoy, or terminate a marriage relationship.The book begins with some of the mythical, anthropological, and common-sense theories of the origins of marriage, moves into the high-stakes dramas of the ancient world of a few centuries B.C., up through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when gender roles skewed in a variety of directions, on to present debates about gay marriage, no-fault divorce, cohabitation, and other issues. No matter your ideological background (liberal, conservative, whatever), I think you'll be repeatedly surprised by some of the stories Coontz tells and by the data she cites. I didn't expect to, but I actually learned a number of interesting things that I think might improve some things in my own marriage...If only I could make my wife listen and obey the principles I learned. [Kidding honey!] Really fun and informative.

  • Liza
    2019-02-27 12:48

    Hmmmm. I just couldn't get very far in this. Firstly, the title bothers me greatly. Has love conquered marriage? I think not. Maybe some people are able to choose whom they marry, but not most. Even in the places/spaces where love has supposedly conquered marriage, I would say marriage is more about societal/familial pressures and expectations. Or the need for health care. Or the desire for that pink Kitchen Aid mixer. I find the history of marriage interesting, but I guess being of the age where it feels as though everyone's getting married or planning a wedding or fretting about not getting married I am tired of thinking about marriage. I'm sorry I'm such a cynical bastard, but I just think marriage is quite a ridiculous institution*, and I'd rather not read about it.*I support and love all my married and engaged friends and family, though!

  • César Galicia
    2019-02-20 19:51

    En estos tiempos donde existen grupos radicales intentando defender a toda costa la idea absurda de una "familia natural" y, por consiguiente, un sagrado matrimonio heterosexual, hacen falta dos antídotos: biología para comprender que la naturaleza es más compleja que lo que la religión afirma sobre ella (y que en realidad lo antinatural es hacer de la sexualidad una institución) e historia, para entender que el matrimonio ha cambiado a través de la historia, que los preceptos bajo los cuales nos casamos hoy nada tienen que ver con los que existían hace 150, 500, 1000 años y que no hay argumento posible con el cual sostener que la única forma válida de matrimonio y de familia es la heterosexual y patriarcal. Este libro ofrece una mirada y revisión histórica de la familia y lo hace de una forma bellísima, precisa, objetiva, justificada. 10/10

  • Holly
    2019-02-28 15:55

    This book made me extraordinarily happy that I am married in the time and place that I am. Koontz does a stellar job of tracing the history of marriage from earliest recorded history to the present. I wish she had either given more time to non-Western marriages or made it plain early on that her history applies primarily to the Western world. That aside, this is a book well worth reading.