LOVE, MARRIAGE AND THE CONSUMER SOCIETY

If as Marx stated our consciousness is determined by our social relationships, then the view point of a wizard will be very different from that of a priest or scientist.

Defining Love and Marriage

Love in human beings and animals, relates two or more organisms in a process of psychological development. In “The Four Loves” C.S.Lewis distinguishes between parental love or storge, friendship or philia, sexual love or eros and an all embracing love or agape. In “The Art of Loving” Erich Fromm distinguishes between “standing in love” (loving) and “falling in love” (being in love). Any stable and fairly lasting social relationship involving psychological interaction based on sexual attraction can be considered a form of marriage.

When someone falls in love with another who responds by standing in love with them, or vice versa, both partners in the process are transformed. The one who is in love matures away from dependency and the one who loves gains in self esteem.

A person may love another or fall in love with another who responds in a similar way. However, mutual “falling in love” is unstable and may lead to “folie a deux’ since neither is “standing in love”. Mutual “standing in love” is very stable, being a form of friendship or philia with a positive contribution to social cohesion, but is unlikely to have psychologically transformative consequences. Finally a person may fall in love with or love another but the love is not reciprocated. In this case love may transform the one in love or loving, but not the one who does not reciprocate.

Parental Love or Storge

The essential elements of this form of love are the provision of security, food and shelter and the teaching of necessary skills by the person standing in love. Control of the roles is not only based on providing or withholding displays of affection by the lover but on the supply or withholding of desirable food. Over time the child matures away from dependency and eventually the love should be transformed into philia or even storge should the parent/s become infirm and dependent. Any display of eros or sexual love is extremely destructive of storge.

Friendship or Philia

Mutualism is the basis of this form of love where both partners “stand in love” to each other. Should one partner become too dependent the love may change to storge (regardless of age) or eros (regardless of age or gender).

Eros or Sexual Love

As feeding is the basis of parental love so sexual satisfaction is basis of this form of love. Although there many variations of expression due to psychological disposition or social custom there is a broad range in non-promiscuous sexual behaviour which may form the basis for this form of love. The forms of the social institution of marriage vary considerably with what is culturally acceptable.

Marriage

Any stable sexual relationship based on love is a form of marriage whether regarded as moral or legitimate or not. Close kin marriages, homosexual marriages, polygamous or polyandrous unions are still marriages in this broad sense.

 

In this brief essay I am attempting to establish which forms of marriage can be said to emphasise eros by avoiding regression to storge and which lead to the successful development of the dependent partner. First however I must examine the remarkable phenomenon of romantic love.

Romantic Love

This appears to be a kind of magical attraction whose forms vary depending on cultural factors. Romantic love in either sex is not easily explicable in terms of reason or morality. It is a mix of basic sexual desire, animal magnetism, religious adoration and artistic creativity, best regarded as “magic”. The cult of celebrities and political or religious leaders is also a form of romantic love. The one in love makes what psychotherapists call a ‘transference’ and identifies with and partly lives through someone else. At the same time there is often a paradoxical jealous desire to control the beloved to avoid losing them.

Romance and Hunter-Gatherers

It is fairly strong amongst hunter-gatherers where males make elaborate display and females become romantically aroused. The strict initiation rites, which encourage young males to become independent of the need for maternal approval, counter the pull of storge love and develop uniquely masculine characteristics which are sexually attractive to the young females. The idea of patriarchy is largely absent since fatherhood is played down or completely denied by cultural leaders. Polygamy is culturally approved though there may be monogamous unions and unmarried individuals.

Romance and Agricultural Civilisations

In agricultural societies and some nomadic pastoralists, land-owning, fertility, patriarchy and immortality are the values which maintain the social structures which make them utterly different from hunter-gatherers. The romantic aspects of eros are minimised by arranged marriages and males are not encouraged to display to attract females. There is less separation between the economic roles of male and female since men and women work the land together. Another major difference is that generally the females are trained by their mothers to display themselves as sex objects to attract socially suitable husbands. Female clothing and behaviour is often designed to draw attention to themselves as passive and vulnerable and needing a husband to fertilise them and provide for the offspring. Both independent and romantic behaviour amongst young women is strongly disapproved of. Initiation rites for males are few and most males remain dependent on maternal approval all their lives

Romance and Industrial Societies

With the development of specialised manufacturing, trade routes and urbanisation, where more of the work force are independent of landowning and farming, potential partners exercise more personal choice in their choice of mates. Mobility of labour and rapid urbanisation leads to extended families being replaced by nuclear families and in these industrialised societies men and women again begin to develop separate economic roles. Wives are tied more closely to the household as ‘housewives’ whilst husbands often work at a trade where they earn a wage. Boys are reared largely by their mothers and are often separated from close contact with mature males with serious consequences for their masculine psychological development.

Eros love becomes more and more ‘Oedipal’ and a new form of romantic love replaces religious worship in the males. Men increasingly find their meaning in life in obtaining a desirable woman as a wife rather than in fathering children bearing their name and achieving personal salvation through their religion. In mythology the icon of sexual desire becomes female (Aphrodite/Venus etc) rather than male (Eros/Cupid etc). With the added power that comes from being a desirable ‘goddess’ young women can break with parental control and can insist that any young man who wants to marry them must choose a career that they approve of. Romantic novels printed in the cities and circulated in the country, encourage this departure from rural custom. Young men are persuaded to leave their families and travel to the large cities where the young women can indulge their gathering instincts by shopping.

Romantic love as an ideology boosts urbanisation and shopping promotes more manufacturing. Increasing mechanisation of agriculture releases land workers so that they may become urban workers. The immense productivity of mechanisation means that new markets and raw materials must be found further and further away. Romantic love for men and shopping for women become the meaning of life for industrialised peoples, replacing religious salvation and fertility.

However this form of human culture is not stable and the seeds of its own destruction are built in. As globalisation of manufacturing and trading increase, the goods available began to exceed the demand and the ability to pay for them. The solution was to train more people to join the work force who would then buy more goods and services with their wages. Governments introduced mass education programmes for both boys and girls with a strong emphasis on future employment. New sciences of psychological manipulation were developed to persuade the new wage owners to buy goods and services which they had not previously regarded as necessary. Advertising and consumerism launched a new form of civilisation on the world.

Love and Marriage in the Post Industrial age

The paid employment of women which began during the two great world wars increased rapidly as a result of the educational revolution and government sponsored feminist ideology. Women no longer believed their role in life was to be the goddess in the home in a godless world taking their social status from the occupation of their husbands. The nuclear family began to collapse in chaos. With easy divorce and safe contraception woman began to regain desire for satisfactory sex lives which they had sacrificed to become the frigid sex objects of the industrial age or the fertility goddesses of the agricultural age.

Unfortunately there was no need for men to be educated for new reciprocal roles in a post-industrial society and the result has been a massive loss of confidence in their masculinity already weakened by the absence of independent mature males in their childhood rearing. Men and women were now ruthlessly competing not only in the work force and educational institutions but in the search for sexual satisfaction. Once women were legally and financially independent and no longer needed to be sex objects or providers of children for patriarchal men they began to succumb to the ideology of romantic love. If both men and women are seeking the ideal sexual partner to “fall in love with” then neither of them are prepared to “stand in love”. Without either stable religious salvation or stable romantic love the Age of Anxiety was upon us. The only psychological solutions being offered were either psychotherapy and/or shopping. Love and marriage had become impermanent serial monogamy.

Materialistic science was no solution to the problem of the loss of meaning and neither personal religious fundamentalism nor ‘new age’ personal empowerment could do anything except make matters worse. The same can be said of the mass media promotion of shallow escapist sensationalism to try and revitalise jaded palettes and the absurd moral cult of political correctness imposed by governments to replace traditional ethical systems of good and evil.

As if this was not enough it was becoming increasingly clear that not only was life increasingly boring and bland but that the planet itself was being poisoned by all the waste produced in the consumer phase of a civilisation based on the absolute value of economic determinism.

Searching for a solution

In the late 1960s, after the sudden consumer boom of the 1950s and the availability of safe contraception, many disillusioned young people experimented with different life styles. These ranged from communal promiscuity to various forms of marriage. At this time I was in my mid thirties and lecturing in the sociology of religion at a university in Australia. Together with my wife who shared my values, I had, until recently, escaped commitment to the consumer society by alternately working and back-backing for many years in Europe and the Middle East.

I genuinely believed that a cultural transformation was beginning to take place and threw myself into the search for a better way of life. I had the advantage of experience and my knowledge of previous historical attempts by people in hunter-gatherer, agricultural and industrial societies. I did not believe that escaping into a commune or taking consciousness altering drugs was any sort of solution. I wanted to combine love and marriage but on a better foundation than a patriarchal extended family or a nuclear family based around a housewife/sex object. It helped considerably that my parents were both schoolteachers and that my mother was a true romantic.

Compulsory Monogamy and the Power of Wives

Monogamy is still morally and legally the rule in our Christian based civilisation, having been the Roman practice which was adopted when Christianity originated in the Roman Empire. It was not the only form of marriage for Jews or Moslems or in India or China. Compulsory monogamy, with strict punishment for bigamy, developed in those societies that were inheritors of Roman law and the rise of Christian Europe as an industrial giant. Some form of polygamy was surely better than serial monogamy where love easily turned to hate?

Why should any particular form of marriage be made compulsory? Obviously the production and rearing of children can be just as successfully carried out in a polygamous marriage. In an industrial or post-industrial society where the state provides many functions previously handled by the family institution the main social function of marriages need no longer be the production and rearing of children. Polyandry, where a woman marries a group of brothers, which is found in societies where land is so short that it cannot be subdivided, has proved stable and successful as a form of love and marriage.

It seemed to me that the only explanation for compulsory monogamy had to be the under-rated power of married women to decide the marriage form. It would be normal for a woman to be jealous should her husband take a second wife in the same way as a child is normally jealous at the appearance of a brother or sister. A sex-object/goddess would be furious should her worshipper find another goddess. An equal partner in a folie a deux would feel betrayed should the man or woman bring another into the relationship. In religious agricultural patriarchy, where the wife’s meaning in life comes from her role as mother, polygamy was much more acceptable to women.

Since girls in industrial societies are largely raised by monogamous mothers and monogamous school teachers and surrounded by monogamous role models in the mass media, they are likely to be strongly opposed to sharing a husband.

ROMANTIC LOVE FOR WOMEN IN THE CONSUMER SOCIETY

Just as romantic love for men played a large in transforming the institutions of the agricultural society, so romantic love for women has the same potential for transforming the institutions of the post industrial consumer society.

Feminism was introduced by the rulers of the post industrial societies to transform women’s values, since there was a great need for women to enter the work force as both producers and consumers to maintain the rapidly increasing growth of globalised industrialisation. Until feminism was introduced by the compulsory mass education system, women regarded their meaning in life as being the moral centres of nuclear families devoted to raising boys motivated to work in the new cities and girls motivated to being goddess/housewives supported by their husband’s wages.

Feminists were now being taught that their meaning in life did not come from behaving as quasi-divine beings inspiring their husbands to work hard nor from devoting themselves to maintaining a beautiful home and raising children. Their new value system was based on vocational independence rather than moral and emotional control of a husband who provided essential economic support. Of course there had always been a few women of strong character who valued independence and who had sought careers in teaching and nursing or trade. Amongst the aristocrats and the very poorest women separated from the institutions of the industrial bourgeoisie quite different values were often found.

Their new-found economic independence from wage-owning husbands produced women with little in common with those of the agricultural and industrial civilisations. Their new aims were political, economic and psychological rather than moral. With their economic independence the rights to vote, to own property, to receive equal pay for equal work, to practise contraception, to obtain equitable divorce and even abort unwanted babies were soon achieved. The achievement of these new rights by women without the acceptance of corresponding new responsibilities and the consequent imposition of new responsibilities without rights for men has greatly destabilised the consumer society to the point where radical change is needed.

The End of Fatherhood

What has followed has been a period of moral chaos and psychological collapse of the males. Proper child-rearing has become more and more the responsibility of government bureaucrats and children are depending more and more on their peer groups and entertainment celebrities for moral guidance with predictable consequences. Men find they are competing with women in almost every sphere of life where they had previously obtained their status. In all cultures men have formed social groups where women are excluded and without them their psychological development is stunted. These are now banned by law though women may form groups where men are excluded by law. Women may divorce their husbands whom they have deserted or driven away and yet still retain custody of the children. Boys raised in nuclear families who previously rarely saw their fathers are often raised almost entirely without close adult male role-models. In the confusion produced by easy and frequent divorce and custody rules biased towards women many children have several different fathers.

Since the 1970s feminist intellectuals employed by government educational institutions have denounced patriarchy as the oppression of women yet a much better case could be made for the reverse. If men are not raised to believe that they can and must produce and rear children bearing their family name, how can their wives control them? These values are not universal; Hunter-gatherers generally believe that pregnancy occurs when a spirit chooses to enter a woman’s womb. In matrilineal cultures children take their mother’s family name and may be reared in the mother’s family home

WHAT CAN WE DO TO BE SAVED?

Religious fundamentalists are attempting to go backwards and restore values based on a vanished form of civilisation but this is obviously impossible. I believe that a solution can be found by embracing aspects of the consumer society that will both halt the collapse of the marriage institution and restore men’s confidence in their masculinity.

Globalised consumerism driven by skilful advertising depends on the development of advanced information technology. Instantaneous electronic communication has created the internet which is influenced by but not controlled by totalitarian government institutions like education or by monopolistic corporations. Since money has now become information on the net and since governments are not able to control the globalised economy this is not likely to happen. Like the brain, the internet is a self-organising system. This has important implications for its future development.

The subtle psychological moulding of human emotional needs through mass advertising is a highly advanced art which could be applied to persuade people to seek meaning in other activities than the stressful combination of hard work and frantic consuming. Moreover wasteful consumerism poisons and despoils the natural environment and cannot continue much longer without devastating consequences.

Strange as it may seem feminism and the end of the nuclear family as a stable structure may provide the best hope for the necessary fundamental change. What we often regard as human nature is not as fixed as many believe and feminism has demonstrated. My years as a lecturer in the sociology of religion during the 1960s led to my interest in revitalisation movements in pre-literate societies. At the same time I was giving classes in the ideas of Marshall McLuhan who was concerned with the unanticipated psychological and social effects of advertising and the new globalised electronic communication. He believed that we would find our consciousness being transformed in ways that resembled that of pre-literate cultures. It seemed that the cultural upheavals of the time were very much like a revitalisation movement.

Adopting a humorous approach I began the process of transforming myself into a post-modern shaman but did not claim to be a divinely inspired prophet as was the case in pre-literate revitalisation movements. I was convinced that to bring love and marriage back together in a stable institutional form I would have to create a new post modern cosmology and experiment with relationships with the opposite sex based on a synthesis of hunter-gatherer marriage forms and feminist principles.

Many well educated young women were abandoning the high moral ground when it came to sex without marriage. However I was not interested in loveless and short-lived promiscuity. My activities as a shamanic revitaliser (official wizard of my university) brought me into contact with many young female graduates. I proposed a new form of polygamous marriage to those who seemed romantically attracted to me. I would act out the role of “master” and they would act out the role of “slaves”. The slave would choose to be a slave because she had fallen in love and I was her master because I was standing in love. In some respects I was acting like the domestic goddess of the pre-feminist era and the slave was a love slave like the husbands of that time.

Modelling the kind of love I was offering on mother love, I promised these young women that I would never leave them but that they could leave me without my becoming angry or jealous. To ensure that the slave’s love was not tainted by traditional need for economic gain the slave was expected not only to support herself economically but also to help support me since I had ceased being in paid employment and had broken away from dependency on the state welfare system.

I did this to avoid being psychologically or socially controlled by people with different value systems. With help of the university authorities and the city art gallery I became a “living work of art”, a fictional role actor in my own scenario.

Feminism had given women economic and political independence from husbands and greater independence from their reproductive biology. Many feminists now made the mistake of assuming that basically men and women were the same psychologically in spite of genetic differences between male and female mammals and cultural selection during the thousands of years when human beings lived in cultures where men hunted away from the women and women gathered in settlements. Women, now freed from the fear of conceiving by mistake were copying men in hunting for suitable male lovers rather than trapping men into marriage by suppressing their desire and “playing hard to get”. Many couples were living together before deciding to get married.

Anthropologists have shown that in hunter-gatherer societies mature men took the role of magical, semi-divine sex objects whilst young women responded like female teenagers at a rock concert. I was also convinced that, other things being equal,  in the human species not only was female bonding with a male more powerful than male bonding with a female but, unique in the animal kingdom, even more powerful than their bonding with their offspring. Another unique feature of the human female is that, not only are they permanently ‘on heat’, but they are capable of experiencing orgasms that affect their nervous systems more profoundly than those of men.

For about fifteen years I attempted to found a stable non-residential polygamous family structure based on my understanding of female psychology and the new feminist value system. Jealousy and the lack of strong enough character to resist outside social pressure meant that most gave up after a few months or years. However one young woman showed tenacity equal to my own and is still with me after almost forty years. I dropped the title ‘slave’ after a few years as she showed fewer and fewer signs of emotional dependency. As a classics graduate she also helped me elaborate my theory of the importance of what I call the “Orestes Complex” as the suitable myth for men to live by rather than finding themselves blindly acting out the Oedipus Complex. Her post graduate degree in fine arts led to her being appointed ‘curator’ of the ‘living work of art’. Due to factors beyond my control I am still partly supported materially through her wages as a teacher though this is not a desirable situation now that she has “grown up”.

This radical new form of love and marriage has endured in a largely non-supportive cultural environment and has great potential for the future. It may not be suitable for the rearing of children at this stage, though with more people adopting it, child rearing could be easily shared as it is in other polygamous unions. I also think that young boys could be largely reared by men as they are relieved of the task of providing for their wives and female children. Another characteristic of the consumer society is the increasing number of marriages that are childless. The present environmental crisis can only be solved by a drastic reduction in the number of people being born. If this does not happen the future of mankind is at risk.

In the past religious and political education emphasised the meaning of marriage as an institution for producing children. With the use of the powerful technology of moulding emotional needs which created the globalised consumer society it would be possible to modify the new values concerning love and marriage that are currently destroying the extended families in agricultural societies and nuclear families in industrial societies. The urgent need is to change men’s values and roles. Feminism has already prepared women for the new form of love and marriage. Men are floundering as their current roles have not changed to match the changes in women’s roles.

Men need to understand the difference between falling in love and standing in love so that they may take responsibility for the consequences should a woman fall in love with them. It is important to encourage men’s natural ego needs to show off, but also to avoid behaving foolishly. This needs to be seen as a proper value and not a weakness and would make it easier for men to resist putting sexual desire before power over themselves. All men have a major problem in reaching maturity. Mother love in human beings is enormously powerful as human infants are completely dependent on their mothers for many years. Unlike girls, the sexual difference means that unless progressively removed from their mother’s powerful authority at an early age boys will perceive all women as authority figures who need to be placated.

A deformed perception of this is seen in the psychoanalytic theory of the Oedipus complex. The folly of this notion is that the disastrous consequences of patricide and marriage with his mother are seen to spring from Oedipus’ own deformed psyche yet he has no knowledge that would enable him to prevent the catastrophe. It is obvious that the myth should be seen as the Jocasta complex since she knows the prophecy and does nothing to stop it and even marries a man young enough to be her son without enquiring about his identity. I presume that Freud was so respectful of his mother that he could simply not believe that she could have anything to do with him hating his father so irrationally. One of the only Greek myths where the love and marriage conflicts are resolved is the story of Orestes who is commanded by the gods to kill his mother for her betrayal of her children even though he is horrified at the necessity. Freud interprets this myth to show Orestes’ sister Electra dominating him and driving him to kill their mother, her motive being jealousy not justice.

Once men are able to resist being manipulated by women who can see how immature they are, they can stand in love and master themselves and any woman who is drawn to them by romantic passion. In many ways this is what women did when they valued their role as self-mastering sex objects and repressed any desire for romantic passion which would destroy their marriages, like poor Madame Bovary. Romantic novels, which underpinned the industrial age nuclear family values of love and marriage, were all about the men’s romantic self abasement before young women whose attractions were not their income or skills in the work force but their physical appearance and domesticity.

If women can transform themselves from self-mastering moral centres of the nuclear family to passionate romantics like Madame Bovary surely men can make a similar transformation in the opposite direction. There is no evidence that women are less passionate than men, quite the reverse, judging by their fascination with romance. As for sexuality, feminists have revealed that both religious and secular scientific ideologies have covered up women’s basic capacity for sexual pleasure

I need to put in a word of caution here. Romantic passion is qualitatively different from simple lust. The passionate feeling is aroused by special characteristics of the man or woman who attracts them. There is also an element of dominance in the one who stands in love and an element of submission in the one who has fallen in love. In promiscuity there is little or no romance.

The need for boys to be largely reared by mature men and introduced to the importance of ritual and self reliance is the most pressing need in this time `of crisis. Such organisations as the Boy Scouts partly fulfilled this need in the first half of the 20th Century but are now changed almost beyond recognition. The huge increase in back-packing is having the effect of teaching self-reliance for both young men and young women and is one of the more hopeful signs in our times.

SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT

1. The various forms of love involve reciprocating roles related to the ‘standing in love/falling in love’ nature of love

2. Love is not only a sexual phenomenon and even erotic love may be mixed with maternal and filial love.

3. Romantic love is a spiritual yearning for union with a higher being and may be felt not only towards individuals who are sexually attractive but also towards religious, political, artistic, intellectual or magical personalities.

4. Marriage forms which define the roles of men and women and political-economic systems are closely inter-related.

5. Marriage and the erotic form of romantic love are not always closely associated. This is particularly true of patriarchy and other marriage forms where reproduction and child-rearing are seen as the basis for marriage rather than romantic love.

6. Romantic love may be institutionalised for men to experience, particularly in the industrial period, it may be seen as undesirable for either sex, as in the many long-lasting agricultural civilisations, or for women, as in the immensely long hunter-gatherer age

7. At the present time the end of the permanent nuclear family based on monogamy has led to a transitional period of serial monogamy with major problems of child-rearing and the psychological well being of ex-partners.

8. As a consequence of feminist education many women are now free to decide whether or not they wish to experience romantic love rather than choose their previous roles as housewives and mothers by selecting romantic men as husbands.

9. Since there has been little change men’s education most are not able to fulfil women’s expectations for them to “stand in love” and not to simply exploit romantic women’s new-found uncalculating passion.

10. Those men who are able to love women, rather than falling in love with them, are frequently polygamous in disposition since they are not confusing dependent love for mothers (storge) with eros.

11. To truly love their wife or wives men of this type must see their love as contributing to their psychological and cultural/spiritual development. These women should be allowed to leave once they have developed beyond their dependency and the romantic feelings have diminished to become more like mutual love or philia.

12. Jealousy could be a major problem in polygamous marriages, as it is in families where women bear more than one child. Separate residence or residences for the wives would be highly desirable.

13. To avoid regression to patriarchy and identity confusion in offspring it would be better for children to take their mother’s family name and to live in their household.

14. The ultimate socio-economic consequences of this proposed new combination of love and marriage would be considerable. Control of the economy would pass into the hands of women and men are likely to be free to revert to their instinctive behaviour. It is likely they would form strong bonds with each other, take care of the rearing of young males, pursue artistic, religious, philosophical and magical excellence through competition and become involved with the natural environment through fishing and hunting. Spending time away from the women and learning to display would encourage romantic feelings in the women.

15. No longer would any form of marriage, or celibacy, need to be proscribed as evil, illegal or psychologically unhealthy.

16. Women (and men) who wished to make child rearing their most important value and those women who would rather avoid romantic love and spend their time with the men rather than the other women, could  be allowed for as they pose no threat to the new polygamous marriage form which would doubtless be seen as the one most highly respected.

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