An Economic Institution?

Anthropologists aver that human marriage is more economic than reproductive, but a textbook of evolutionary biology points out that we could say the same for the other animals as well, as many engage in shared housekeeping tasks. Economics is in any case the handmaiden of, and perhaps a subset of reproduction; that is, any behaviour that leads to the accumulation of resources is going to lead to reproductive success and therefore be selected for, to the exclusion of less acquisitive behaviour. The argument that marriage is an exchange between men of females as commodities – itself probably an artefact of asking only males to explain their own society — does not, says the textbook, demonstrate the primacy of economics, since the main purpose of the commodity is reproduction: “What men are buying when they buy wives are breeders.” No conscious desire for children is required; men buy breeders because they are descended from the men who did so, and not from the men who did not do so.

Posted on April 4, 2009 at 10:51 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

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