Lecture 9 July 18, 2013
Continuing with - Chapter 7: Kinship, Marriage and Family
Love and marriage, do they go together like a horse and carriage?
What exactly is marriage, and what role does it play in society?
The argument that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman is
problematic for several reasons.
Cross culture variations: difference between marriage practice and customs
Changes over time:
Marriage as union between individuals is a relatively modern idea- associated with
industrial revolution and capitalism.
What is marriage?
1. Social institution that provides certain rights and responsibilities and create social bonds.
1) Legal father and legal mother to children
2) Monopoly of sexual access
3) Rights to the labour of the other: not awarded for doing things.
4) Rights over the other's property
5) Establish a joint fund of property for children
6) Establish a socially significant "relationship of affinity" between spouses and relatives
Outside industrial societies marriage often is more a relationship between groups than one
- Romantic love many exist, but is often subordinated to priorities of larger family/descent group
Not Single definition of marriage accounts for cross-cultural diversity in marriages
- Some societies recognize various kinds of same-sex marriage, symbolic and social
Marriage as Social Alliance
- Several specific cultural practices highlight the importance of marriage as an alliance between
- Sororate: Widower marries one of his deceased wife's sisters (or another woman from her
group if a sister is not available) (man marries)
- Levirate: Widow marries one of her deceased husband's brothers. (wife marries) Marriage as Exchange
Bridewealth and Dowry
Bridewealth: customary gift before, at, or after the marriage from the husband and his kin to the
wife and her kin
- Also called progeny price: make children full members of her husband's descent group
- Common in patrilineal groups
Dowry: marital exchange in which wife's group provides substantial gifts to husband's family
- Correlates with relatively low female status
- Much less common than bridewealth
Who to Marry? Exogamy, Endogamy?
- Exogamy: practice of seeking spouse outside one's own group.
Forces people to create and maintain a wide social network
- Endogamy: mating or marriage within group to which one belongs. Marry someone who has
same ethnical background
Most cultures are endogamous units
Classes and ethnic groups within society may be quasi-endogamous
- Most cultures have rules of both Exogamy and Endogamy
- E.g., People must marry outside their immediate family (Exogamy) to avoid incest, but within
their own cultures or ethnic group(Endogamy) to maintain cultural purity.
Exogamy: The Incest Taboo
- Incest: sexual relations with a close relative
- Incest taboo within the nuclear family is a cultural universal
- Societies vary in the range and definition of relatives who are considered prohibited sex and
- Many Western and define exogamous categories on the basis of degree of relationship e.g.,
- Polygyny: a man having more than one wife Even when Polygyny encouraged, most people tend to be monogamous
Reasons for Polygyny:
- Men Marrying later than women
- Inheritance of widow from a brother
- Increase prestige or household productivity
- Infertile wife
Polyandry: a women has more than one husband
Fraternal Polyandry: Woman married to group of brothers (Draupadi from Mahabharata)
- Very rare, almost exclusively in South Asia (Tibet, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka).
- Effective strategy when resources are scarce
- Expanded polyandrous households allow brothers to pool resources
- Restricts # of wives and heirs, so land transmitted is more.
Chapter 5 and 6
Political Economy: Making a Living and Governing Society
- An economy is a system of production, distribution, and consumption of resources
- Economics is the study of such systems - focus on modern capitalist economies.
- Classical economic theory defined economy as a system of individuals competing, under
conditions of scarcity, to obtain as much as what they want for as little as possible. (buy as much
as we can, but spending very little money)
- Homo Economicus - human nature is to maximize individual self interest (the profit motive).
(to maximize our profit).
- Study of cross-cultural economic systems demonstrates:
- People not always motivated by profit/wealth - may try to maximize power, prestige, social
cohesion, equality, pleasure, etc...
- Many economic systems founded on assumption of humans as social beings wi