New book announced by Zenit: The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market and Morals,
edited by two professors from Princeton and the University of Chicago.
Marriage's role as a public institution is increasingly under attack. In the midst of pressures for legalization of same-sex marriage, formal recognition of de facto couples, and the continuing problem of divorce, the traditional view of marriage is no longer clear to many people.
But a volume of essays just-published collects an impressive array of evidence by leading scholars defending marriage and arguing that it serves the common good. "The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals" (Spence Publishing) is edited by Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain, professors at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, respectively.
Elshtain notes in the book's foreword that nobody is left untouched by the marriage debate, because it is such a pervasive institution in society. Discourse over the future of marriage, however, has become increasingly fractious as groups such as same-sex couples demand recognition of their "rights."
An underlying theme in the book, she continues, is the conviction that altering the institution of marriage will have profound and perhaps unintended consequences for ourselves as individuals, and for society in general.
In all observed societies some form of marriage exists, comments English philosopher Roger Scruton in his chapter. Not only does it play a vital role in handing on the work of one generation to the next, but it also protects and nurtures children, is a form of social and economic cooperation, and regulates sexual activity.
Long-linked to religion, the marriage tie in recent times has faced a steady de-sacralization. As well, social constraints tying husband and wife have diminished to the point where marriage has left behind the Christian undertaking of "till death do us part," and now resembles more a short-term contract.
Indeed, this loss of the religious aspect of marriage played a key role its weakening, Scruton argues. A sacred vow is a far more binding commitment than a civil promise. And little by little, the state has loosened the marital tie, to the point where, he contends, we now approach "serial polygamy." But these rescindable civil unions cannot carry out the traditional functions. In fact, they serve principally to "amplify the self-confidence of the partners," he maintains, and cannot guarantee security to the children.