Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Marriage and Class

From Peter Wehner on Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
...we’re seeing a “clustering” among the new upper class and elite, which is leading to an increasing isolation between them and the rest of American society, something Murray believes is creating problems for both the upper class and the working class. Murray praises the new upper class for its commitment to traditional values, something he would not have done in the early 1970s, but criticizes it for not “preaching what it practices.” He says they should act more like the elite in Victorian England at the end of the 19th century, who helped “re-moralize” their society (for more, see the groundbreaking work of the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb).

In speaking about what concerns him the most, Murray mentions the increasing denial of access to what he calls “institutions of meaning” – marriage, community, faith, and vocation. Those are the domains within which human beings find deeply satisfying lives. Murray argues that we have “denuded those sources of satisfaction” for the working class in ways we haven’t for the upper class, and that has harmful human consequences.
I haven't read Murray's book but familiar with the argument. What's astonishing to me though, is for all of the UU chatter on Marriage Equality, I've never seen, read, or heard a UU theology of marriage. Quite a void for an institution so many claim essential to make a person whole, and on par with their fellow citizens.

I used to know UUs, and Feminists, and Comrades who thought marriage coming apart a very good thing. Marriage was bondage. But that was before, and now is, well; very different. As the left turns...


Christine L. Slocum said...

May I recommend The Marriage Go-Round, by Andrew Cherlin? (http://www.amazon.com/Marriage-Go-Round-State-Marriage-Family-America/dp/0307266893) He is a fantastic demographer and argues in his book that marriage represents two contradictory cultural ideals: long term commitment and the quest for self actualization. In a talk he gave at the University of Washington, he argues that marriage has become more of a capstone for upper classes as opposed to the initiating marks of adulthood that it used to be. He points to delayed marriage among the highly educated (likely due to that education) and from studies of lower class people who argue that they do not want to get married until they have enough money, have stability, and having things set first. Because lower classes often do not reach that point, they demonstrate far lower rates of marriage. Having the stability, upper classes marry more often. I think it is fascinating, and it resonated with what I am seeing in my generation right now.

Thank you for sharing that link though. I'll have to check it out.

Bill Baar said...

Of course you can Christiane, you recommendation is welcome.

Glade you commented.