Jun 102012
 

Polygamy is usually portrayed as an old-fashioned form of life that brings economic disadvantage, discriminates women and is incompatible with a democratic society. In a recent scientific study, the economics professors David de la Croix and Fabio Mariani of the Université Catholique de Louvain present the thesis, that polygamy, in the form of polygyny, is compatible with democracy and could be economically viable for women.

In their study “From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions“, Professor de la Croix and Professor Mariani deem the existing research results and theories on the question, which form of  family-life was original to humans, as inconclusive.

This result is important for today’s political debate about Polygamous lifestyles, as opponents of Polyamory and Polygamy, especially representatives of Christian churches usually claim, it was clear that humans were monogamous by nature. The exactly opposite position is taken, for example, by Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jethá in “Sex at Dawn”. Based on extensive research they claim that the original way of life of humans was openly practiced promiscuity, which held many benefits for the individuals and the group they belonged to.

In spite of uncertainties about the original form of family life, de la Croix and Mariani say genetic studies have proven that in the course of history promiscuous sexual behavior in a polygynous form (= one man, multiple women) became the usual way of life and eventually became institutionalized as polygynous marriage. Polygyny was for a long time the predominant way of life and is still prevalent in surviving traditional societies.

In Western societies, by a multitude of factors, lifelong monogamous marriage became the dominant form of marriage and was enforced especially by the influence of the Christian church during the Middle Ages. This dominance was later broken by alterations in the laws on marriage and divorce. Today in Western societies serial monogamy is the norm.

The aim of the study was to unify current economic theories of why humans changed from polygamous life to monogamy. In the course of their studies de la Croix and Mariani also concluded that polygamous lifestyles in the form of polygyny can evolve in modern societies due to the economic interests of individuals, especially poorer women, and are compatible with democray. 1

Not being an economic scientist myself, i can not judge on the consistency of the economic models and formulas presented in the study. Professor de la Croix wrote to me in an email, this part of the study was certainly of interest only to scientists in theoretical economics.

Nevertheless, this is the first study I know of that proves with scientific economic theory that in modern, democratic societies polygamy can be a sensible way of life that is in the interest of people, especially the interests of women.

I would only like to add, since the study primarily focuses on polygynous relationships (= a man with several wives), it does not take into account that in today’s poly-movement women increasingly have several husbands. Also the possibility of homosexual or bisexual poly-relationships is not taken into account, about which I have written in this article. I think any kind of multiple relationship among adults, into which all parties enter voluntarily and with the knowledge and consent of all participants is compatible with liberal-democratic societies: Theses on polygamy and monogamy.

What do you think? Leave a comment here. For your convenience you may either use the integrated comment system of wordpress in the first comment field, or if you prefer you may post with your Google+ account in the second comment field. You may also send me a question through the contact form or the FAQ.

 

The study, “From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions” is available for download on the website of the University as well as the personal website of Professor de la Croix.

Professor David de la Croix and Professor Fabio Mariani teach at the Université Catholique de Louvain, here you will find information on the Université catholique de Louvain on Wikipedia.

Information about Professor de la Croix may be obtained from the university as well as from his personal website.

Information about Professor Mariani may be obtained from the university as well as from his personal website at Google.

Notice: This article is translated – and some contents might have been added or left out to better meet the needs of an international audience – from an original article on one of my german websites Viktor-Leberecht.de or Polygamie-ist-gut-fuer-sie.de (engl:Polygamy is good for you). How i do my translations. Last updated: July 20, 2012 at 17:39 pm © Viktor Leberecht All rights reserved. Please feel free to share my content on Social-Sharing-Services. What do you think? Leave a comment here. For your convenience you may either use the integrated comment system of wordpress in the first comment field, or if you prefer you may post with your Google+ account in the second comment field. You may also send me a question through the contact form or the FAQ.

  1. Professor de la Croix in an email to me pointed out that he and Professor Mariani did not mean to represent polygamy or any other particular form of marriage as being particularly suitable for humans.
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  5 Responses to “Polygamy compatible with democracy – study by economists at Université catholique de Louvain”

  1. It’s hard for me, being female to understand how the women would ever get enough sex. We evolved in many to many, not 1man to several women. Men generally don’t have sex long enough for 1 woman let alone more than 1.
    I think monogamy is probably part of the reason women in our society have so many problems with enjoying sex. Sex at Dawn makes sense. That we evolved to be monogamous does not add up when you really look at how men and women enjoy sex.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lesley.
      As i wrote in the article: all kinds of polygamous relationships should be possible, and definitely everybody should get enough sex ;-)

  2. Polygamy (one man, several women) comes down to us from thousands of years ago when women had no rights whatsoever and were regarded as property to be traded among men. Recently, laws against polygamy were challenged in Canada, and after listening to 13 groups for 4 month, both pro and con polygamy, Chief Justice Robert Bauman of British Columbia Supreme Court, brought down his decision on November 23 2011. In a 400 page Brief he ruled that polygamy harms ALL society in that, since nature has arranged that there are not even two women for every one man, the practice pitches younger, poorer men against rich men who can afford to collect several women as concubines for their harems. As well, he ruled that polygamy contravenes the equality rights of women, who in these modern times have equality with the male. He also ruled that polygamy impoverishes women and children, since the women and their children are rivals for the lone male’s love and attention. Polygamy should be kicked into the garbage can of history where it should have been kicked years ago. The year is 2012 AD, not 2012 BC, and women (with the exception of certain backward Third World nations) now have equality with men, and demand their equal rights.

    • Dear Jancis,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment and elaborate the ruling in the Canadian polygamy case according to the way you understood it. Please allow me to add the following:
      1) Polygamy is not – as you claim in your comment – one man with several women. It is the general term for any kind of relation involving multiple people.
      2) The case in Canada was about polygyny (one man, several women), and in my opinion the problem – apart from the legal situation – was not really the polygyny but the coercion. These people were not making free decisions about their marriages but were following rules of their religion. Now of course there is the case of religious freedom, but if i got it right they were follwoing the orders of their religious leader when it came to marriage. As much as i respect religious freedom i am of the opinion that people should make decisions about marriage freely and not be told by others whom to marry.
      3) The study about which i was reporting here and my whole website is about freely chosen polygamy. Nobody´s rights are harmed when polygamy is lived this way.
      4) If you take some time to delve into the history and current societies a bit more, there have always been and still are lots of societies where a woman could have several men. So where is the harm here of women´s rights?
      5) Also, the study i´m reporting on here actually shows that even the kind of polygamy you are referring to, i.e. polygyny, can under certain circumstances be beneficial for women in a modern, democratic society based on equal rights.
      6) By the way you talk about what you call “backward nations” you are showing a lack of respect bordering on discrimination of other nations, other people and their ways of life. Are you really in a position to be the judge of the ways of life of all nations and people?
      7) If you do even more research, you will find that polygamy can include all kinds of relationships. You might want to start with this article: http://viktor-leberecht.com/polygamy/forms-of-polygamy/schematic-representation-of-polygamous-polyamorous-relations/.
      8) Further recommendation for reading is the book “Sex at Dawn”. You might learn something about how humans evolved and other people´s ways of life and widen your horizon on the many possible ways to live love, sexuality and marriage a bit.
      Kind regards, Viktor.

  3. [...] In the comment I also referred to the study of May 2012 by the economics professors David de la Croix and Fabio Mariani of the Université catholique de Louvain, according to which polygamy is compatible with democracy and can be economically viable for women. I reported about this study in the article: “Polygamy compatible with democracy – study by economists at Université catholique de Louvain.” [...]

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