Minimizing Marriage

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Why is the state involved in marriage at all?

Doesn’t same-sex marriage still discriminate – against polyamorists, polygamists, asexuals, and those who build their lives around friendships, not romantic sexual relationships?

Why shouldn’t friends or small groups have rights to the extensive legal benefits of marriage?

Are feminist criticisms of marriage law still valid – given egalitarian reforms?

What is the moral or ethical significance of marriage?

This book seeks to answer these questions, and more.

Minimizing Marriage is under contract to be translated into Japanese for Hakutakusha Press.

An overview of Minimizing Marriage by Elizabeth Brake (OUP, 2012)

Even in secular contexts, marriage retains sacramental connotations. Yet what is its moral significance? This book examines its morally salient features – promise, commitment, care, and contract – with surprising results. In Part One, “De-Moralizing Marriage,” essays on promise and commitment argue that we cannot promise to love and so wedding vows are (mostly) failed promises, and that marriage may be a poor commitment strategy. The book contends with the most influential philosophical accounts of the moral value of marriage to argue that it has no inherent moral significance. Further, the special value accorded marriage sustains amatonormative discrimination, or amatonormativity – discrimination against non-amorous or non-exclusive caring relationships such as friendships, adult care networks, polyamorous groups, or urban tribes. The discussion raises issues of independent interest for the moral philosopher such as the possibilities and bounds of interpersonal moral obligations and the nature of commitment.

The central argument of Part Two, “Democratizing Marriage,” is that liberal reasons for recognizing same-sex marriage also require recognizing groups, polyamorists, polygamists, friends, urban tribes, and adult care networks. Political liberalism requires the disestablishment of monogamous amatonormative marriage. Under the constraints of public reason, a liberal state must refrain from basing law solely on moral or religious doctrines; but only such doctrines could furnish reason for restricting marriage to male-female couples or romantic love dyads. Restrictions on marriage should thus be minimized. But public reason can provide a strong rationale for minimal marriage: care, and social supports for care, are a matter of fundamental justice. Part Two also responds to challenges posed by property division on divorce, polygyny, and supporting parenting, and builds on critiques of marriage drawn from feminism, queer theory, and race theory. It argues, using the example of minimal marriage, that liberalism has unexplored potential for feminist reform.

Link to OUP page for Minimizing Marriage by Elizabeth Brake

Reviewed:

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Ethics, Hypatia, Humana Mente International Journal of Philosophical Studies,  Philosophy in Review, Reason, Res Publica, Social Theory and Practice, Journal of Applied Philosophy, The Philosopher’s Magazine, Journal of Homosexuality, APhEx Portale Italiano di Filosofia Analitica Giornale di Filosofia.

Watch my series of five short animated lectures on the state’s role in marriage on WiPhi – Wireless Philosophy!

Philosophy TV, 2011, with Simon May on marriage.

 

Other media:

“Is Marriage a Fraud?,” interview with Anjana Vaswani, Mumbai Mirror, July 26, 2012 (also printed in The Times of India).

“Should Marriage be Abolished, Minimized, or Left Alone?,” Bella dePaulo, Psychology Today, July 17, 2012.

“Il matrimonio? Meglio minimo,” Giuliano Torrengo and Vera Tripodi, Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy), June 10, 2012.

Page 99 Test feature.

Daily Xtra (Vancouver), “What Colin Firth Shows about Metaphysics of Love,” Niko Bell, http://dailyxtra.com/news/colin-firth-shows-metaphysics-love-100557, March 2015

Discussed on TVO (TV Ontario) show, “The Agenda with Steve Paikin,” http://tvo.org/video/210839/all-you-need-lovehttp://tvo.org/video/210839/all-you-need-love