[OPE-L:6561] [OPE-L:26] Re: Something *entirely* different

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 19 May 1998 20:04:17 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 17:19:40 -0500
From: "Patrick L. Mason" <Patrick.L.Mason.20@nd.edu>

I never dreamed that a list of Marxists would end up re-inventing Marx as
a minor student of Gary Becker!!!

Elain McCrate uses the employment metaphor to analyze the nature of
cooperation and conflict in marriage.

I review the theoretical and empirical content of this literature in
Patrick L. Mason, (1995). "Joblessness, Unemployment, and Father
Involvement: An Analysis and Review of the Literature," National Center
on Fathers and Families, University of Pennsylvania. This paper is
available under the "research and publications" link at

In a society where all marriages are voluntary, 50% of marriages end in
divorce, women earn about 80% of the wage earned by men (this is higher
among some demographic and educational groups), birth rates are
declining, and entry into first marriage (by women and men) is now later
than probably most other times in US history, it is somewhat unlikely
that slavery, servitude, or labor contracting serves as a useful metaphor
for marriage. I am not absolutely certain of this, but I wouldn't be
surprised if the average length of job tenure among American workers
exceeds the length of the average marriage. If we measure female
independence by education, income, and labor force participation, then
the most INDEPENDENT women are also the most likely to marry and the
least likely to divorce. (I assume that no one assumes that women enslave
men in marriage). Finally, among African American women, who are much
likely to be married than white women even after controling for age,
education, and income, there is a great desire to find a suitable mate;
on the other hand, there has been no mass movement upon African American
women to re-enter Jim Crow or slavery or the demeaning occupational
positions of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

It is somewhat of a sad commentary on the state of contemporary Marxian
scholarship that
<bold><italic><underline>empirical</underline></italic></bold> work on
marriage by Marxian (or radical, progressive, institutional,
non-neoclassical) economists is sparse to non-existent.

peace, patrick l mason

At 06:16 AM 5/19/98 -0400, you wrote:

>---------- Forwarded message ----------

>Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 14:07:52 +1030

>From: Ian Hunt <<Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au>


>I think the marriage contract(of old) is not slavery, but servitude

>the peonage Marx refers to in a footnot. Or at least , it is not

>slavery. The position of women has varied, of course. Where, as in

>Rome, the pater familias had power of life and death and command of

>whatever his wife does, then we had slavery (albeit still not chattel

>slavery as wives could not be bought and sold in ancient Rome). The

>position is that, without a renewable contract, and with a vow of

>obedience, marriage is servitude, like that of a feudal serf, but in

>case is a form of unfree labour (with what form depending on the content

>the obligation to obey the husband). Marriage contracts with divorce

>demand are now more like labour contracts, though, and without the vow

>obedience are not formally at least, a form of servitude at all.


>>[From Alan]


>>In the spirit of Jerry's request for new ideas.


>>I've had to present a course on labour economics, something I've never

>>before. Three of my students decided they wanted to study
discrimination in

>>the labour market, so we started looking at the labour contract.


>>Reading Marx on the labour contract, I noticed something I didn't see

>>before; he says the contract has to be limited in duration, or it is

>>slavery. If the worker doesn't have the formal freedom to renew the

>>contract each week or month or year, then labour-power is no longer

>>sold as a commodity but becomes an obligation in perpetuity.


>>In a long footnote he discusses the institution of peonage, in which

>>undertook obligations in labour services which became so big that it

>>started to involve their families, transmitting what had become a

>>relation from one generation to the next.


>>It strikes me that the marriage contract is not renewable. But it

>>clear labour obligations.


>>It seems to be that, logically, it is therefore a form of slavery.