Talking Politics Guide to ... Marriage

Talking Politics Guide to ... Marriage

By David Runciman and Catherine Carr

We talk to political philosopher Clare Chambers about marriage as a political institution. How does it reflect the power of the state?  How does it alter power relations between individuals? Should everyone be allowed to get married or should we move away from marriage altogether? A fresh, radical look at something we often take for granted.

Talking Points:

What makes marriage political?

Marriage is an institution recognized by the state. It also structures the way people relate to each other along gendered lines, as well as those of race and class.

Most of the clear legal inequalities in marriage have been reformed in contemporary Britain, but there is still significant practical and symbolic inequality.

Different sex married couples tend to exhibit more gendered behavior than unmarried couples.We still view marriage as a goal, particularly for women. And for women, marriage often comes with a number of identity changes.

When the state recognizes marriage, it is endorsing, or affirming the position of being married.

Does making marriage more accessible make it more equal?Same sex marriage is one of the amazing succes stories of the last decade.

Why are we so drawn to marriage?

What marriage means for people may be out of kilter with its legal condition.There’s no official government position on the legal implications of marriage.Most people believe that common law marriage exists: it doesn’t. If you’re not married, you have no legal protections.

When it comes to protecting children, it might make more sense to focus on parenthood than marriage.

In countries like the UK, only about 50% of children are born to married parents. 

Further Learning:

Clare’s websiteAgainst Marriage (Clare’s book)Clare talking about the politics of marriage at LSEClare at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas talking about marriage

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:

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