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Change marriage laws? Marrying-out is key to social progress

Stanley Kurtz writes that marrying outside your clan is key to a society’s social progress, and cites a British anthropologist:

In the late nineteenth century, British anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor developed the founding insight of the modern study of kinship. Tylor cited exogamy, or “marrying out,” as the key to human social progress. In Tylor’s scenario, early human groups, in danger of killing each other off through inveterate competition, discovered intermarriage as the path to social peace. Women who were related to one clan as sisters and to another clan as wives tended to discourage feuds between otherwise competing groups. As Tylor famously put it: “Again and again in the world’s history, savage tribes must have had plainly before their minds the simple practical alternative between marrying-out and being killed out.” And for Tylor, “cross cousin marriage,” a particular form of cousin marriage favored by many “primitive” societies, was the earliest and most fundamental form of clan exogamy — or “marrying out.”

Kurtz explains that a man in a patrilineal, clan-based society who marries his mother’s brother’s daughter is marrying someone from a different clan. That is cross-cousin marriage. But if a man in a society made up of patrilineal clans marries his father’s brother’s daughter, he marries the descendant of his own birth clan. That is parallel-cousin marriage.

Parallel-cousin marriage seals each and every clan off from all of the others. It is a form of marrying-in very prevalent in the Middle East. According to those who have studied the situation, it encourages social cohesion at the cost of social isolation, cultural stasis, rivalry, and high levels of conflict. Indeed, it encourages the kind of clan arrogance and catastrophe described by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.

In Europe, the Roman Empire prohibited the marriage of cousins, and the Church followed suit, absolutely banning the marriage of cousins in the 8th century, and thereby reducing intense and violent family struggles, forced marriages, and nepotism.

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