Monday, December 19, 2011

Marriage 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 and beyond: Yes, We're All Screwed Now.

We last saw how Marriage 2.0 and 2.1 evolved from Marriage 1.0, thanks to the Agricultural Revolution. Now we will look at how Marriage 3.0 and its correlates evolved thanks to the next big change in techno-cultural evolution, the Industrial Revolution.

If Marriage 1.0 was about sex and security, and Marriage 2.0 was about control of real-estate, then Marriage 3.0 is about the control of money. You see, around 1850 or so people started making machines that did things far more efficiently and to a larger scale than every before. All of those juicy surpluses the Agricultural Revolution brought to you – particularly surplus Wool in the North Seas – led to the development of real industrial equipment. Which eventually led to Colonial Imperialism and a whole bunch of other nasty things, but at the root of it is the desire for women to wear warm, stylish and expensive apparel.

Wool from the North Seas countries (Scotland and the Scandinavian countries, specifically) was a highly prized commodity, a luxury good. It was warm, soft, and when it got wet it didn’t make you cold. So wool became a luxury item, like silk and spices and coffee. And since those countries all have proud maritime traditions, they shipped their wool southwards, towards the rich kingdoms of Europe and beyond. Funny thing about real luxury goods: the further you ship them, the more you can charge for them. So the beginnings of Colonial Imperialism and the Industrial Revolution can be traced back to a desire for Northern European women to wear expensive silks and cottons and Southern European women to wear expensive wools.

Now, shipping wool is profitable, especially once you evict all the peasants from their rented lands and turn them into sheep farms (and your peasants go to Ireland to fight the Irish). But it’s even more profitable to turn wool into thread and then cloth before you ship it – the value added by the manufacturing process makes it well worth the price. So the first industrial looms were built and eventually automated, which lead to a cascade of technological sophistication that spawned the Industrial Revolution. You should have learned that much in Western Civ.

But the other thing that the Industrial Revolution did was employ, for wages, industrial laborers. And while burly men were great for foundries and mills and locomotive factories, when it came to the delicate work with thread and fabric the smaller, more nimble fingers of women and children were preferred. So for the first time in history, in Britain and France, women were hired for cash wages as employees.

It took a century or so for the effect of this to be found. Before this women of the “lower classes” (anyone without an inheritance) worked, of course: in shops and stands, in inns and taverns, and as servants, and those positions only grew with the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 1700-1800s. But those positions were considered “temporary”, a way for a woman to support herself and her family until she got married or after she was widowed. Oh, there was prostitution aplenty, as well, but let’s not discuss that yet. We’re talking about “respectable” commoners, here.

But when women started being hired as factory employees and earning a regular wage, with the first cottage industries in Britain turning wool into thread and cloth, the first erosion to Marriage 2.0 and 2.1 began.

It didn’t really come to fruition until WWII, when in America and Europe large numbers of women were employed in assembly lines by the necessity of war. “Rosie the Riveter” became the slang term for a woman working an industrial job, and the four years America struggled in that war not only proved how resourceful the Americans were at mechanized warfare, it also proved that there was no inherent reason why women could not be employed in most of the same jobs as men were. It was a temporary social effect, as most women left the assembly lines and married their returning soldiers and went on to become 1950s housewives.

But some didn’t. Like my grandmother.

My grandmother worked at AC Spark Plugs in Flint, Michigan during the war, where she made spark plugs for tanks and airplanes for the war. My grandfather was off becoming decorated in both theaters in the Army. They eloped just before he went to Europe, and grandma piled up a decent savings while she worked. After the war they pooled their savings and bought a big house in the (brand new) suburbs and raised a couple of kids.

But my grandmother didn’t quit her job. She stayed at AC Spark Plugs until she retired. Between her income and my grandfather’s they had a very comfortable living and were able to raise their children in 1950s utopic fashion, Howdy Doody and all. My grandmother never let my grandfather forget that she was an active contributor to the household finances, and my grandfather spent a lot of time mowing the lawn. She still did all of the housework, he did all of the yardwork, and for the most part they had a Marriage 2.0, traditional model.

But things had changed. With her income, my grandmother had a lot more power in her marriage than my great-grandmother had enjoyed. The sex-for-security swap was badly damaged (although my grandfather never complained about the lack of sex, and even if he did I wouldn’t listen because, well, ew.). My mother grew up with a sense of entitlement, and while she was far from a feminist she had ideas about equality and how a marriage should work and the role of women that my great-grandmother never would have considered. My mother went to college, for instance, and there was never any question of whether or not she would get a job. It was assumed.

Secondly, the war had the effect of spawning true popular culture and “mass media”, exposing millions to the idea of standardized consumer goods. Items developed for use during the war became post-war luxuries that the people of America had grown used to: Schick safety razors, SPAM, Tootsie Rolls, automobiles, all of the humble tools used to defeat the Nazis had a huge market available after the war. And a country tired of rationing and eager to start making babies was anxious to not only get a good paying job, but also buy Brillo Pads, Maidenform Bras, and Pepsodent. Even with the glut of returning servicemen, there was still plenty of development and jobs to go around.

Thirdly, WWII also marked a dramatic change in the demographics of America. Before the war we were over 80% rural, mostly living on small farms across the fruited plain. After the war we were predominantly urban, living in small towns and cities. You go where the jobs are, and the jobs during and after WWII were in cities. Once removed from the rural environment, however, it’s difficult to maintain the same agriculturally-based culture your parents enjoyed.

With the economic impetus for Marriage 2.0 removed, the sex-for-security trade of Marriage 1.0 becoming weaker, and cash taking the place of land as a holder of value, it was Industrialization that forced the development of Marriage 3.0, not feminism. Indeed, feminism is a by-product of the Industrial Revolution, just as Marxism is, an inevitable social response to an economic change. Women invading the workforce in large numbers greatly upset the socio-legal environment, and regulatory reform reflecting this fact was as inevitable as the rise of feminists.

Add to that the revolutionary development of the Pill, allowing a woman to control her reproductive destiny reliably for the first time in history, and between the two a tectonic shift in Male-Female gender relations was also inevitable. Liberalized divorce laws, open access to contraception and abortion services followed as a matter of course. That was as inevitable and predictable as the rise of the Civil Rights movement two generations after the end of slavery.

Marriage 3.0 is an entirely different animal than the previous two versions and their variants. Let’s break down the variants that have evolved out of the chaos and confusion, shall we?

For one thing, instead of being focused on the matter of producing children (1.) or conserving your wealth in real-estate (2.0), Marriage 3.0 is most often focused on the emotional fulfillment and security of the two adult participants.

In other words, “Cash”.

Once again these variants can partially be broken down by socio-economic class. Let’s start with the lower end and move up. Marriage 3.0 can be considered the single-parent family, the result of soft serial monogamy, therefore Serial/Single Marriage. After about 1975 or so, this became the dominant form of social organization among the working class, even as the working class also continued to struggle to keep the ideals of Marriage 2.0 alive. The prevalence of “out-of-wedlock” births early in life, combined with looser social mores and quick-and-easy divorce laws allowed even hastily-contrived “shotgun weddings” in the case of pregnancy disintegrate in a matter of years or months. By the 1970s divorce – once the exclusive province of the rich – had become as affordable as a new car.

With the ability of even a working class single parent (usually a mother or grandmother) to support a child without a second income and a substantially stronger social safety net than our ancestors enjoyed, Marriage 3.0 quickly developed into One Mom (or Dad or Grandmother), One (or more) Kid(s). The children from these families are rarely planned, frequently lack a strong dual-parent role model, often suffer from fewer resources thanks to a low-income, and in general struggle harder than other children. The focus in Serial/Single Marriage is not usually child-rearing, and children are often considered more a burden than a blessing in some of these families.

This is the fractured state of affairs lamented by social conservatives as being detrimental to the fabric of our society. While I have to admit that our society has been radically changed by the presence of these single-parent kids, I’d also have to admit that I know plenty of honest, self-reliant and self-supporting adults who were raised this way. Some have overcome huge economic and social hurdles to do so. Some were aided by grandparents or a succession of step-parents to along the way. But I cannot in good conscience argue that they turned out any better or worse than children from the more-traditional two-parent families.

Marriage 3.1, on the other hand, is the attempt to adapt Marriage 2.0 ideals to a Marriage 3.0 world. Prevalent mostly in socially conservative communities – rural, religious, and ethnic communities where the idealized allure of Marriage 2.0 still holds a powerful draw in particular – Marriage 3.1 tries to make the traditional nuclear family function in this brave new social minefield. That’s difficult, since the forces at work on society tend to encourage people to split up even more than they encourage them to get together. But for a goodly percentage of folks in the West, they are trying to make it work by getting creative and adapting old ways to new times.

Marriage 3.1 is the Culturally/Religiously Based Traditional Nuclear Family, traditional Catholics, evangelicals who don’t believe in divorce, religious communities like the Amish and Mennonites, un-acculturated Islamic, Hispanic and Asian immigrants. People who have a strong religious or cultural aversion to Western-style divorce and a strong adherence to agricultural-style life-long marriage, in other words.

The up-side is these communities have strong filial ties that can extend generations and provide a superb safety-net for the growth and development of the children. The down-side is the prevalence of domestic abuse associated with these demographics and the personal frustrations of their children, who spend their lives trying to reconcile the ideals they were raised on with the realities of the post-industrial world. In some 3.1 communities the social differences of the filial culture are so great from the rest of the mainstream culture that the children are essentially kept socially ignorant, and cling to the traditional way of life for the simple reason that they cannot fit themselves in anyplace else.

For the sake of argument I will also include families comprised of typically Mainstream Americans who have chosen to marry outside of Mainstream America. Included in this group (call them 3.11, if you wish) are American men who marry brides from the Third World or Russia and American women who marry men from Africa, the Middle-East, Latin America or the Caribbean. These people are willingly aligning themselves with a foreign culture that usually has very Agricultural views of marriage (2.0, or even 1.0). Thanks to globalization and the reach of the internet, you can find love anyplace in the world now, and many folks in other countries will jump at the chance of a life in America that an expatriate marriage can provide.

I’ve watched several of these marriages with great interest. Intriguingly, American men who marry foreign brides seem to fare better than American women who take foreign husbands. The clash of cultural expectations between Modern Mainstream American Femininity and Traditional Values Masculinity rarely survives . . . while foreign women for the most part are willing to put up with just about anything Modern Mainstream American Men are able to throw at them because it’s rarely a worse life than they had back home. Being from America adds about +3 to your sex rank when you visit most third-world nations (+2 if you’re female), and there are some men who pounce on an advantage they otherwise would never get.

While the children born into Marriage 3.1 families can have very secure environments and a strong family support networks, they also tend to be from larger families where there were fewer resources per capita for education and development of children. In some cultural contexts women are discouraged or prohibited from having a life beyond the home, much less an income. By happenstance or design, kids from 3.1 families face a social (and often economic) handicap when interfacing with the modern world that can produce a life-long sense of insecurity in some individuals. But then, hey, we all have baggage.

Conversely, Marriage 3.2 is the attempt to reconcile the traditional nuclear family model without recourse to religion or culture. Call it the Domestic Partnership Model Traditional Marriage.  The gender roles for this marriage, despite their outward similarity to Marriage 2.1, are radically altered from them.  It implies a dual household income from both parents and shared domestic and child rearing duties, as well as implied sexual fidelity and the possibility of divorce.

Those middle-class folks who get married and try to make it work The Way It’s Supposed To, in other words, and successfully avoid the traps and pitfalls than befall so many couples early on. Marriage 3.2 usually involves two parents employed full-time, although it’s becoming more common for one of the parents to take time off from work for a couple of years for child-rearing now.  And with the post-industrial ability to make a good living from home arising in the 1990s, the distinction between "Stay At Home" and "Working" gets very blurry.  And coupled w

Thanks to the ability of women to earn as much or more than men, fathers are actually getting the opportunity to spend this time with their kids. Having been one who did just that, a few years back, I can attest that the experience was far from emasculating and led – ultimately – to a far better understanding of my children. If nothing else, Marriage 3.2 has led to a closer childhood bond with children and their fathers – which only further dramatizes the missing father figures most Marriage 3.0 kids struggle with.

Marriage 3.2, untainted by divorce, is a rare bird these days. But there are couples out there who get it to work. It’s further complicated by the new income imbalances that result from women actually having the potential to make more money than their husbands in a reversal of the sex-for-security swap that characterizes Marriage 1.0 and 2.0. While still a relatively new phenomenon, it has led to a unique power imbalance that we are just now figuring out how to deal with.

Marriage 3.2 is characterized by a sharing of domestic responsibilities as well as a sharing of income security responsibilities. Ideally, a disparity on one side is addressed on the other side, but due to the variety of employment situations and availability of domestic help-for-hire and other modern post-industrial conveniences sometimes power balances shift quickly and lead to stress on the system.

Marriage 3.3 is just like Marriage 3.2, but it is the result of divorce (or widowhood). Call it Domestic Partnership Reconstructive Marriage.  It’s the ubiquitous Step-Family that makes life in the 21st century around holiday time so interesting. Consider it Serial Monogamy Gone Wrong, or the victory of optimism over experience, Marriage 3.2 happens when two people have figured out their mistakes from their earlier failed relationships and have been able to keep a second (or third) relationship/marriage going for an extended period of time.  It’s important to distinguish Marriage 3.3 families from Marriage 3.2 families because the dynamics and “family values” are different. In essence, a child raised in a 3.2 family has a less likelihood of divorce than a 3.3 kid. That can be a make-or-break moment in that child’s own adult relationships.

Both Marriage 3.2 and 3.3 have some strong advantages over Marriage 3.0 when it comes to security and child-rearing. In our post-industrial world, where Cash is king, two incomes can provide a far greater financial security and potential to build wealth than the 3.0 model. Especially in America, where issues such as health insurance are matters of employment, a single spouse’s employer usually covers an entire family. In cases where one spouse loses employment, the first income can keep a family afloat in hard times – unlike the 3.1 families who are dependent upon a single income. These marriages can weather economic hard times better, then, than many 3.1 families.

Marriage 3.2 and 3.3 kids have an economic and social advantage over 3.1 and especially 3.0 kids. They’re more likely to attend college, they’re more likely to get the educational enrichment they need early in life to develop specific talents, and they have a greater chance of finding a lasting relationship themselves. They also have smaller families than 3.1 marriages, allowing for more resources to be spent per capita on child development.

Marriage 3.2 and 3.3 variants are usually based on the loose equality of the husband and wife. Touched by a kind of soft feminism, the goal is to strive for a more-or-less equal partnership devoted to establishing a home and raising children, ideally to the professional class. Since our economy now favors professionals in a way that allows women economic parity with men, this is far more approachable in reality now than in the past.

My own parents were 3.2-ers, whether they want to admit it or not. My mom and dad both made decent middle-class wages in semi-professional fields, and while my father almost always made more, my mother’s salary was far from extraneous. Without both incomes raising three boys to maturity and giving them each a shot at higher education would have been a dubious proposition. The loss of either income would have sent us depressingly far down the economic latter. And that additional income security of two parents made the rare times when one of them lost a job far easier to bear than my 3.0 friends in a similar situation.

A further variant is Marriage 3.4, Companionate Marriage, aka “DINK Marriage”. (DINK: “Dual Incomes, No Kids). Most often occurring in urban or suburban areas where the two principals either don’t want or cannot have children, in our society two adult incomes can allow a couple to live a reasonably secure and prosperous existence. When children and childrearing are removed from the equation, then surpluses for the household can be diverted into investments or amusements for the childless couple, allowing them to indulge in wallowing in their own internal baggage instead of creating some for the next generation.

Lastly, there’s Marriage 3.5: Perpetual Spinsterhood/Bachelorhood. Or Anti-Marriage. This is an increasingly common occurrence, either after a series of doomed relationships or just because the individual in question gave up the possibility of finding a lasting partner. Included in this group are the Post-Divorce Spinsters, the Hopelessly Nerdy Permanent Fanboys, Widows who can’t let their deceased husbands go, and – increasingly – people so married to their careers than including another person into their lives would be viewed as an unnecessary distraction. We’ll be seeing a rise in this kind of un-Marriage in the next few years as 40-something women age-out of the dating pool and instead invest in cats and romance novels, and 40-something men give up on dating for a life of videogames, fantasy sports, internet porn and paid escorts.

I’m was going to add a Marriage 3.6 variant, “Gay Marriage”, but in retrospect Gay Marriage is not functionally different from Straight Marriage, for the sake of this over-arching argument. I know lots of gay people, men and women. Some are parents. Some are outstanding parents in stable long-term relationships, who would be considered married in my state if our legislature wasn’t filled with 3.1 atavists. Some are lousy parents with same problems and issues as straight parents, and the same inability to get their act together. With the serial monogamy and sexual openness practiced in our society, many of these folks have kids from “straighter” or more confused points in their life; some have adopted; and some have essentially outsourced the missing womb or penis and created happily little families.

I cannot in good conscience say that these families have any better or any worse chances than straight families of producing strong, well-educated productive members of society in their children. From my experience there isn’t a functionally different aspect of gay parenting from straight parenting. Both give you plenty of childhood baggage. I would say that the outcome of the child depends more on whether they were raised 3.0 or 3.2/3.3 (there are damn few gay Marriage 3.1s out there, thanks to religious and cultural prohibitions against homosexuality) and what security and resources were provided for the children.

So that’s the mix we have today: one entire class raised basically Marriage 3.0 with just enough working 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 marriages around to give single people hope. The children from 3.0 families over-all have far fewer advantages than the others, and a combined income childrearing strategy has become the favored ideal.

So now most of us are shooting for the 3.1/3.2 ideal (Traditional Marriage, with or without a side of religion) and ending up getting side-tracked into a 3.0 situation. If we get lucky, we find someone who’s insanity we can stand and move to 3.3 – or, if we hold out and are picky enough, we earn a 3.4 and spend our lives getting righteously laid in a succession of self-indulgent sports cars, or a 3.5 situation and a lot of free time to pursue hobbies.

It’s a far, far more complicated situation than 1.0 and 2.0, but then again we live in a far more sophisticated world than our ancestors. We don’t have to worry about famine, disease, childbirth and warfare killing us before we reproduce nearly as much, and we can survive to maturity and beyond without spending every waking moment coaxing another bushel of wheat from the fields and praying for rain.

And other factors have changed, too: money, for one. When actual cash instead of real-estate is used to calculate and conserve wealth, then owning huge tracts of land isn’t the only way to get ahead in life. Monetization and specialization have contributed to a far more personally secure world in which to grow up, allowing us to focus on crap like Why My Marriage Isn’t Working instead of Why My Family Is Starving. Monetization has allowed us to out-source the security issues that were once the responsibility of every householder, and provided an undreamt-of amount of security for women and children. Cash has let us harness the creative and vocational power of women, effectively doubling our economic workforce and the wealth it produces. The legal reforms ensure that women and men are treated equally under the law with respect to representation, rights, and obligations (the draft and anti-male alimony and child-support laws to the contrary).

Another big change is the establishment of paternity. A major factor in the obsession with fidelity and virginity in Marriage 2.0 was the attempt by the father to ensure that he was caring for his own biological offspring. Until recently that has largely been a matter of “by guess and by God” – unless the child was from a noticeably different ethnic stock than the father, this gave the advantage to women who got pregnant by one man and convinced another man to raise the kid as his own.

But now we have DNA testing to establish paternity beyond a shadow of a doubt. If a man questions the legitimacy of the child he is paying for, a DNA test is simple and inexpensive. If women have had the advantage due to liberal divorce laws, men have recouped some of that advantage by being able to establish definite paternity. When issues of child support are raised, technology has essentially afforded us a means to ensure that our resources only go towards our own offspring, except in some backwards jurisdictions. That kind of biological

But the fact is, despite this evolution into new types of marriages and family structures, in a generation you will start to see a real divide between 3.2,3.3,3.4 kids and 3.0 kids, and one that could become hereditary. But that’s the world as it has evolved, and that’s the one we have to deal with. Perhaps if we can successfully identify the realities of the situation and call them by their proper names we can make some head-way towards ensuring a better marital experience for everyone.

So what does Marriage 4.0 hold in store for us? More in a future post, once my crystal ball is out of the shop.


  1. It would be interesting to see a bibliography on some of this, particularly about marriage up until 1800.

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