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The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, And Morals [Hardcover]

Robert P. George , Jean Bethke Elshtain
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 30, 2006 1890626643 978-1890626648
The movement for same-sex marriage has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the social norms and laws governing marriage. All great civilizations have sought to unite, in the institution of marriage, the goods of sexual intimacy, childbearing and childrearing, and life-long love between adults. But the last five decades have witnessed the erosion of marriage as a public institution in the developed world. The separation of the goods previously united in marriage has led thoughtful people to question why marriage should be denied to homosexuals.

This volume brings together the best of contemporary scholarship on marriage from a variety of disciplines—history, ethics, economics, law and public policy, philosophy, sociology, psychiatry, political science—to inform, and reform, public debate. Rigorous yet accessible, these studies aim to rethink and re-present the case for marriage as a positive institution and ideal that is in the public interest and serves the common good.

The essays in this volume were presented to an audience of scholars, journalists, public policy experts, and other professionals, at a conference sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute. The authors are among the most eminent authorities on marriage and public policy in the English-speaking world.

Editorial Reviews


"A compelling, thought-provoking read." --

About the Author

ROBERT P. GEORGE, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, a former member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and the author of The Clash of Orthodoxies. JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN is the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago and the author or co-author of over twenty books.

THE WITHERSPOON INSTITUTE promotes the understanding of the political, moral, and philosophical principles of free and democratic societies through a variety of scholarly activities.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Spence Pub (January 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890626643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890626648
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting and Timely Book February 12, 2006
By Mike
There's no denying that the movement to grant legal recognition to same-sex unions has recently brought the subject of marriage back to the forefront of public debate. But while many involved in this debate are quick to voice their opinions on the subject, few take the time to consider marriage's significance in careful detail. The authors of these essays, however, do just that. Uninterested in cliched talking points or partisan claptrap, they engage in a serious consideration of marriage's meaning and importance. The resulting product is a careful analysis of the significance of marriage for the individual, for the family and for political society.

Roger Scruton reminds us in the book's first essay that institutions, including marriage, may be viewed externally or internally, from third-person or first-person perspectives. Skillfully weaving together literature, history and the phenomenology of personal experience, Scruton argues that marriage's full importance can only be comprehended through considerations from both perspectives. This essay is an appropriate choice to precede what follows, because in subsequent essays, the authors approach the topic mindful of the differences inherent in these two perspectives and determined to examine marriage from every angle imaginable. Furthermore, they are remarkably capable of engaging in this challenging task, experts as they are in a variety of fields ranging from law and public policy, philosophy, sociology, economics, history and political science. Though the authors are among today's leading academics and scholars - from Princeton, Amherst, U Chicago, Stanford, UVA, and so on - this book is quite accessible to the lay reader.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marriage in the Crosshairs March 15, 2006
Given recent court decisions there is a clear and present danger that the Supreme Court of the United States, following the lead of the Massachusetts State Court and the Federal District Court of Nebraska, will strike down all laws limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Alarmed over this possibility, eleven states have overwhelmingly approved defense of marriage initiatives. In this context The Meaning of Marriage is making its debut.

In the form of eleven scholarly essays The Meaning of Marriage is an anthology of variations on the theme that marriage is foundational for civilization and as marriage goes, so goes the family, and so goes society. Marriage, it is argued, has been severely destabilized by fifty years of disastrous experiments including: legal sanction for unilateral divorce; legal sanction for unrestricted access to contraception; and, legalization of unrestricted abortion. This produced among other problems a divorce rate of fifty percent, an out of wedlock birthrate equal to one third of all children (two thirds of all black children), and a dramatic rise in poverty among women and children. Nevertheless, our public policy blithely promotes these remedies for the good of society. Promoters and defenders of these policies are taken to task in the essays with reasoned arguments and impeccable research. Yet, the concern of the essays as a whole is not just to stop the bleeding, but also to sound a clarion call to a threat more destructive to marriage than all previous experiments combined, - the unintended consequences of legalized same sex marriage. Unlike predecessor experiments, advocates of same sex marriage seek a redefinition of marriage.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely and Worth Reading December 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Our argument about marriage goes much deeper than a simple argument over fairness, or equality.

"In the modern mind, marriage has become a proxy for happiness and fulfillment, an adult centric rite (and right) in which children play little (or no) part. Marriage has changed primarily because of the intrusion of the idea that it is about the search for happiness. ... In its extreme version, the modern view treats marriage as simply an extension of a search for consumer satisfaction. If I buy a good at a store, I am party to a contract, which I participate in because it enhances my satisfaction at that moment. There is no obligation to treat it in a particular way. If I get pleasure from buying an expensive watch and then smashing it on the ground, the worst that I can be accused of is eccentricity or perhaps tastelessness. And we perfectly well expect that over the course of time, a watch will wear out and need to be replaced. This view of marriage as a search for satisfaction is now more or less prevalent. ... The result as far as the family is concerned is that children are seen as a nuisance, because the key relationship is that of the married partners. Recently, for instance, the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University concluded that "Children seem to be a growing impediment for the happiness of marriages." -The Meaning of Marriage"

This argument over marriage is the surface of a much larger argument, a clash of worldviews that shapes and shakes the very foundations of civilization itself. This book argues that if marriage fails, society itself fails. The case is strong from every perspective the authors of the essays here choose to engage --and the variety of directions from which they take the issue on is astounding.
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