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- Sociology and Modern Social Problems - 10/45 -

dominant socially and politically, and in which relationships were traced through mothers only. Bachofen got his evidence for this theory from certain ancient legends, such as that of the Amazons, and other remains in Greek and Roman literature, which seemed to point to a period antecedent to the patriarchal.

In 1876 Mr. J.F. McLennan, a Scotch lawyer, put forth, independently, practically the same theory, basing it upon certain legal survivals which he found among many peoples. With Bachofen, he argued that this matriarchal period must have been characterized by promiscuous relations of the sexes. In 1877 Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, an American ethnologist and sociologist, put forth again, independently, practically the same theory, basing it upon an extensive study of the North American Indian tribes. Morgan had lived among the Iroquois Indians for years and had mastered their system of relationship, which previously had puzzled the whites. He found that they traced relationship through mothers only, and not at all along the male line. This method of reckoning relationship, moreover, he found also characterized practically all of the North American Indian tribes, and he argued that the only explanation of it was that originally sexual relations were of such an unstable or promiscuous character that they would not permit of tracing descent through fathers.

From these theories sociological writers put forth the conclusion that the primitive state was one of promiscuity, or, as Sir John Lubbock called it in his _Origin of Civilization_, one of "communism in women." Post, a German student of comparative jurisprudence, for example, summed up the theory by saying that "monogamous marriage originally emerged everywhere from pure communism in women, through the intermediate stages of limited communism in women, polyandry, and polygyny." Even Herbert Spencer in his _Principles of Sociology_, while he avoided accepting such an extreme theory, asserted that in the beginning sex relations were confused and unregulated, and that all forms of marriage--polyandry, polygyny, monogamy, and promiscuity-- existed alongside of one another and that monogamy survived through its being the superior form.

Before giving a criticism in detail of this theory let us note whether the evidence from the lowest peoples confirms it. The lowest peoples in point of culture are not the North American Indians nor the African Negroes, but certain isolated groups that live almost in a state of nature, without any attempt to cultivate the soil or to control nature in other respects. Such are the Bushmen of South Africa, the Australian Aborigines, the Negritos of the Philippine Islands and of the Andaman Islands, the Veddahs of Ceylon, and the Fuegians of South America. Now all of these peoples, with a possible exception, practice monogamy and live in relatively stable family groups. Their monogamy, however, is not of the type which we find in patriarchal times or among civilized peoples, but is a simple pairing monogamy, husband and wife remaining together indefinitely if children are born, but if no children are born, separation may easily take place. Westermarck in his _History of Human Marriage_ has reviewed at length all of the evidence from these lower peoples and shows undoubtedly that nothing approaching promiscuity existed among them. Promiscuity is apt to be found at a higher stage of social development, and is especially apt to be found among the nature peoples after the white man has visited them and demoralized their family life. But in all these cases the existence of promiscuity is manifestly something exceptional and abnormal. Perhaps civilized peoples such as the Romans of the decadence have more nearly approximated the condition of promiscuity than any savage people of which we have knowledge. At any rate, one must conclude that the lowest existing savages found in the nineteenth century had definite forms of family life, and that the type usually found was the simple pairing monogamy which we have just mentioned.

Objections to the Hypothesis of a Primitive State of Promiscuity.--We may now briefly sum up the main criticisms of this theory of a primitive state of promiscuity, not only as we may derive them from inductive study of the higher animals and the lower peoples, but also as we may deduce them from known psychological and biological facts or principles.

(1) In the first place, then, the animals next to man, namely, the anthropoid apes, do not show a condition of promiscuity.

(2) The evidence from the lower peoples does not show that such a condition exists or has ever existed among them.

(3) A third argument against this hypothesis may be gained from what we know of primitive economic conditions. Under the most primitive conditions, in which man had no mastery over nature, food supply was relatively scarce, and as a rule only very small groups of people could live together. The smallness of primitive groups, on account of the scarcity of food supply, would prevent anything like promiscuity on a large scale.

(4) A fourth argument of a deductive nature is that the jealousy of the male, which characterizes all higher animals and especially man, would prevent anything like the existence of sexual promiscuity. The tendency of man would have been to appropriate one or more women for himself and drive away all rivals. Long ago Darwin argued that this would prevent anything like the existence of a general state of promiscuity.

(5) A fifth argument against this theory may be got from the general biological fact that sexual promiscuity tends to pathological conditions unfavorable to fecundity, that is, fertility, or the birth of offspring. Physicians have long ago ascertained this fact, and the modern prostitute gives illustration of it by the fact that she has few or no children. Among the lower animal species, in which some degree of promiscuity obtains, moreover, powerful instincts keep the sexes apart except at the pairing season. Now, no such instincts exist in man. Promiscuity in man would, therefore, greatly lessen the birth rate, and any group that practiced it to any extent would soon be eliminated in competition with other groups that did not practice it.

(6) We have finally the general social fact that promiscuity would lead to the neglect of children. Promiscuity means that the male parent does not remain with the female parent to care for the offspring and, therefore, in the human species it would mean that the care of children would be thrown wholly upon the mother. This means that the children would have less chance of surviving. Not only would promiscuity lead to lessening the birth rate, but it would lead to a much higher mortality in children born. This is found to be a striking fact wherever we find any degree of promiscuity among any people. Hence, promiscuity would soon exterminate any people that practiced it extensively in competition with other peoples that did not practice it.

From all of these lines of argument, without going over the evidence in greater detail, it seems reasonable to conclude with Westermarck "that the hypothesis of a primitive state of promiscuity has no foundation in fact and is essentially unscientific." The facts put forth in support of the theory do not justify the conclusion, Westermarck says, that promiscuity has ever been a general practice among a single people and much less that it was the primitive state. Promiscuity is found, however, more or less in the form of sexual irregularities or immorality among all peoples; more often, however, among the civilized than among the uncivilized, but among no people has it ever existed unqualified by more enduring forms of sex relation. Moreover, because promiscuity breaks up the social bonds, throws the burden of the care of children wholly upon the mother, and lessens the birth rate, we are justified in concluding that promiscuity is essentially an antisocial practice. This agrees with the facts generally shown by criminology and sociology, that the elements practicing promiscuity to any great extent in modern societies are those most closely related with the degenerate and criminal elements. Those elements, in other words, in modern society that practice promiscuity are on the road to extinction, and if a people generally were to practice it there is no reason to believe that such a people would meet with any different fate.

_The Earliest Form of the Family Life in the Human Species_, therefore, is probably that of the simple pairing monogamous family found among many of the higher animals, especially the anthropoid apes, and also found among the lower peoples. This primitive monogamy, however, as we have already seen, was not accompanied by the social, legal, and religious elements that the historic monogamic family has largely rested upon. On the contrary, this primitive monogamy rested solely upon an instinctive basis, and, as we have seen, unless children were born it was apt to be relatively unstable. Permanency in family relations among primitive peoples depended largely upon the birth of children. Thus we find confirmed our conclusion drawn some time ago that family life rests primarily upon the parental instinct. That it still so rests is shown by the fact, as we shall see later, that divorce is many times more common among couples that have no children than among those that have children.

SOME GENERAL CONCLUSIONS, both of theoretical and practical bearing, may here be pointed out. We have seen that the biological processes of life have created the family, and that the family, as an institution, rests upon these biological conditions. Hence it is not too much to say, first, that the family is not a man-made institution; and, secondly, that it rests upon certain fundamental instincts of human nature. Now, both of these statements are also true to a certain extent as to human society in general. There is a sense in which social organization is not wholly man-made, and it is true that all human institutions rest to some extent upon human instincts. This is not saying, of course, that man has not modified and may not modify social organization and human institutions through his reason, but it is saying that the essential elements in human institutions and in the social order must correspond to the conditions of life generally and to the instincts which natural selection has implanted in the species. To attempt to reorganize human society or to reconstruct institutions regardless of the biological conditions of life, or regardless of human instincts, is to meet with certain failure.

A practical conclusion which may be drawn also is that those people who advocate sexual promiscuity in present society, or free love, as they please to style it, are advocating a condition which would result in the elimination of any group that practiced it. Promiscuity, or even great instability in the family life, as we have already seen, would lead to the undermining of everything upon which a higher civilization rests. The people in modern society who advocate such theories as free love, therefore, are more dangerous than the worst anarchist or the most revolutionary socialist. In other words, the modern attack upon the family is more of a menace to all that is worth while in human life than all attacks upon government and property, although it is not usually resented as such; and it is one of the most serious signs of the times that many intellectual people have indorsed such views. We must reemphasize, therefore, the fact that the family is the central institution of human society, that industry and the state must subordinate themselves to its interest. Neither the state nor industry has had much to do with the origin of the family, and neither the state nor industry may safely determine its forms independent of the biological requirements for human survival. Moreover, it is evident that human society from the beginning has in more or less instinctive, and also in more or less conscious, ways attempted to regulate the relations between the sexes with a view to controlling the reproductive process. While material civilization is mainly a control over the food process, moral civilization involves a control over the reproductive process, that is, over the birth and rearing of children; and such control over the reproductive process, which has certainly been one of the aims of all social organization in the past, whether of savage peoples or of

Sociology and Modern Social Problems - 10/45

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