Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "I take the view, and always have, that if you cannot say what you are going to say in twenty minutes you ought to go away and write a book about it."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Women in a Modern Utopia

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 7
    Previous Chapter
    Section 1.

    But though I have come to a point where the problem of a Utopia has
    resolved itself very simply into the problem of government and
    direction, I find I have not brought the botanist with me. Frankly
    he cannot think so steadily onward as I can. I feel to think, he
    thinks to feel. It is I and my kind that have the wider range,
    because we can be impersonal as well as personal. We can escape
    ourselves. In general terms, at least, I understand him, but
    he does not understand me in any way at all. He thinks me an
    incomprehensible brute because his obsession is merely one of my
    incidental interests, and wherever my reasoning ceases to be
    explicit and full, the slightest ellipsis, the most transitory
    digression, he evades me and is back at himself again. He may have a
    personal liking for me, though I doubt it, but also he hates me
    pretty distinctly, because of this bias he cannot understand. My
    philosophical insistence that things shall be reasonable and hang
    together, that what can be explained shall be explained, and that
    what can be done by calculation and certain methods shall not be
    left to chance, he loathes. He just wants adventurously to feel. He
    wants to feel the sunset, and he thinks that on the whole he would
    feel it better if he had not been taught the sun was about
    ninety-two million miles away. He wants to feel free and strong, and
    he would rather feel so than be so. He does not want to accomplish
    great things, but to have dazzling things occur to him. He does not
    know that there are feelings also up in the clear air of the
    philosophic mountains, in the long ascents of effort and design. He
    does not know that thought itself is only a finer sort of feeling
    than his--good hock to the mixed gin, porter and treacle of his
    emotions, a perception of similitudes and oppositions that carries
    even thrills. And naturally he broods on the source of all his most
    copious feelings and emotions, women, and particularly upon the
    woman who has most made him feel. He forces me also to that.

    Our position is unfortunate for me. Our return to the Utopian
    equivalent of Lucerne revives in him all the melancholy distresses
    that so preoccupied him when first we were transferred to this
    better planet. One day, while we are still waiting there for the
    public office to decide about us, he broaches the matter. It is
    early evening, and we are walking beside the lake after our simple
    dinner. "About here," he says, "the quays would run and all those
    big hotels would be along here, looking out on the lake. It's so
    strange to have seen them so recently, and now not to see them at
    all.... Where have they gone?"

    "Vanished by hypothesis."

    "What?"

    "Oh! They're there still. It's we that have come hither."

    "Of course. I forgot. But still---- You know, there was an avenue of
    little trees along this quay with seats, and she was sitting looking
    out upon the lake.... I hadn't seen her for ten years."

    He looks about him still a little perplexed. "Now we are here," he
    says, "it seems as though that meeting and the talk we had must have
    been a dream."

    He falls musing.

    Presently he says: "I knew her at once. I saw her in profile. But,
    you know, I didn't speak to her directly. I walked past her seat and
    on for a little way, trying to control myself.... Then I turned back
    and sat down beside her, very quietly. She looked up at me.
    Everything came back--everything. For a moment or so I felt I was
    going to cry...."

    That seems to give him a sort of satisfaction even in the
    reminiscence.

    "We talked for a time just like casual acquaintances--about the view
    and the weather, and things like that."

    He muses again.

    "In Utopia everything would have been different," I say.

    "I suppose it would."

    He goes on before I can say anything more.

    "Then, you know, there was a pause. I had a sort of intuition that
    the moment was coming. So I think had she. You may scoff, of course,
    at these intuitions----"

    I don't, as a matter of fact. Instead, I swear secretly. Always this
    sort of man keeps up the pretence of highly distinguished and
    remarkable mental processes, whereas--have not I, in my own
    composition, the whole diapason of emotional fool? Is not the
    suppression of these notes my perpetual effort, my undying despair?
    And then, am I to be accused of poverty?

    But to his story.

    "She said, quite abruptly, 'I am not happy,' and I told her, 'I knew
    that the instant I saw you.' Then, you know, she began to talk to me
    very quietly, very frankly, about everything. It was only afterwards
    I began to feel just what it meant, her talking to me like that."

    I cannot listen to this!

    "Don't you understand," I cry, "that we are in Utopia. She may be
    bound unhappily upon earth and you may be bound, but not here. Here
    I think it will be different. Here the laws that control all these
    things will be humane and just. So that all you said and did, over
    there, does not signify here--does not signify here!"

    He looks up for a moment at my face, and then carelessly at my
    wonderful new world.

    "Yes," he says, without interest, with something of the tone of an
    abstracted elder speaking to a child, "I dare say it will be all
    very fine here." And he lapses, thwarted from his confidences, into
    musing.

    There is something almost dignified in this withdrawal into himself.
    For a moment I entertain an illusion that really I am unworthy to
    hear the impalpable inconclusiveness of what he said to her and of
    what she said to him.

    I am snubbed. I am also amazed to find myself snubbed. I become
    breathless with indignation. We walk along side by side, but now
    profoundly estranged.

    I regard the facade of the Utopian public offices of Lucerne--I had
    meant to call his attention to some of the architectural features of
    these--with a changed eye, with all the spirit gone out of my
    vision. I wish I had never brought this introspective carcass, this
    mental ingrate, with me.

    I incline to fatalistic submission. I suppose I had no power to
    leave him behind.... I wonder and I wonder. The old Utopists never
    had to encumber themselves with this sort of man.

    --

    Section 2.

    How would things be "different" in the Modern Utopia? After all it
    is time we faced the riddle of the problems of marriage and
    motherhood....

    The Modern Utopia is not only to be a sound and happy World State,
    but it is to be one progressing from good to better. But as Malthus
    [Footnote: Essay on the Principles of Population.] demonstrated for
    all time, a State whose population continues to increase in
    obedience to unchecked instinct, can progress only from bad to
    worse. From the view of human comfort and happiness, the increase of
    population that occurs at each advance in human security is the
    greatest evil of life. The way of Nature is for every species to
    increase nearly to its possible maximum of numbers, and then to
    improve through the pressure of that maximum against its limiting
    conditions by the crushing and killing of all the feebler
    individuals. The way of Nature has also been the way of humanity so
    far, and except when a temporary alleviation is obtained through an
    expansion of the general stock of sustenance by invention or
    discovery, the amount of starvation and of the physical misery of
    privation in the world, must vary almost exactly with the excess of
    the actual birth-rate over that required to sustain population at a
    number compatible with a universal contentment. Neither has Nature
    evolved, nor has man so far put into operation, any device by which
    paying this price of progress, this misery of a multitude of starved
    and unsuccessful lives can be evaded. A mere indiscriminating
    restriction of the birth-rate--an end practically attained in the
    homely, old-fashioned civilisation of China by female infanticide,
    involves not only the cessation of distresses but stagnation, and
    the minor good of a sort of comfort and social stability is won at
    too great a sacrifice. Progress depends essentially on competitive
    selection, and that we may not escape.

    But it is a conceivable and possible thing that this margin of
    futile struggling, pain and discomfort and death might be reduced to
    nearly nothing without checking physical and mental evolution, with
    indeed an acceleration of physical and mental evolution, by
    preventing the birth of those who would in the unrestricted
    interplay of natural forces be born to suffer and fail. The method
    of Nature "red in tooth and claw" is to degrade, thwart, torture,
    and kill the weakest and least adapted members of every species in
    existence in each generation, and so keep the specific average
    rising; the ideal of a scientific civilisation is to prevent those
    weaklings being born. There is no other way of evading Nature's
    punishment of sorrow. The struggle for life among the beasts and
    uncivilised men means misery and death for the inferior individuals,
    misery and death in order that they may not increase and multiply;
    in the civilised State it is now clearly possible to make the
    conditions of life tolerable for every living creature, provided the
    inferiors can be prevented from increasing and multiplying. But this
    latter condition must be respected. Instead of competing to escape
    death and wretchedness, we may compete to give birth and we may heap
    every sort of consolation prize upon the losers in that competition.
    The modern State tends to qualify inheritance, to insist upon
    education and nurture for children, to come in more and more in the
    interests of the future between father and child. It is taking over
    the responsibility of the general welfare of the children more and
    more, and as it does so, its right to decide which children it will
    shelter becomes more and more reasonable.

    How far will such conditions be prescribed? how far can they be
    prescribed in a Modern Utopia?

    Let us set aside at once all nonsense of the sort one hears in
    certain quarters about the human stud farm. [Footnote: See Mankind
    in the Making, Ch. II.] State breeding of the population was a
    reasonable proposal for Plato to make, in view of the biological
    knowledge of his time and the purely tentative nature of his
    metaphysics; but from anyone in the days after Darwin, it is
    preposterous. Yet we have it given to us as the most brilliant of
    modern discoveries by a certain school of sociological writers, who
    seem totally unable to grasp the modification of meaning "species"
    and "individual" have undergone in the last fifty years. They do not
    seem capable of the suspicion that the boundaries of species have
    vanished, and that individuality now carries with it the quality of
    the unique! To them individuals are still defective copies of a
    Platonic ideal of the species, and the purpose of breeding no more
    than an approximation to that perfection. Individuality is indeed a
    negligible difference to them, an impertinence, and the whole flow
    of modern biological ideas has washed over them in vain.

    But to the modern thinker individuality is the significant fact of
    life, and the idea of the State, which is necessarily concerned with
    the average and general, selecting individualities in order to pair
    them and improve the race, an absurdity. It is like fixing a crane
    on the plain in order to raise the hill tops. In the initiative of
    the individual above the average, lies the reality of the future,
    which the State, presenting the average, may subserve but cannot
    control. And the natural centre of the emotional life, the cardinal
    will, the supreme and significant expression of individuality,
    should lie in the selection of a partner for procreation.

    But compulsory pairing is one thing, and the maintenance of general
    limiting conditions is another, and one well within the scope of
    State activity. The State is justified in saying, before you may add
    children to the community for the community to educate and in part
    to support, you must be above a certain minimum of personal
    efficiency, and this you must show by holding a position of solvency
    and independence in the world; you must be above a certain age, and
    a certain minimum of physical development, and free of any
    transmissible disease. You must not be a criminal unless you have
    expiated your offence. Failing these simple qualifications, if you
    and some person conspire and add to the population of the State, we
    will, for the sake of humanity, take over the innocent victim of
    your passions, but we shall insist that you are under a debt to the
    State of a peculiarly urgent sort, and one you will certainly pay,
    even if it is necessary to use restraint to get the payment out of
    you: it is a debt that has in the last resort your liberty as a
    security, and, moreover, if this thing happens a second time, or if
    it is disease or imbecility you have multiplied, we will take an
    absolutely effectual guarantee that neither you nor your partner
    offend again in this matter.

    "Harsh!" you say, and "Poor Humanity!"

    You have the gentler alternative to study in your terrestrial slums
    and asylums.

    It may be urged that to permit conspicuously inferior people to have
    one or two children in this way would be to fail to attain the
    desired end, but, indeed, this is not so. A suitably qualified
    permission, as every statesman knows, may produce the social effects
    without producing the irksome pressure of an absolute prohibition.
    Amidst bright and comfortable circumstances, and with an easy and
    practicable alternative, people will exercise foresight and
    self-restraint to escape even the possibilities of hardship and
    discomfort; and free life in Utopia is to be well worth this trouble
    even for inferior people. The growing comfort, self-respect, and
    intelligence of the English is shown, for example, in the fall in
    the proportion of illegitimate births from 2.2 per 1,000 in 1846-50
    to 1.2 per 1,000 in 1890-1900, and this without any positive
    preventive laws whatever. This most desirable result is pretty
    certainly not the consequence of any great exaltation of our moral
    tone, but simply of a rising standard of comfort and a livelier
    sense of consequences and responsibilities. If so marked a change is
    possible in response to such progress as England has achieved in the
    past fifty years, if discreet restraint can be so effectual as this,
    it seems reasonable to suppose that in the ampler knowledge and the
    cleaner, franker atmosphere of our Utopian planet the birth of a
    child to diseased or inferior parents, and contrary to the sanctions
    of the State, will be the rarest of disasters.

    And the death of a child, too, that most tragic event, Utopia will
    rarely know. Children are not born to die in childhood. But in our
    world, at present, through the defects of our medical science and
    nursing methods, through defects in our organisation, through
    poverty and carelessness, and through the birth of children that
    never ought to have been born, one out of every five children born
    dies within five years. It may be the reader has witnessed this most
    distressful of all human tragedies. It is sheer waste of suffering.
    There is no reason why ninety-nine out of every hundred children
    born should not live to a ripe age. Accordingly, in any Modern
    Utopia, it must be insisted they will.

    --

    Section 3.

    All former Utopias have, by modern standards, erred on the side of
    over regulation in these matters. The amount of State interference
    with the marriage and birth of the citizens of a modern Utopia
    will be much less than in any terrestrial State. Here, just as in
    relation to property and enterprise, the law will regulate only in
    order to secure the utmost freedom and initiative.

    Up to the beginning of this chapter, our Utopian speculations, like
    many Acts of Parliament, have ignored the difference of sex. "He"
    indeed is to be read as "He and She" in all that goes before. But
    we may now come to the sexual aspects of the modern ideal of
    a constitution of society in which, for all purposes of the
    individual, women are to be as free as men. This will certainly be
    realised in the Modern Utopia, if it can be realised at all--not
    only for woman's sake, but for man's.

    But women may be free in theory and not in practice, and as long as
    they suffer from their economic inferiority, from the inability to
    produce as much value as a man for the same amount of work--and
    there can be no doubt of this inferiority--so long will their legal
    and technical equality be a mockery. It is a fact that almost
    every point in which a woman differs from a man is an economic
    disadvantage to her, her incapacity for great stresses of exertion,
    her frequent liability to slight illnesses, her weaker initiative,
    her inferior invention and resourcefulness, her relative incapacity
    for organisation and combination, and the possibilities of emotional
    complications whenever she is in economic dependence on men. So long
    as women are compared economically with men and boys they will be
    inferior in precisely the measure in which they differ from men. All
    that constitutes this difference they are supposed not to trade upon
    except in one way, and that is by winning or luring a man to marry,
    selling themselves in an almost irrevocable bargain, and then
    following and sharing his fortunes for "better or worse."

    But--do not let the proposition in its first crudity alarm
    you--suppose the Modern Utopia equalises things between the sexes in
    the only possible way, by insisting that motherhood is a service to
    the State and a legitimate claim to a living; and that, since the
    State is to exercise the right of forbidding or sanctioning
    motherhood, a woman who is, or is becoming, a mother, is as much
    entitled to wages above the minimum wage, to support, to freedom,
    and to respect and dignity as a policeman, a solicitor-general, a
    king, a bishop in the State Church, a Government professor, or
    anyone else the State sustains. Suppose the State secures to every
    woman who is, under legitimate sanctions, becoming or likely to
    become a mother, that is to say who is duly married, a certain wage
    from her husband to secure her against the need of toil and anxiety,
    suppose it pays her a certain gratuity upon the birth of a child,
    and continues to pay at regular intervals sums sufficient to keep
    her and her child in independent freedom, so long as the child
    keeps up to the minimum standard of health and physical and mental
    development. Suppose it pays more upon the child when it rises
    markedly above certain minimum qualifications, physical or mental,
    and, in fact, does its best to make thoroughly efficient motherhood
    a profession worth following. And suppose in correlation with this
    it forbids the industrial employment of married women and of mothers
    who have children needing care, unless they are in a position to
    employ qualified efficient substitutes to take care of their
    offspring. What differences from terrestrial conditions will
    ensue?

    This extent of intervention will at least abolish two or three
    salient hardships and evils of the civilised life. It will abolish
    the hardship of the majority of widows, who on earth are poor and
    encumbered exactly in proportion as they have discharged the chief
    distinctive duty of a woman, and miserable, just in proportion as
    their standard of life and of education is high. It will abolish the
    hardship of those who do not now marry on account of poverty, or who
    do not dare to have children. The fear that often turns a woman from
    a beautiful to a mercenary marriage will vanish from life. In Utopia
    a career of wholesome motherhood would be, under such conditions as
    I have suggested, the normal and remunerative calling for a woman,
    and a capable woman who has borne, bred, and begun the education
    of eight or nine well-built, intelligent, and successful sons and
    daughters would be an extremely prosperous woman, quite irrespective
    of the economic fortunes of the man she has married. She would need
    to be an exceptional woman, and she would need to have chosen a man
    at least a little above the average as her partner in life. But his
    death, or misbehaviour, or misfortunes would not ruin her.

    Now such an arrangement is merely the completed induction from the
    starting propositions that make some measure of education free and
    compulsory for every child in the State. If you prevent people
    making profit out of their children--and every civilised State--even
    that compendium of old-fashioned Individualism, the United States
    of America--is now disposed to admit the necessity of that
    prohibition--and if you provide for the aged instead of leaving them
    to their children's sense of duty, the practical inducements to
    parentage, except among very wealthy people, are greatly reduced.
    The sentimental factor in the case rarely leads to more than a
    solitary child or at most two to a marriage, and with a high and
    rising standard of comfort and circumspection it is unlikely that
    the birth-rate will ever rise very greatly again. The Utopians will
    hold that if you keep the children from profitable employment for
    the sake of the future, then, if you want any but the exceptionally
    rich, secure, pious, unselfish, or reckless to bear children freely,
    you must be prepared to throw the cost of their maintenance upon the
    general community.

    In short, Utopia will hold that sound childbearing and rearing is a
    service done, not to a particular man, but to the whole community,
    and all its legal arrangements for motherhood will be based on that
    conception.

    --

    Section 4.

    And after these preliminaries we must proceed to ask, first, what
    will be the Utopian marriage law, and then what sort of customs and
    opinions are likely to be superadded to that law?

    The trend of our reasoning has brought us to the conclusion that the
    Utopian State will feel justified in intervening between men and
    women on two accounts, first on account of paternity, and secondly
    on account of the clash of freedoms that may otherwise arise. The
    Utopian State will effectually interfere with and prescribe
    conditions for all sorts of contract, and for this sort of contract
    in particular it will be in agreement with almost every earthly
    State, in defining in the completest fashion what things a man or
    woman may be bound to do, and what they cannot be bound to do. From
    the point of view of a statesman, marriage is the union of a man
    and woman in a manner so intimate as to involve the probability of
    offspring, and it is of primary importance to the State, first in
    order to secure good births, and secondly good home conditions, that
    these unions should not be free, nor promiscuous, nor practically
    universal throughout the adult population.

    Prolific marriage must be a profitable privilege. It must occur only
    under certain obvious conditions, the contracting parties must be in
    health and condition, free from specific transmissible taints, above
    a certain minimum age, and sufficiently intelligent and energetic
    to have acquired a minimum education. The man at least must be
    in receipt of a net income above the minimum wage, after any
    outstanding charges against him have been paid. All this much
    it is surely reasonable to insist upon before the State becomes
    responsible for the prospective children. The age at which men and
    women may contract to marry is difficult to determine. But if we
    are, as far as possible, to put women on an equality with men, if we
    are to insist upon a universally educated population, and if we are
    seeking to reduce the infantile death-rate to zero, it must be much
    higher than it is in any terrestrial State. The woman should be at
    least one-and-twenty; the man twenty-six or twenty-seven.

    One imagines the parties to a projected marriage first obtaining
    licenses which will testify that these conditions are satisfied.
    From the point of view of the theoretical Utopian State, these
    licenses are the feature of primary importance. Then, no doubt, that
    universal register at Paris would come into play. As a matter of
    justice, there must be no deception between the two people, and the
    State will ensure that in certain broad essentials this is so. They
    would have to communicate their joint intention to a public office
    after their personal licenses were granted, and each would be
    supplied with a copy of the index card of the projected mate, on
    which would be recorded his or her age, previous marriages, legally
    important diseases, offspring, domiciles, public appointments,
    criminal convictions, registered assignments of property, and so
    forth. Possibly it might be advisable to have a little ceremony for
    each party, for each in the absence of the other, in which this
    record could be read over in the presence of witnesses, together
    with some prescribed form of address of counsel in the matter. There
    would then be a reasonable interval for consideration and withdrawal
    on the part of either spouse. In the event of the two people
    persisting in their resolution, they would after this minimum
    interval signify as much to the local official and the necessary
    entry would be made in the registers. These formalities would be
    quite independent of any religious ceremonial the contracting
    parties might choose, for with religious belief and procedure the
    modern State has no concern.

    So much for the preliminary conditions of matrimony. For those men
    and women who chose to ignore these conditions and to achieve any
    sort of union they liked the State would have no concern, unless
    offspring were born illegitimately. In that case, as we have
    already suggested, it would be only reasonable to make the parents
    chargeable with every duty, with maintenance, education, and so
    forth, that in the normal course of things would fall to the State.
    It would be necessary to impose a life assurance payment upon these
    parents, and to exact effectual guarantees against every possible
    evasion of the responsibility they had incurred. But the further
    control of private morality, beyond the protection of the immature
    from corruption and evil example, will be no concern of the State's.
    When a child comes in, the future of the species comes in; and
    the State comes in as the guardian of interests wider than the
    individual's; but the adult's private life is the entirely private
    life into which the State may not intrude.

    Now what will be the nature of the Utopian contract of
    matrimony?

    From the first of the two points of view named above, that of
    parentage, it is obvious that one unavoidable condition will be the
    chastity of the wife. Her infidelity being demonstrated, must at
    once terminate the marriage and release both her husband and the
    State from any liability for the support of her illegitimate
    offspring. That, at any rate, is beyond controversy; a marriage
    contract that does not involve that, is a triumph of metaphysics
    over common sense. It will be obvious that under Utopian conditions
    it is the State that will suffer injury by a wife's misconduct, and
    that a husband who condones anything of the sort will participate in
    her offence. A woman, therefore, who is divorced on this account
    will be divorced as a public offender, and not in the key of a
    personal quarrel; not as one who has inflicted a private and
    personal wrong. This, too, lies within the primary implications of
    marriage.

    Beyond that, what conditions should a marriage contract in Utopia
    involve?

    A reciprocal restraint on the part of the husband is clearly of no
    importance whatever, so far as the first end of matrimony goes, the
    protection of the community from inferior births. It is no wrong to
    the State. But it does carry with it a variable amount of emotional
    offence to the wife; it may wound her pride and cause her violent
    perturbations of jealousy; it may lead to her neglect, her solitude
    and unhappiness, and it may even work to her physical injury. There
    should be an implication that it is not to occur. She has bound
    herself to the man for the good of the State, and clearly it is
    reasonable that she should look to the State for relief if it does
    occur. The extent of the offence given her is the exact measure
    of her injury; if she does not mind nobody minds, and if her
    self-respect does not suffer nothing whatever is lost to the world;
    and so it should rest with her to establish his misconduct, and, if
    she thinks fit, to terminate the marriage.

    A failure on either side to perform the elementary duties of
    companionship, desertion, for example, should obviously give the
    other mate the right to relief, and clearly the development of any
    disqualifying habit, drunkenness, or drug-taking, or the like, or
    any serious crime or acts of violence, should give grounds for a
    final release. Moreover, the modern Utopian State intervenes between
    the sexes only because of the coming generation, and for it to
    sustain restrictions upon conduct in a continually fruitless
    marriage is obviously to lapse into purely moral intervention. It
    seems reasonable, therefore, to set a term to a marriage that
    remains childless, to let it expire at the end of three or four or
    five unfruitful years, but with no restriction upon the right of
    the husband and wife to marry each other again.

    These are the fairly easy primaries of this question. We now come to
    the more difficult issues of the matter. The first of these is the
    question of the economic relationships of husband and wife, having
    regard to the fact that even in Utopia women, at least until they
    become mothers, are likely to be on the average poorer than men. The
    second is the question of the duration of a marriage. But the two
    interlock, and are, perhaps, best treated together in one common
    section. And they both ramify in the most complicated manner into
    the consideration of the general morale of the community.

    --

    Section 5.

    This question of marriage is the most complicated and difficult in
    the whole range of Utopian problems. But it is happily not the most
    urgent necessity that it should be absolutely solved. The urgent and
    necessary problem is the ruler. With rulers rightly contrived and a
    provisional defective marriage law a Utopia may be conceived as
    existing and studying to perfect itself, but without rulers a Utopia
    is impossible though the theory of its matrimony be complete. And
    the difficulty in this question is not simply the difficulty of a
    complicated chess problem, for example, in which the whole tangle
    of considerations does at least lie in one plane, but a series of
    problems upon different levels and containing incommensurable
    factors.

    It is very easy to repeat our initial propositions, to recall that
    we are on another planet, and that all the customs and traditions of
    the earth are set aside, but the faintest realisation of that
    demands a feat of psychological insight. We have all grown up into
    an invincible mould of suggestion about sexual things; we regard
    this with approval, that with horror, and this again with contempt,
    very largely because the thing has always been put to us in this
    light or that. The more emancipated we think ourselves the more
    subtle are our bonds. The disentanglement of what is inherent in
    these feelings from what is acquired is an extraordinary complex
    undertaking. Probably all men and women have a more or less powerful
    disposition to jealousy, but what exactly they will be jealous about
    and what exactly they will suffer seems part of the superposed
    factor. Probably all men and women are capable of ideal emotions and
    wishes beyond merely physical desires, but the shape these take are
    almost entirely a reaction to external images. And you really cannot
    strip the external off; you cannot get your stark natural man,
    jealous, but not jealous about anything in particular, imaginative
    without any imaginings, proud at large. Emotional dispositions can
    no more exist without form than a man without air. Only a very
    observant man who had lived all over the planet Earth, in all sorts
    of social strata, and with every race and tongue, and who was
    endowed with great imaginative insight, could hope to understand the
    possibilities and the limitations of human plasticity in this
    matter, and say what any men and any women could be induced to do
    willingly, and just exactly what no man and no woman could stand,
    provided one had the training of them. Though very young men will
    tell you readily enough. The proceedings of other races and other
    ages do not seem to carry conviction; what our ancestors did, or
    what the Greeks or Egyptians did, though it is the direct physical
    cause of the modern young man or the modern young lady, is apt to
    impress these remarkable consequences merely as an arrangement of
    quaint, comical or repulsive proceedings.

    But there emerges to the modern inquirer certain ideals and
    desiderata that at least go some way towards completing and
    expanding the crude primaries of a Utopian marriage law set out
    in section 4.

    The sound birth being assured, does there exist any valid reason for
    the persistence of the Utopian marriage union?

    There are two lines of reasoning that go to establish a longer
    duration for marriage. The first of these rests upon the general
    necessity for a home and for individual attention in the case of
    children. Children are the results of a choice between individuals;
    they grow well, as a rule, only in relation to sympathetic and
    kindred individualities, and no wholesale character-ignoring method
    of dealing with them has ever had a shadow of the success of the
    individualised home. Neither Plato nor Socrates, who repudiated the
    home, seems ever to have had to do with anything younger than a
    young man. Procreation is only the beginning of parentage, and even
    where the mother is not the direct nurse and teacher of her child,
    even where she delegates these duties, her supervision is, in the
    common case, essential to its welfare. Moreover, though the Utopian
    State will pay the mother, and the mother only, for the being and
    welfare of her legitimate children, there will be a clear advantage
    in fostering the natural disposition of the father to associate his
    child's welfare with his individual egotism, and to dispense some of
    his energies and earnings in supplementing the common provision of
    the State. It is an absurd disregard of a natural economy to leave
    the innate philoprogenitiveness of either sex uncultivated. Unless
    the parents continue in close relationship, if each is passing
    through a series of marriages, the dangers of a conflict of rights,
    and of the frittering away of emotions, become very grave. The
    family will lose homogeneity, and its individuals will have for the
    mother varied and perhaps incompatible emotional associations. The
    balance of social advantage is certainly on the side of much more
    permanent unions, on the side of an arrangement that, subject to
    ample provisions for a formal divorce without disgrace in cases of
    incompatibility, would bind, or at least enforce ideals that would
    tend to bind, a man and woman together for the whole term of her
    maternal activity, until, that is, the last born of her children was
    no longer in need of her help.

    The second system of considerations arises out of the artificiality
    of woman's position. It is a less conclusive series than the first,
    and it opens a number of interesting side vistas.

    A great deal of nonsense is talked about the natural equality or
    inferiority of women to men. But it is only the same quality that
    can be measured by degrees and ranged in ascending and descending
    series, and the things that are essentially feminine are different
    qualitatively from and incommensurable with the distinctly masculine
    things. The relationship is in the region of ideals and conventions,
    and a State is perfectly free to determine that men and women shall
    come to intercourse on a footing of conventional equality or with
    either the man or woman treated as the predominating individual.
    Aristotle's criticism of Plato in this matter, his insistence upon
    the natural inferiority of slaves and women, is just the sort of
    confusion between inherent and imposed qualities that was his most
    characteristic weakness. The spirit of the European people, of
    almost all the peoples now in the ascendant, is towards a convention
    of equality; the spirit of the Mahometan world is towards the
    intensification of a convention that the man alone is a citizen and
    that the woman is very largely his property. There can be no doubt
    that the latter of these two convenient fictions is the more
    primitive way of regarding this relationship. It is quite unfruitful
    to argue between these ideals as if there were a demonstrable
    conclusion, the adoption of either is an arbitrary act, and we shall
    simply follow our age and time if we display a certain bias for the
    former.

    If one looks closely into the various practical expansions of these
    ideas, we find their inherent falsity works itself out in a very
    natural way so soon as reality is touched. Those who insist upon
    equality work in effect for assimilation, for a similar treatment of
    the sexes. Plato's women of the governing class, for example, were
    to strip for gymnastics like men, to bear arms and go to war, and
    follow most of the masculine occupations of their class. They were
    to have the same education and to be assimilated to men at every
    doubtful point. The Aristotelian attitude, on the other hand,
    insists upon specialisation. The men are to rule and fight and toil;
    the women are to support motherhood in a state of natural
    inferiority. The trend of evolutionary forces through long centuries
    of human development has been on the whole in this second direction,
    has been towards differentiation. [Footnote: See Havelock Ellis's
    Man and Woman.] An adult white woman differs far more from a white
    man than a negress or pigmy woman from her equivalent male. The
    education, the mental disposition, of a white or Asiatic woman,
    reeks of sex; her modesty, her decorum is not to ignore sex but to
    refine and put a point to it; her costume is clamorous with the
    distinctive elements of her form. The white woman in the materially
    prosperous nations is more of a sexual specialist than her sister of
    the poor and austere peoples, of the prosperous classes more so than
    the peasant woman. The contemporary woman of fashion who sets the
    tone of occidental intercourse is a stimulant rather than a
    companion for a man. Too commonly she is an unwholesome stimulant
    turning a man from wisdom to appearance, from beauty to beautiful
    pleasures, from form to colour, from persistent aims to belief and
    stirring triumphs. Arrayed in what she calls distinctly "dress,"
    scented, adorned, displayed, she achieves by artifice a sexual
    differentiation profounder than that of any other vertebrated
    animal. She outshines the peacock's excess above his mate, one must
    probe among the domestic secrets of the insects and crustacea to
    find her living parallel. And it is a question by no means easy and
    yet of the utmost importance, to determine how far the wide and
    widening differences between the human sexes is inherent and
    inevitable, and how far it is an accident of social development that
    may be converted and reduced under a different social regimen. Are
    we going to recognise and accentuate this difference and to arrange
    our Utopian organisation to play upon it, are we to have two primary
    classes of human being, harmonising indeed and reacting, but
    following essentially different lives, or are we going to minimise
    this difference in every possible way?

    The former alternative leads either to a romantic organisation of
    society in which men will live and fight and die for wonderful,
    beautiful, exaggerated creatures, or it leads to the hareem. It
    would probably lead through one phase to the other. Women would be
    enigmas and mysteries and maternal dignitaries that one would
    approach in a state of emotional excitement and seclude piously when
    serious work was in hand. A girl would blossom from the totally
    negligible to the mystically desirable at adolescence, and boys
    would be removed from their mother's educational influence at as
    early an age as possible. Whenever men and women met together, the
    men would be in a state of inflamed competition towards one another,
    and the women likewise, and the intercourse of ideas would be in
    suspense. Under the latter alternative the sexual relation would be
    subordinated to friendship and companionship; boys and girls would
    be co-educated--very largely under maternal direction, and women,
    disarmed of their distinctive barbaric adornments, the feathers,
    beads, lace, and trimmings that enhance their clamorous claim to a
    directly personal attention would mingle, according to their
    quality, in the counsels and intellectual development of men. Such
    women would be fit to educate boys even up to adolescence. It is
    obvious that a marriage law embodying a decision between these two
    sets of ideas would be very different according to the alternative
    adopted. In the former case a man would be expected to earn and
    maintain in an adequate manner the dear delight that had favoured
    him. He would tell her beautiful lies about her wonderful moral
    effect upon him, and keep her sedulously from all responsibility and
    knowledge. And, since there is an undeniably greater imaginative
    appeal to men in the first bloom of a woman's youth, she would have
    a distinct claim upon his energies for the rest of her life. In the
    latter case a man would no more pay for and support his wife than
    she would do so for him. They would be two friends, differing in
    kind no doubt but differing reciprocally, who had linked themselves
    in a matrimonial relationship. Our Utopian marriage so far as we
    have discussed it, is indeterminate between these alternatives.

    We have laid it down as a general principle that the private morals
    of an adult citizen are no concern for the State. But that involves
    a decision to disregard certain types of bargain. A sanely contrived
    State will refuse to sustain bargains wherein there is no plausibly
    fair exchange, and if private morality is really to be outside the
    scope of the State then the affections and endearments most
    certainly must not be regarded as negotiable commodities. The State,
    therefore, will absolutely ignore the distribution of these favours
    unless children, or at least the possibility of children, is
    involved. It follows that it will refuse to recognise any debts or
    transfers of property that are based on such considerations. It will
    be only consistent, therefore, to refuse recognition in the marriage
    contract to any financial obligation between husband and wife, or
    any settlements qualifying that contract, except when they are in
    the nature of accessory provision for the prospective children.
    [Footnote: Unqualified gifts for love by solvent people will, of
    course, be quite possible and permissible, unsalaried services and
    the like, provided the standard of life is maintained and the joint
    income of the couple between whom the services hold does not sink
    below twice the minimum wage.] So far the Utopian State will throw
    its weight upon the side of those who advocate the independence of
    women and their conventional equality with men.

    But to any further definition of the marriage relation the World
    State of Utopia will not commit itself. The wide range of
    relationships that are left possible, within and without the
    marriage code, are entirely a matter for the individual choice and
    imagination. Whether a man treat his wife in private as a goddess to
    be propitiated, as a "mystery" to be adored, as an agreeable
    auxiliary, as a particularly intimate friend, or as the wholesome
    mother of his children, is entirely a matter for their private
    intercourse: whether he keep her in Oriental idleness or active
    co-operation, or leave her to live her independent life, rests with
    the couple alone, and all the possible friendship and intimacies
    outside marriage also lie quite beyond the organisation of the
    modern State. Religious teaching and literature may affect these;
    customs may arise; certain types of relationship may involve social
    isolation; the justice of the statesman is blind to such things. It
    may be urged that according to Atkinson's illuminating analysis
    [Footnote: See Lang and Atkinson's Social Origins and Primal Law.]
    the control of love-making was the very origin of the human
    community. In Utopia, nevertheless, love-making is no concern of the
    State's beyond the province that the protection of children covers.
    [Footnote: It cannot be made too clear that though the control of
    morality is outside the law the State must maintain a general
    decorum, a systematic suppression of powerful and moving examples,
    and of incitations and temptations of the young and inexperienced,
    and to that extent it will, of course, in a sense, exercise a
    control over morals. But this will be only part of a wider law to
    safeguard the tender mind. For example, lying advertisements, and
    the like, when they lean towards adolescent interests, will
    encounter a specially disagreeable disposition in the law, over and
    above the treatment of their general dishonesty.] Change of function
    is one of the ruling facts in life, the sac that was in our remotest
    ancestors a swimming bladder is now a lung, and the State which was
    once, perhaps, no more than the jealous and tyrannous will of the
    strongest male in the herd, the instrument of justice and equality.
    The State intervenes now only where there is want of harmony between
    individuals--individuals who exist or who may presently come into
    existence.

    --

    Section 6.

    It must be reiterated that our reasoning still leaves Utopian
    marriage an institution with wide possibilities of variation. We
    have tried to give effect to the ideal of a virtual equality, an
    equality of spirit between men and women, and in doing so we have
    overridden the accepted opinion of the great majority of mankind.
    Probably the first writer to do as much was Plato. His argument in
    support of this innovation upon natural human feeling was thin
    enough--a mere analogy to illustrate the spirit of his propositions;
    it was his creative instinct that determined him. In the atmosphere
    of such speculations as this, Plato looms very large indeed, and in
    view of what we owe to him, it seems reasonable that we should
    hesitate before dismissing as a thing prohibited and evil, a type of
    marriage that he made almost the central feature in the organisation
    of the ruling class, at least, of his ideal State. He was persuaded
    that the narrow monogamic family is apt to become illiberal and
    anti-social, to withdraw the imagination and energies of the citizen
    from the services of the community as a whole, and the Roman
    Catholic Church has so far endorsed and substantiated his opinion as
    to forbid family relations to its priests and significant servants.
    He conceived of a poetic devotion to the public idea, a devotion of
    which the mind of Aristotle, as his criticisms of Plato show, was
    incapable, as a substitute for the warm and tender but illiberal
    emotions of the home. But while the Church made the alternative to
    family ties celibacy [Footnote: The warm imagination of Campanella,
    that quaint Calabrian monastic, fired by Plato, reversed this aspect
    of the Church.] and participation in an organisation, Plato was far
    more in accordance with modern ideas in perceiving the disadvantage
    that would result from precluding the nobler types of character from
    offspring. He sought a way to achieve progeny, therefore, without
    the narrow concentration of the sympathies about the home, and he
    found it in a multiple marriage in which every member of the
    governing class was considered to be married to all the others. But
    the detailed operation of this system he put tentatively and very
    obscurely. His suggestions have the experimental inconsistency of an
    enquiring man. He left many things altogether open, and it is unfair
    to him to adopt Aristotle's forensic method and deal with his
    discussion as though it was a fully-worked-out project. It is clear
    that Plato intended every member of his governing class to be so
    "changed at birth" as to leave paternity untraceable; mothers were
    not to know their children, nor children their parents, but there is
    nothing to forbid the supposition that he intended these people to
    select and adhere to congenial mates within the great family.
    Aristotle's assertion that the Platonic republic left no scope for
    the virtue of continence shows that he had jumped to just the same
    conclusions a contemporary London errand boy, hovering a little
    shamefacedly over Jowett in a public library, might be expected to
    reach.

    Aristotle obscures Plato's intention, it may be accidentally, by
    speaking of his marriage institution as a community of wives. When
    reading Plato he could not or would not escape reading in his own
    conception of the natural ascendency of men, his idea of property in
    women and children. But as Plato intended women to be conventionally
    equal to men, this phrase belies him altogether; community of
    husbands and wives would be truer to his proposal. Aristotle
    condemns Plato as roundly as any commercial room would condemn him
    to-day, and in much the same spirit; he asserts rather than proves
    that such a grouping is against the nature of man. He wanted to have
    women property just as he wanted to have slaves property, he did not
    care to ask why, and it distressed his conception of convenience
    extremely to imagine any other arrangement. It is no doubt true that
    the natural instinct of either sex is exclusive of participators in
    intimacy during a period of intimacy, but it was probably Aristotle
    who gave Plato an offensive interpretation in this matter. No one
    would freely submit to such a condition of affairs as multiple
    marriage carried out, in the spirit of the Aristotelian
    interpretation, to an obscene completeness, but that is all the more
    reason why the modern Utopia should not refuse a grouped marriage to
    three or more freely consenting persons. There is no sense in
    prohibiting institutions which no sane people could ever want to
    abuse. It is claimed--though the full facts are difficult to
    ascertain--that a group marriage of over two hundred persons was
    successfully organised by John Humphrey Noyes at Oneida Creek.
    [Footnote: See John H. Noyes's History of American Socialisms and
    his writings generally. The bare facts of this and the other
    American experiments are given, together with more recent matter, by
    Morris Hillquirt, in The History of Socialism in the United States.]
    It is fairly certain in the latter case that there was no
    "promiscuity," and that the members mated for variable periods, and
    often for life, within the group. The documents are reasonably clear
    upon that point. This Oneida community was, in fact, a league of two
    hundred persons to regard their children as "common." Choice and
    preference were not abolished in the community, though in some cases
    they were set aside--just as they are by many parents under our
    present conditions. There seems to have been a premature attempt at
    "stirpiculture," at what Mr. Francis Galton now calls "Eugenics," in
    the mating of the members, and there was also a limitation of
    offspring. Beyond these points the inner secrets of the community do
    not appear to be very profound; its atmosphere was almost
    commonplace, it was made up of very ordinary people. There is no
    doubt that it had a career of exceptional success throughout the
    whole lifetime of its founder, and it broke down with the advent of
    a new generation, with the onset of theological differences, and the
    loss of its guiding intelligence. The Anglo-Saxon spirit, it has
    been said by one of the ablest children of the experiment, is too
    individualistic for communism. It is possible to regard the
    temporary success of this complex family as a strange accident, as
    the wonderful exploit of what was certainly a very exceptional man.
    Its final disintegration into frankly monogamic couples--it is still
    a prosperous business association--may be taken as an experimental
    verification of Aristotle's common-sense psychology, and was
    probably merely the public acknowledgment of conditions already
    practically established.

    Out of respect for Plato we cannot ignore this possibility of
    multiple marriage altogether in our Utopian theorising, but even if
    we leave this possibility open we are still bound to regard it as a
    thing so likely to be rare as not to come at all under our direct
    observation during our Utopian journeyings. But in one sense, of
    course, in the sense that the State guarantees care and support for
    all properly born children, our entire Utopia is to be regarded as a
    comprehensive marriage group. [Footnote: The Thelema of Rabelais,
    with its principle of "Fay ce que vouldras" within the limits of the
    order, is probably intended to suggest a Platonic complex marriage
    after the fashion of our interpretation.]

    It must be remembered that a modern Utopia must differ from the
    Utopias of any preceding age in being world-wide; it is not,
    therefore, to be the development of any special race or type of
    culture, as Plato's developed an Athenian-Spartan blend, or More,
    Tudor England. The modern Utopia is to be, before all things,
    synthetic. Politically and socially, as linguistically, we must
    suppose it a synthesis; politically it will be a synthesis of once
    widely different forms of government; socially and morally, a
    synthesis of a great variety of domestic traditions and ethical
    habits. Into the modern Utopia there must have entered the mental
    tendencies and origins that give our own world the polygamy of the
    Zulus and of Utah, the polyandry of Tibet, the latitudes of
    experiment permitted in the United States, and the divorceless
    wedlock of Comte. The tendency of all synthetic processes in matters
    of law and custom is to reduce and simplify the compulsory canon, to
    admit alternatives and freedoms; what were laws before become
    traditions of feeling and style, and in no matter will this be more
    apparent than in questions affecting the relations of the sexes.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 7
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a H.G. Wells essay and need some advice, post your H.G. Wells essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?