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Thoughts On Marriage In Nineteenth Century Europe

1727 words - 7 pages

In the aftermath of the dual revolution, European society underwent vast changes spanning all aspects of society. Political ideologies began to evolve congruently with changes that were occurring across the continent. Various conservative, liberal, and utopian viewpoints emerged, critiquing the new modern society. The critiques encompassed all aspects of society, including the ideas of marriage and family. Three prominent intellectual figures that proposed differing ideas on marriage were Louis de Bonald, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Charles Fourier. All three came from various positions on the political spectrum; Bonald was conservative, Hegel a liberal, and Fourier a utopian socialist. Coming from different ideological backgrounds, their ideas on society, marriage, and family differed greatly.
The purpose of marriage to Bonald was to unite the opposite sexes in order to reproduce, with the end result being a family. He viewed the family as the basis of all society; marriage and the creation of the family were the key ingredients to the foundation on which society was to build itself upon, and continue to operate. Bonald contended, “The production and conservation of man are thus the purpose of the family, and the reason for all relationships of sex and age which constitute it.” (Bonald, 126). With this statement, he made clear that reproduction was the sole purpose of marriage, never placing any emphasis on the happiness or pleasure of the two spouses. Once the family was created, Bonald argued that the bonds the family built were not out of natural compassion, rather that they were learned. He did not see man as naturally obtaining the ability to maintain and cherish their position in the family, rather he learned them through the capability of reason – namely through the guidance of religion, and the force of law.
Bonald was adamantly opposed to the idea of divorce. He looked at the issue from both the domestic side, as well as the public side. With the goal of marriage clearly defined, Bonald still saw no use for divorce even if the man and woman were failing to produce a child. As Bonald argued, “Marriage is a potential society, the family an actual society. Nature has not set a term on this potential.” (Bonald, 128). What Bonald was trying to get across, was that that there was no guarantee on when one would conceive a child, and that breaking a marriage due to the fact that it was taking longer than anticipated was wrong. He believed that there was no guarantee that the second marriage would result in the conceiving of a child, therefore, there was no need to nullify the first.
Bonald believed that marriage, when terminated, was almost always against the will of one spouse. He gave the example that when a woman enters a marriage, she enters with her dignity and fertility, the man with his authority. When the man asks, – and is eventually granted the divorce through law – the wife is left without her dignity or fertility, and...

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