Love, Marriage, and Money

19 December 2010 at 3:30 pm 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

Most interesting passage I read today:

Contrary to prevailing interpretations that attribute the [historical] rise in voluntary, romantic unions to an increased sexual division of labor and the domestication of family life, Howell argues that true companionship between husband and wife was necessary to weather the challenges of commercial life. In her words, “love was by no means the antithesis of the market. It was the market’s helpmate” (p. 141).

It’s from Francesca Trivellato’s review of Martha C. Howell, Commerce before Capitalism in Europe, 1300-1600 (Cambridge, 2010). As Howell notes, “the commercialization of society was not just an economic history as we understand the term but a social, legal, and cultural story, and it is incomprehensible if told from the perspective of one of these modern conceptual categories alone.”

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Institutions, New Institutional Economics.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Aidan Walsh  |  20 December 2010 at 4:57 am

    Hi Peter,

    Isn’t the above just a restatement of Hayek’s point about the thinning out of the rules in an extended market order:

    ‘This application of the same rules of just conduct to the relations to all other men is rightly regarded as one of the great achievements of a liberal society. What is usually not understood is that this extension of the same rules to the relations to all other men (beyond the most intimate group such as the family and personal friends) requires an attenuation of at least some of the rules which are enforced in the relations to other members of the smaller group. If the legal duties towards strangers or foreigners are to be the same as those towards the neighbours or inhabitants of the same village or town, the latter duties will have to be reduced to such as can also be applied to the stranger. No doubt men will always wish to belong also to smaller groups and be willing to assume greater obligations towards self-chosen friends or companions… A system of rules intended for an Open Society and, at least in principle, meant to be applicable to all others, must have a somewhat smaller content than one to be applied in a small group.’ (Hayek, 1976, 88ff)

    Even in my own lifetime in Ireland, the ‘family’ has become smaller as cousins, aunties, uncles etc are no longer considered ‘close’ relatives in a market sense (you don’t have to help them get jobs, provide them with special deals etc); that is only reserved for your self-chosen ‘nuclear’ family.

  • 2. Lurker  |  20 December 2010 at 8:32 pm

    And the Germans, Herr Klein, took this to it’s logical end: the morganatic wedding, which was eagerly adopted by the Danes and Swedes.

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