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Marriage and Morals Hardcover – 1952

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: George Allen & Unwin (1952)
  • ASIN: B0037FD7WI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,391,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

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First Sentence
IN characterizing a society, whether ancient or modern, there are two elements, rather closely interconnected, which are of prime importance: one is the economic system, the other the family system. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simon Taylor on 19 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first work by Russell that I have read in its entirety and I have to say I found it thoroughly interesting and, on the whole, very easy to read. This book is as much a history as it is a book on ethics; Russell is keen to flush out every point he makes with historical evidence from a variety of cultures and time periods. Whether or not you agree with Russell (my personal level of agreement varied somewhat from chapter to chapter) you at least feel that each argument was well thought out and merits at least a pause for thought.
The book is, in many ways, years ahead of its time, and much of what Russell predicts bears great relevance to today's society, perhaps even more so than when it was written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Provocative 10 Mar. 2003
By Bradley K. Stilwell - Published on
Format: Paperback
It's hard not to cheer when you realize Russell wrote so forward-thinking a piece in the late '20s. Its ideas are still being debated today, especially in light of the recent trend toward opting out of conventional, legally bound marriages in Western countries. As a married man myself, I found Russell's condemnation of conventional sexual morality quite convincing. He doesn't advocate immature hedonism, nor does he pardon all infidelity. He actually favors marriage when children are involved. He simply rocks the foundation of marriage on Christian asceticism ('fornication is sin') and the need for certain paternity. He gives an anthropological & historical perspective on the issue that is broader than anything you're likely to hear in current debates.
My only complaint with this otherwise provocative & well-reasoned work is that some of his commentary borders on anti-Catholic. I'm not Catholic myself, but I couldn't help but wonder whether some of his persistent jabs at the Church weren't motivated by a prejudice common at that time. That isn't to say he doesn't critique Protestant morality as well, but he seems to take inordinate glee in poking the Vatican.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Marriage & Morals 6 Feb. 2003
By Daniel - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found this book very well-written and full of information about the history of marriage, sexual ethics, and morals. Bertrand, in his usual style, examines the social problems of his time and why they exist. This book was written in 1929, but is still logical and modern in thinking. Bertrand wittily and cynically speaks out against the restrictive dogmas of sex and love: ?It would seem that it is only with the introduction of the patriarchal system that men came to desire virginity in their brides. Where the matrilineal system exists young women sow their wild oats as freely as young men, but this could not be tolerated when it became of great importance to persuade women that all intercourse outside of marriage is wicked.? I strongly recommend this book for anyone doing a research paper on love, marriage, or sexual ethics. If you?re looking for something to make you think, it?s also a great book. I give it four out of five stars.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An old book, but surprisingly still interesting 21 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book was originally published in 1929 so in many ways it is inevitably dated. But in many ways it is still fresh, and despite all the talk about "new morality", the controversies in his day still rage today. (This is the book that got Lord Russell in so much trouble at City College of New York) What is unique about this book that it addresses some of the dilemmas of domestic life. Dilemmas that are real yet apparently other writers don't have the courage to face.
This book deserves to be in the library of every serious thinker.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
reinventing an institution 9 July 2010
By Helm - Published on
Format: Paperback
I picked this one up in hopes that my favorite philosopher might have some good I ideas on what marriage ought to be. I'm largely unsatisfied with the institution of marriage and knew Russell was as well. The first several chapters dealing with the history of marriage and the evolution of marriage in various cultures were fascinating (though a student of anthropology will recognize some things as dated).

His observations on sexual education and the general unhealthiness of Victorian stigmatizing of sex was similarly interesting and frequently scathingly sarcastic. I copied a few quotes I liked:

"It would be wise to subject all unmarried women once a month to medical examination by police doctors, and to send to a penitentiary all such as were found to be not order to avoid the risk of certain abuses, it would be necessary that all policemen and all medical men should be castrated." --on maintaining virtue at any cost--

"The first essential is that the education of girls should be such as to make them stupid and superstitious and ignorant; this requisite is already fulfilled in schools over which the churches have any control." --on maintaining virtue through ignorance--

"Sex outside of marriage is sin; sex within marriage is not sin... but is a disagreeable duty imposed on man as punishment for the Fall, and to be undertaken in the same spirit in which one submits to a surgical operation. Unfortunately, unless great pains are taken, the sexual act tends to be associated with pleasure, but by sufficient moral care this can be prevented, at any rate in the female."

However when it came to his actual views on what marriage ought to be I found him more reactionary than reasonable in several aspects. He did however explain the system of companionate marriage proposed in the 1920's and I found that suitable for my own future-hypothetical marriage.

I'd recommend this book to people interested in the history of marriage, but also in the idea that the marriage institution is a human invention and one that may better serve us with a bit of reworking and personalization.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An Objective Criticism of Conventional Sexual Morality 25 Jun. 2002
By Manish Samtani - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this, one of his most brilliant works, Lord Russell educates the reader about the evils of traditional sexual morals.
He explains how conventional views on sex have had a harmful and detrimental effect on the individual, and on society at large.
According to Russell, the taboos on pre-marital and extra-marital sex, which were promoted by several different religious institutions, including the Church, as well as by a countless number of moralizing zealots, are totally unjustified. Moreover, as he points out, they do not take into account the practical realities of life.
It is indeed tragic that Russell (who died in 1970) did not live to see the full fledged effects of the Sexual Liberation movement, which began in the 1960s.
The taboo on pre-marital sex has been dispensed with in most Western countries, though extra-marital affairs are not yet fully acceptable, and are branded as acts of 'infidelity'.
A superb read for anyone with more than a passing interest in matters of sexuality.
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