“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, November 21, 2008

Love and territory

In 1965, John Hajnal, published an essay with the very dull title, European Marriage Patterns in Perspective. This essay seems, at first glance, to project a Cold War paradigm back upon the pattern of European demography, as Hajnal proposed that, in essence, starting with the end of the 16th century, you could draw a line from Trieste to St. Petersburgh and allot two different household formations to each side. On the West, you have what Hajnal came to call the simple household formation, in which one and only one married couple were at the center of the household; in the East, you had what he called a joint household formation, in which two or more related married couples formed the household. Hajnal claimed that in the sixteenth century, the Western type of household was new, and characterized by a demographic shift in which marriage occurred significantly later in life. For women, for instance, the average age moves from 20 to 25. Meanwhile, in the East, the marriage age remained very young, and so a married couple of, basically, teenagers remained in a household with an older couple, usually the husband’s family.

Hajnal made several arguable inferences from this pattern, as, for instance, that modernization followed the simple household formation pattern, and that simple households contained fewer members. He did modify the iron curtain that separated one household type from another, as it became evident that Italy, Southern France, and perhaps Spain did not participate in the simple household pattern, and it may be the case that Austria didn’t participate in the joint household pattern. Instead of Western Europe, then, in Hajnal’s schema you had Northwestern Europe.

LI is thinking of this in relation to an email conversation with an old friend, Professor K. K. is very Catholic, and she found the précis I sent her of the Human Limit very Protestant, in a way. Or at least she pointed out that certain of my themes, for instance, the loss of the sacred middle world, and the war on superstition, lend themselves to a Protestant vs. Catholic binary. This depressed me, since I certainly don’t want to re-invent The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

But I think I am not. Rather, it is within the refined confines of Hajnal’s map that my sense of the happiness culture incarnates itself. Beyond the Cold War traces, what Hajnal’s notion does is give us a certain demographic basis for looking at the kind of changes in emotional customs I am trying to trace - it gives us institutional correlates. And it shows an essential stress between the system of the passions and the system of the social - one that opens up certain fissures. For instance, the advance of the age of marriage is also an increase in the age of youth – youth being defined as the period before marriage. This, in turn, sets up other changes in the way the culture imagined itself, or groups within the culture imagined themselves and by inference, the culture as a whole. For instance, the process of setting marriage back seems to have made it the case that more people didn’t get married at all. It is striking that so many figures I’ve referred to – Theophile de Viau, Chamfort, Goethe, Gozzi, Hazlitt, etc. – either never married or married notoriously late in life.

The demographic story is, of course, about emotion, about the passions, and their institutionalization. It is as fundamental as any story about the system of production. The writ of Venus, here, runs as broad and wide as that of Haephestus. If you took Hajnal’s map and you superimposed upon it the happiness culture as it emerges in the 18th century – that is, the culture in which happiness exists as a threefold social phenomena and a norm against which social, political and economic arrangements are judged – you would find the one is almost equal to the other. Similarly, the resistance to the happiness culture, which was massive, a reaction against the wholesale destruction of long entrenched cultural practices, seems to come most vividly from the periphery of the simple household territory and from the joint household territory – for instance, Russia.

1 comment:

northanger said...

From Russia with capital, Watching Zachary Sapozhnin try to explain his company's product in English is like watching a garden sprinkler try to handle the flow from a fire hose. The ideas are obviously coming a lot faster than the words, and Sapozhnin dissipates the excess energy with sweeping hand gestures, nervous laughter, and by tousling and retousling his unruly dark hair.