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Horse & carriage

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Handout

“Love and marriage must go together.” Discuss from a sociological approach.

Doctor I am wondering what I am missing in my answer Please help. Mo.

In sociology we study "what is" –– not "what should be."  Even though we have this myth about love and marriage must go together. This is not the way it happens in every single marriage it might happen in some marriages but not always. For example in the East Indian culture they have arranged marriages where your parents chooses your future spouse and the way they based their match is on monetary wealth (I am not talking about dowry) . Meaning how much money does the guy make, does he have a house, and is he in the same caste system.  Technology has progressed and sex and marriage are no longer linked together. Someone doesn’t have to get married to another because they are having a child.  Many people are forced to marry to keep the family status.  In the past love, sex, and marriage went together if someone was to have sex outside of marriage they were looked at a prostitutes.  For example in the early nineteen century if girls got pregnant out of wedlock they were initialized in churches to be away from the rest of the family and community. Because it was tabooed in that time to have sex outside of marriage.


Thank you Mo; it is a pleasure to read your answer, and provide this feedback.

Your first sentence, ”In sociology we study what is, not what should be,” is an important principle to learn in this course. We are not preaching (what should be or if something is good or bad, prescription). Let us leave that to the mullahs, priests, rabbis, preachers and monks.  But we do include peoples’ values in what we study (the values dimension of culture and society). But is it a grabber? No. Does it introduce your argument? No. It should be included, but as an argument in your answer, not as an introduction to your argument.

So you need an introduction to your answer. It needs to be something that gets the attention of the reader, and something that lets us know what you are discussing.  I know that is not easy to create when you are under the pressure of writing an exam, but you have months or weeks to prepare for every question as to how you will answer it.

And love and marriage going together is not a myth. It is a prescription – a value. It tells us what should be. It is not a sociological statement, but a value or precept in some communities.

There is a famous popular song, dating from the fifties, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” It is a call to put the two together. Some people believe that it is a long established principle of family formation in western societies. It is not. It really came about along with the Romantic era (eg of the romantic poets) of the nineteenth century. Love, or course has been around for a very long time, but it was not automatically linked with marriage throughout history, even in western (eg European) communities. In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet loved each other, but their families, Capulets and Montagues, would not allow them to marry, so they committed suicide.

While arranged marriages are associated with south Asia in common understanding, that is not the only case. It is found in many cultures, and especially associated with higher classes and castes, where family money, power and prestige is involved.

It is always best to find examples that are different than the ones which I provide in lectures; that suggests you have thought about the issues and are not simply trying to regurgitate what you think I might like to see. Alternatively, you might expand on my examples, or even contradict or find exceptions to my examples, rather than repeat them as if they are the absolute truth.

You are right, it is not merely a dowry, but an assessment of the income of a potential spouse, but in sociology we also see prestige and power (two more key ingredients of inequality) as important factors in spouse choice. It applies also to other than arranged marriages. These were even elements that potential brides and grooms examined in European society in the nineteenth century, the heyday of romantic marriage, although they might be clothed in the ideology of love.

Rich men from ancient times had mistresses with whom they were not married, and often they bore children. If they wanted, and could afford to set a women up with accommodation and living expenses, they would.

As for pregnancy, various forms of birth control have been known for centuries. The juice of the pawpaw (papaya) root, for example, has been used from ancient times. Not every instance of sexual intercourse automatically resulted in childbirth. Modern reproductive technology now allows us to have children without sex, and sex without children. Nowadays the technology is less messy and more reliable.

All your arguments have merit. You need to clarify some of them, because some sentences are not sentences, and that is not merely a matter of correct grammar, but how able a reader can understand what you want. You need to arrange your arguments in a sequence, and link them together in a logical and understandable sequence.

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