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The Link Between Polygamy and War (economist.com) 460

Is there a link between polygamy and war? The Economist explores (might be paywalled): Men in South Sudan typically marry as often as their wealth -- often measured in cattle -- will allow. Perhaps 40 percent of marriages are polygamous. "In [our] culture, the more family you have, the more people respect you," says William, a young IT specialist in search of his second wife. Few South Sudanese see the connection between these matrimonial customs and the country's horrific civil war. If you ask them the reason for the violence, locals will blame tribalism, greedy politicians, weak institutions and perhaps the oil wealth which gives warlords something to fight over. All true, but not the whole story. Wherever it is widely practised, polygamy (specifically polygyny, the taking of multiple wives) destabilises society, largely because it is a form of inequality which creates an urgent distress in the hearts, and loins, of young men. If a rich man has a Lamborghini, that does not mean that a poor man has to walk, for the supply of cars is not fixed. By contrast, every time a rich man takes an extra wife, another poor man must remain single. If the richest and most powerful 10 percent of men have, say, four wives each, the bottom 30 percent of men cannot marry. Young men will take desperate measures to avoid this state. A non-paywalled, syndicated source for the article.
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The Link Between Polygamy and War

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  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @11:40AM (#55815307) Homepage Journal

    In a polygamous society war can produce a surplus of women. It certainly produces widows and orphans, which in a society with no state social welfare programs and limited economic opportunity for women is a huge problem.

    Polygamy is also a way to establish dynastic ties between potential rival groups.

    • In a polygamous society war can produce a surplus of women.

      That's because in any society, war can produce a surplus of women, right?

    • War produces surpluses of broken women only. The loss of loved ones, the desperation of fending for one's self, and the inevitable horrific abuse of women that almost universally comes with war is in no way a positive trait, nor is it self balancing as "broken goods" are not preferred.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        If you focus on marriage as an emotional institution. As an economic institution you've got a lot of dependents -- you either let them die, develop some kind of state welfare system, or you find a way to patch them into the only support system your society has: family.

    • "Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat."

      -- Hillary Clinton

      "Civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict."

      -- United Nations

      Let's have a moment of silence for the biggest victims of war - the women. The men who actually serve in the military? Seems they are the primary perpetrators according to this pervasive worldview.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @11:42AM (#55815327)

    Compared to the Atlantic slave trade, which was mostly men for work, the Islamic slave trade was mostly women for sex.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    In contrast to the Atlantic slave trade, where the male-female ratio was 2:1 or 3:1, the Arab slave trade instead usually had a higher female-to-male ratio. This suggests a general preference for female slaves. Concubinage and reproduction served as incentives for importing female slaves (often Caucasian), though many were also imported mainly for performing household tasks.

    In Islam you can have four wives and an unlimited number of sex slaves if you are male.

    It's easy to see that polygamy and the inability of poor men to find a wife and thus legally have sex was a driver for this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Compared to the Atlantic slave trade, which was mostly men for work, the Islamic slave trade was mostly women for sex.

      What I want to know is why they (and you!) are talking about the Arab slave trade like it's a thing of the past. Western women still occasionally escape from a harem. They are still kidnapping women internationally and pressing them into slavery. Where do you think all those missing girls and women go? You don't seriously think they're all winding up in shallow graves, do you? The same thing is happening to them as is happening to valuable cars. They are being stolen, and put on a boat. Granted, they're not

      • Oh I agree. It's not just ISIS - the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and so on all have a slavery going on under the surface with the connivance of the authorities.

        In fact in Kuwait a female politician wanted to legalize sex slavery

        http://www.ibtimes.com/female-... [ibtimes.com]

        Slavery was only banned in Saudi Arabia in 1962, and even now they treat their guest workers and maids like slaves.

  • "If a rich man has a Lamborghini, that does not mean that a poor man has to walk, for the supply of cars is not fixed. By contrast, every time a rich man takes an extra wife, another poor man must remain single. If the richest and most powerful 10 percent of men have, say, four wives each, the bottom 30 percent of men cannot marry."
    Sorry, but that's the dumbest comparison I've ever seen.
    If anything, it disproves its case.
    If you're just talking about Lamborghinis, there are only about 3500 made each year - p

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      And as far as utility, I'm going to guess that the useful reproductive life of a female human - what, 25 years now, nominally?

      Depends on how you determine it. If you count from puberty to zero viable eggs, about 30–35 years. Of course, most societies frown upon taking twelve-year-old brides, and even at eighteen, most women prefer to put off having kids until after college and perhaps even for a few more years while they get their careers started. If you start counting at twenty-five and stop counting when the birth defect rate starts to skyrocket, you end up at ten to fifteen years, which is way less than the average ser

    • This assumes men and women are born and die in such a way as to have 50% men and women - not really true. Never underestimate a good war to free up those younger women for the oligarchs while still leaving nearly all the poor men something to marry. It's a win/win /s
      • Extra win: The most passive men are the least likely to fight, so you're also selectively breeding a more docile poor and middle class.

        Given how many died in WWI and WWII, I wonder if there was a noticeable effect there...

  • "stuff that matters"

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @11:55AM (#55815467) Homepage Journal
    That must be why Slashdot is the most peaceful website on the planet.
  • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:01PM (#55815513)
    ... And I was disturbed about how the arguments really make good sense and how we looks way more "animal" than we would like when it comes to basic things like sex and family formation. As example has anyone seen in documentaries how a lions family works? Very similar, too much similar to my liking.
  • by lucasnate1 ( 4682951 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:02PM (#55815533)

    Middle eastern culture transforms women (and men too to some extent, as servants or younglings who obey the elders) into property that can must be fought for and/or can be used for fighting.

    Btw, I am saying it as an Israeli who's country is gradually adopting these perceptions due to orthodox jewish religion taking over.

  • Because theyâ(TM)ll have 100 million excess young males due to gender specific abortions.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:16PM (#55815677) Homepage

    As I posted on The Economist, it is not salacious polygyny but anything that upsets the sex ratio that becomes profoundly destabilising: [Poor] young men see the [few] young women of their villages swept away to better [city] prospects. They can hardly stop it. But it gives them powerful motivation to improve their standing, including by military adventure. A clever "leader" (Bo Xilai?) can tap into this. Most worrying are China's "empty branches", excess young men as a result of China's "one child" policy generating selective abortion/infanticide.

    • As an urban dweller, your comment makes me think. In many cities like my own, we have an imbalance- more women than men. Many of these women come here from rural areas, looking for the greater social opportunities of the city. At the same time, it seems that in America, rural areas are more and more resentful of urban areas. Now you have me wondering if the two are connected.
  • Stability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:21PM (#55815725)
    I've had a fair number or friends in open relationships/marriages over the years. I'm not interested in one, but it dosent bother me at all so I was fine being friends with them. Over the long haul, maybe 15 years, I've seen how these play out versus traditional relationships. In most cases, for awhile, the relationships were mutually acceptable to everyone. However, eventually a particularly outspoken and judgmental individual started making waves which didn't combine well with the few polyamorists who couldn't just be chil and laid back but instead made the drama worse. There used to be 50 or so of us in the social circle (20 or so were in non traditional relationships) but this fractured the group into roughly 3 groups even though many members were friends for 20 years. It's sad because we all used to go out and do things, and now that is ruined. People have enough trouble in a 2 person relationship, 3+ becomes far more complicated and unstable and is far easier to devolve into fighting the larger the group gets. While it's obvious you can't only blame polygamy for violence, having men take multiple wives and never the other way around, only creates a shortage of women and is just asking for younger males to become violent in competition.
  • Polygamy is a VERY advanced topic for this crowd considering many of them have not had one sexual partner let alone MULTIPLE. It's definitely NOT news for nerds.
  • They managed to make it the woman's fault.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:50PM (#55816471) Homepage

    Its mostly the other way around. A warlike culture has to either accept polygamy or accept lesbian marriage - children require a huge amount of attention and require multiple parents.

    It is true that this kind of culture is slightly self-reinforcing, encouraging men to go to war to both maintain the shortage of men and collect the resources necessary to support the children.

    But it is mostly the other way around.

    Real polygamy takes too much work on the part of the man to be worth it for anyone not in the top 1% wealth wise. As such, while it is viewed as high status, it's actual presence does NOT lead to more war, but instead creates a desire for peace. And fishing. Lots of fishing. Anything to get away from the constant nagging.

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