Civilizing The Sexual Barbarians

Men and Marriage, by George Gilder (Pelican, 1986, xix + 219 pp.; $15.95, cloth). Reviewed by Jan P. Dennis, editor in chief, Crossway Books.

Civilization is fragile. It is based on truths, mores, patterns, institutions, and, yes, roles that may be tampered with only so much and no more. When these constituent parts are sufficiently disrupted, a society dissolves. Perhaps better than anyone else, George Gilder understands this. His new book Men and Marriage, a revised and updated edition of his 1973 book Sexual Suicide, is an extended meditation on how modern society, by substituting ideology for reality, is self-destructing.

For Gilder, the linchpin of civilization is the mutual sacrifice of the sexes (echoes of Eph. 5:21), each according to its nature, for the preservation and advancement of society. A married woman gives herself up to the care and nurture of young children and the establishment of a stable, comfortable, and loving home. This she does according to her nature (or perhaps according to the divine decree that we read in Gen. 3:16). Likewise, a married man gives himself up to 50-and 60-hour work weeks, to narrow specialization, to earning his bread by the sweat of his brow (more echoes of Genesis 3) for the sake of a woman’s love and the prospect of posterity. This he does according to his nature.

Each, theoretically, can do what the other does. And throughout history each has done the work of the other, when necessary. What is novel today, according to Gilder, is the idea that the members of each sex ought to do the other’s work, or that it makes no difference for society who does what.

Gilder’s impressive array of evidence—biological, anthropological, historical, ...

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