The titular phrase is so ubiquitous in pop culture that it has its own Wikipedia page, which equates it with a “happy ending”—one that almost always includes wedding vows. Hallmark, Disney, and CBS are just a few of the dozens of multimillion-dollar corporations making a fortune selling commodities and pushing ideology based on this phrase. But Marxists understand that the dominant ideology of any class society is that of the ruling class. Workers are encouraged to buy in to marriage in order to help perpetuate the production and reproduction of future workers. But for those who own and dominate our world, marriage is fundamentally a tool to preserve wealth, power, and privileges.
This fact hasn’t escaped FTWealth—the Financial Times’ luxury magazine aimed at “global citizens with personal assets of more than $1.65 million, in addition to the value of their home”—which recently published an article on the psychology of wealth and what it calls “assortative mating.”
In the article, “The Wealthy Marrying Their Own,” author Rhymer Rigby points out that the $42-million marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was a far more mundane occurrence than the mainstream media’s portrayal of a “happily ever after” fairy tale—not coincidentally, something often used to put children to sleep.
“Rather than being a Cinderella story, Markle’s is a far more normal story of our times—rich woman marries rich man,” Rigby writes. “The only difference is she’s fairly new money and he’s very old money.” After rattling off a number of recently married “power couples,” the author calls the phenomenon of people marrying others like themselves “assortative mating,” and points out that it is on the rise and is used to “propagate inequality across the generations . . . by concentrating wealth, often to an astonishing extent.”
He adds that more affluent people generally tend to marry more frequently, and that children born out of wedlock skew drastically poorer.
Moneyed marriages don’t just concentrate wealth either. They concentrate educational attainment, aspiration, and access to the best jobs. These self-marrying elites live in the same neighborhoods, usually in fashionable inner cities. They create and perpetuate a group which is ever more isolated from the rest of society because it contains fewer and fewer people who know what “real” life is like.
Although the FT’s level of self-awareness about the decadence, depravity, and hypocrisy of bourgeois marriage may be somewhat surprising, that this phenomenon is occurring is not. It is by no means new. In recent years, several articles have documented how immobile wealth is—particularly old money. Articles such as, “The Richest Families in Florence in 1427 are Still the Richest Families in Florence,” and “This is the Proof That the 1% Have Been Running the Show for 800 Years,” leave little to the imagination. And for anyone who thinks Scandinavia is a “socialist paradise,” a recent leak revealed that the 320 wealthiest families in Denmark have a quarter of their wealth—an estimated $9.3 billion—stashed in tax havens.
Such shocking inequality is no surprise to Marxists. As far back as 1884, building upon the work of his lifelong collaborator, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels charted the rise of monogamous marriage as a product of class society in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State:
[Monogamy] was not in any way the fruit of individual sex-love, with which it had nothing whatever to do . . . It was the first form of the family to be based, not on natural, but on economic conditions—on the victory of private property over primitive, natural communal property. The Greeks themselves put the matter quite frankly: the sole exclusive aims of monogamous marriage were to make the man supreme in the family, and to propagate, as the future heirs to his wealth, children indisputably his own. Otherwise, marriage was a burden, a duty which had to be performed, whether one liked it or not, to gods, state, and one’s ancestors.
As long as capitalism exists, so will the hypocrisy of bourgeois marriage. But millions of workers and youth are instinctively rebelling against the instruments of bourgeois rule, including “traditional” marriage. For example, under pressure from below, the US Supreme Court was forced to recognize gay marriage, and Ireland—a country dominated by Catholic ideology for centuries—quickly followed suit. Such changes are symptomatic of the rising discontent as the aspirations of the masses come into conflict with ossified pillars of the establishment. But it also shows that the ruling class is willing to “move the goalposts” on secondary issues as long as their core wealth and power remain intact.
Marxists are implacably opposed to any kind of discrimination—marriage or otherwise—and fight on a working-class basis against all inequality and oppression. But, we also recognize that true marriage equality cannot exist until capitalism is abolished once and for all. As Engels pointed out:
Full freedom of marriage can therefore only be generally established when the abolition of capitalist production and of the property relations created by it has removed all the accompanying economic considerations which still exert such a powerful influence on the choice of a marriage partner. For then there is no other motive left except mutual inclination.
In his classic, The Revolution Betrayed, Leon Trotsky explained that “socialism, if it is worthy of the name, means human relations without greed, friendship without envy and intrigue, love without base calculation.”
This is what Socialist Revolution fights for, and we welcome all those who agree to join us in this struggle.