More on Greif

October 25, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

If my halfassed ethical critique was not enough for you, and you need more Greif-hating in your life, I highly recommend this post by Zunguzungu, passed along to me by my friend Max. Zunguzungu takes Greif to task for, among other things, historical inaccuracy, ethnocentrism, ignorance of evolutionary biology, insensitivity to the gay marriage movement, and failure to make a sound argument.

If you are pressed for time and just want some bite-sized snark, check this out: “The Shadow Editors: Reading Mark Greif’s N+1 Piece in Real Time.” Here is possibly the best moment:

Tom Scocca: God [wrings hands], I sometimes wish I were gay, so pure pleasure and love wouldn’t be bound up in all this…this hegemonic, patriarchal structure of authority that man-woman relations are always suffocated by. [Clasps hands, stares at place wall meets ceiling.] You know? To just love a person for love’s sake. Gay people, they’ve been cast out by society, but that’s, that’s like being cast out of PRISON, in some ways, really, isn’t it?




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  1. Hey, cheers! I enjoyed your reading. It’s a valuable criticism, I think, to note how thoroughly Greif’s notion of what “we” need is determined by a bizarre notion that the family actually has no economic function. Not only is that manifestly not true when it comes to people who aren’t sufficiently well enough off in an economic sense (family bonds, cemented by the “chains” of blood and marriage, are the first line of defense against economic catastrophe all across the world, and in the US as well), but you point out the concrete work that marriages do in today’s quite flawed society, which (again) Greif is himself probably not in the position of being inconvenienced by. In other words, while he has a great sense for the (quite laudable) “emotional capacities we’ve gained” in the past decades, the idea that this is all marriage actually does is a pretty limited, and completely strange when it comes to, for example, gay couples who desperately need social recognition so they can get health care, or whatever it may be (and it may be a lot of things, which seem not to trouble Greif’s imagination at all).

    Of course, I haven’t even gotten to your point about the ethical work it does, if that’s putting it right; I’m still choking on his bizarre economic argument. But I like that position quite a lot, as well.

  2. My main problem with Greif’s piece—a problem which Zunguzungu’s post gets at, I —think—is his naive assumption that non-monogamous, commitment-free sex is immune to the same pressures of conventionality and hierarchy that afflict marriage. Do we not have Maxim magazine, not to mention seduction classes and books for men trying to score? Greif would probably respond that he’s talking about a more radical sexuality, one that defies these structures, but it’s unclear why he should grant that to uncommitted sex while condemning all marriage to the pit of conventionality that is the nuclear family.

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