A reader sends me the following quote from Nietzsche about what he regarded as the collapse of marriage as an institution over a century ago. What strikes me is how theoconservative he sounds to a contemporary ear. His rhetoric is very close to that of Stanley Kurtz and other anti-modernists on the far right. The loathing of Western Europe, the elevating of more primitive, patriarchal forms of marriage, the celebration of manliness, the defense of torture, the insistence on marital procreation: all these are now integral parts of theo-conservatism, which, in so many ways, is an attempt to resurrect Aquinas in the light of Nietzsche. Here's a quote that could well have come from Stanley Kurtz, as expressed in Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols":
"Witness modern marriage. All rationality has clearly vanished from modern marriage; yet that is no objection to marriage, but to modernity. The rationality of marriage - that lay in the husband's sole juridical responsibility, which gave marriage a center of gravity, while today it limps on both legs. The rationality of marriage - that lay in its indissolubility in principle, which lent it an accent that could be heard above the accident of feeling, passion, and what is merely momentary. It also lay in the family's responsibility for the choice of a spouse.
With the growing indulgence of love matches, the very foundation of marriage has been eliminated, that which alone makes an institution of it. Never, absolutely never, can an institution be founded on an idiosyncrasy; one cannot, as I have said, found marriage on "love" - it can be founded on the sex drive, on the property drive (wife and child as property), on the drive to dominate, which continually organizes for itself the smallest structure of domination, the family, and which needs children and heirs to hold fast - physiologically too - to an attained measure of power, influence, and wealth, in order to prepare for long-range tasks, for a solidarity of instinct between the centuries. Marriage as an institution involves the affirmation of the largest and most enduring form of organization: when society cannot affirm itself as a whole, down to the most distant generations, then marriage has altogether no meaning. Modern marriage has lost its meaning - consequently one abolishes it."
Or reinvents it, as we have in the West - and long before gays sought to join it. I'm much more at home in modernity than Nietzsche was. In fact, I celebrate many aspects of it. And in that celebration of modernity lies the faultline in current conservatism. I'm for it, with multiple qualifications. They're against it - with varying degrees of regret.
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