Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: Man and Woman in the Age of Violence - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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2: Man and Woman in the Age of Violence - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Man and Woman in the Age of Violence
Recent ethnographical and historical research has provided a wealth of material on which to base a judgment of the history of sexual relations, and the new science of psycho-analysis has laid the foundations for a scientific theory of sexual life. So far sociology has not begun to understand the wealth of ideas and material available from these sources. It has not been able to restate the problems in such a way that they are adjusted to the questions that should be its first study today. What it says about exogamy and endogamy, about promiscuity, not to mention matriarchy and patriarchy, is quite out of touch with the theories one is now entitled to put forward. In fact, sociological knowledge of the earliest history of marriage and the family is so defective that one cannot draw on it for an interpretation of the problems which occupy us here. It is on fairly secure ground where it is dealing with conditions in historical times but nowhere else.
Unlimited rule of the male characterizes family relations where the principle of violence dominates. Male aggressiveness, which is implicit in the very nature of sexual relations, is here carried to the extreme. The man seizes possession of the woman and holds this sexual object in the same sense in which he has other goods of the outer world. Here woman becomes completely a thing. She is stolen and bought; she is given away, sold away, ordered away; in short, she is like a slave in the house. During life the man is her judge; when he dies she is buried in his grave along with his other possessions.67 With almost absolute unanimity the older legal sources of almost every nation show that this was once the lawful state of affairs. Historians usually try, especially when dealing with the history of their own nations, to soften the painful impression which a description of these conditions leaves on a modern mind. They point out that practice was milder than the letter of the law, that the harshness of the law did not cloud the relations between the married couple. For the rest, they get away as quickly as possible from a subject which does not seem to fit too well into their system, by dropping a few remarks about the ancient severity of morals and purity of family life.68 But these attempts at justification, to which their nationalist point of view and a predilection for the past seduce them, are distorted. The conception afforded by the old laws and law books of the relations between man and woman is not a theoretical speculation of unworldly dreamers. It is a picture direct from life and reproduces exactly what men, and women too, believed of marriage and intercourse between the sexes. That a Roman woman who stood in the “manus” of the husband or under the guardianship of the clan, or an ancient German woman who remained subject to the “munt” all her life, found this relation quite natural and just, that they did not revolt against it inwardly, or make any attempt to shake off the yoke—this does not prove that a broad chasm had developed between law and practice. It only shows that the institution suited the feeling of women; and this should not surprise us. The prevailing legal and moral views of a time are held not only by those whom they benefit but by those, too, who appear to suffer from them. Their domination is expressed in that fact—that the people from whom they claim sacrifices also accept them. Under the principle of violence, woman is the servant of man. In this she too sees her destiny. She shares the attitude to which the New Testament has given the most terse expression:
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.69
The principle of violence recognizes only the male. He alone possesses power, hence he alone has rights. Woman is merely a sexual object. No woman is without a lord, be it father or guardian, husband or employer. Even the prostitutes are not free; they belong to the owner of the brothel. The guests make their contracts, not with them, but with him. The vagabond woman is free game, whom everyone may use according to his pleasure. The right to choose a man herself does not belong to the woman. She is given to the husband and taken by him. That she loves him is her duty, perhaps also her virtue; the sentiment will sharpen the pleasure which a man derives from marriage. But the woman is not asked for her opinion. The man has the right to repudiate or divorce her; she herself has no such right.
Thus in the age of violence, belief in man’s lordship triumphs over all older tendencies to evolve equal rights between the sexes. Legend preserves a few traces of a time when woman enjoyed a greater sexual freedom—the character of Brünhilde, for example—but these are no longer understood. But the dominion of man is so great that it has come into conflict with the nature of sexual intercourse and for sheer sexual reasons man must, in his own interest, eventually weaken this dominion.
For it is against nature that man should take woman as a will-less thing. The sexual act is a mutual give and take, and a merely suffering attitude in the woman diminishes man’s pleasure. To satisfy himself he must awaken her response. The victor who has dragged the slave into his marriage bed, the buyer who has traded the daughter from her father must court for that which the violation of the resisting woman cannot give. The man who outwardly appears the unlimited master of his woman is not so powerful in the house as he thinks; he must concede a part of his rule to the woman, even though he ashamedly conceals this from the world.
To this is added a second factor. The sexual act gradually becomes an extraordinary psychic effort which succeeds only with the assistance of special stimuli. This becomes more and more so in proportion as the individual is compelled by the principle of violence, which makes all women owned women and thus renders more difficult sexual intercourse, to restrain his impulses and to control his natural appetites. The sexual act now requires a special psychic attitude to the sexual object. This is love, unknown to primitive man and to the man of violence, who use every opportunity to possess, without selection. The characteristic of love, the overvaluation of the object, cannot exist when women occupy the position of contempt which they occupy under the principle of violence. For under this system she is merely a slave, but it is the nature of love to conceive her as a queen.
Out of this contrast arises the first great conflict in the relations of the sexes which we can perceive in the full light of history. Marriage and love become contradictory. The forms in which this contrast appears vary, but in essence it always remains the same. Love has entered the feelings and thoughts of men and women and becomes ever more and more the central point of psychic life, giving meaning and charm to existence. But at first it has nothing to do with marriage and the relations between husband and wife. This inevitably leads to grave conflicts, conflicts which are indeed revealed to us in the epic and lyric poetry of the age of chivalry. These conflicts are familiar to us because they are immortalized in imperishable works of art and because they are still treated by epigones and by that art which takes its themes from such primitive conditions as persist at the present day. But we moderns cannot grasp the essence of the conflict. We cannot understand what is to prevent a solution which would satisfy all parties, why the lovers must remain separated and tied to those they do not love. Where love finds love, where man and woman desire nothing except to be allowed to remain forever devoted to each other, there, according to our view of the matter everything should be quite simple. The kind of poetry which deals with no other situation than this can, under the circumstances of present day life, do nothing less than bring Hansel and Gretel70 into each other’s arms, a denouement which is no doubt calculated to delight the readers of novels, but which is productive of no tragic conflict.
If, without knowledge of the literature of the age of chivalry, and basing our judgment merely on information about the relations of the sexes derived from other sources, we tried to picture for ourselves the psychic conflict of chivalric gallantry, we should probably imagine a situation in which a man is torn between two women: one his wife, to whom is bound the fate of his children; the other the lady to whom belongs his heart. Or we should delineate the position of a wife neglected by her husband, who loves another. Yet nothing would lie farther from an age dominated by the principle of violence. The Greek who divided his time between the hetaeras (prostitutes or courtesans) and love-boys by no means felt that his relationship with his wife was a psychic burden, and she herself did not see in the love given to the courtesan any encroachment on her own rights. Neither the troubadour who devoted himself wholly to the lady of his heart nor his wife who waited patiently at home suffered under the conflict between love and marriage. Both Ulrich von Lichtenstein71 and his good housewife found the chivalrous “Minnedienst” just as it should be. In fact, the conflict in chivalrous love was of an altogether different nature. When the wife granted the utmost favours to another the rights of the husband were injured. However eagerly he himself set out to win the favours of other women, he would not tolerate interference in his property rights, he would not hear of anyone possessing his woman. This is a conflict based on the principles of violence. The husband is offended, not because the love of his wife is directed away from him, but because her body, which he owns, is to belong to others. Where, as so often in antiquity and the orient, the love of man sought not the wives of others but prostitutes, female slaves, and love-boys, all standing outside society, a conflict could not arise. Love forces the conflict only from the side of male jealousy. The man alone, as owner of his wife, can claim to possess completely. The wife has not the same right over her husband. In the essentially different judgment bestowed upon the adultery of a man and the adultery of a woman and in the different manner in which husband and wife regard the adultery of one another, we see today the remnants of that code, which is otherwise already incomprehensible to us.
Under such circumstances, as long as the principle of violence rules, the impulse to love is denied an opportunity to develop. Banished from the homely hearth it seeks out all manner of hiding places, where it assumes queer forms. Libertinage grows rampant, perversions of the natural instincts become more and more common. Conditions are conducive to the spread of venereal diseases. Whether syphilis was indigenous to Europe or whether it was introduced after the discovery of America is a questionable point. Whatever the truth, we know that it began to ravage Europe like an epidemic about the beginning of the sixteenth century. With the misery it brought, the love play of chivalric romanticism was at an end.
[67. ]Westermarck, Geschichte der menschlichen Ehe, trans. Katscher and Grazer, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1902), p. 122; Weinhold, Die deutschen Frauen in dem Mittelalter, 3rd ed. (Vienna, 1897), vol. 2, pp. 9 ff. Publisher’s Note: The Westermarck book first appeared in English as The History of Human Marriage (1891).
[68. ]For example, Weinhold, op. cit., pp. 7 ff.
[69. ]I Cor xi.9.
[70. ]The German edition refers to “Hans und Grete,” not Hansel and Gretel, the brother and sister in the Grimm fairy tale. Most likely these names were merely like “John and Mary.” (Pub.)
[71. ]Ulrich von Lichtenstein, a thirteenth-century poet, caricatured the form of chivalry of a knight’s homage to his mistress, “Minnedienst,” in his Frauendienst (1255).