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Old 11-27-2013, 01:01 PM
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hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Default Institutions, or The Personal and the Political

I have at least one theoretical worry about the ideas in this thread.

To use the label 'relationship anarchy' for an approach to relationships necessarily takes all of this out of the realm of the personal and into the realm of the political: to call oneself an anarchist in the serious, theoretical sense of the term is to take a stand on the nature and necessity of social and political institutions.

In truth, I think this social and political aspect of non-monogamy is also latent in 'polyamory', though there it's buried under language that frames everything in terms of personal preferences.

Really, though, we should be aware of the social and political radicalism of any attempt seriously to practice non-monogamy.

Institutions serve to limit and channel human activity in particular directions, providing predictability and stability for our lives together in the world; institutions can make it easier - or even possible - to secure things generally regarded as good, all else being equal, that we cannot secure as individuals.

To the extent conventional forms of relationship are embedded in institutions that promulgate and enforce them, anyone interested in an idea like RA would have to understand those institutions in some depth and ask very seriously whether and how society more broadly would function without them if everyone was really free to work things out for themselves, from the ground up.

Anyone who would seriously practice non-monogamy must also understand that institutions have a lot of momentum: they can be hard to change and have a nasty tendency to roll right over those who stand opposed to them.

Part of what makes them hard to change is that people tend to internalize the limits and channels established by those institutions, incorporating them into their values and even their perception. Hence, perhaps, the persistence of the idea of 'romance', as discussed above.

Now, we may be at a moment in the history of our own culture(s) (i.e., societies with English heritage?) that those who have a mind to can get away with developing unconventional approaches to relationships in their own private lives, and there is at least the hint of a possibility of nudging the relevant institutions in the direction of being still more permissive of "deviance" . . . but that's not at all certain.

Last edited by hyperskeptic; 11-27-2013 at 05:08 PM.
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