[LMB] OT: Social structures, was Build your own Emperor

Marc Wilson marc.wilson at gmx.co.uk
Fri Sep 22 21:28:35 BST 2017

On Fri, 22 Sep 2017 06:31:27 +0000, Gwynne Powell
<gwynnepowell at hotmail.com> wrote:

>From the discussion about matrilineal societies, a few ponderings....

>Or polyandry, where a woman has two or more husbands (at the same time). Was the system in some rural societies, where all the sons married the same woman. It meant that they stayed and worked on the family farm, all sons had a share. Paternity of children didn't need to be identified, the brothers shared paternity of the children. It kept adult males working on the farm without having to split the land between many sons and cousins in the next generation.

Still goes on in part of Tibet and rural Nepal.  But for slightly
different reasons: the people are traders, mostly on foot.  So a husband
can be away for months at a time.  
>Or polygamy, where inheritance is tracked through the male line. Multiple wives means that a man is far more likely to have several sons, and can select the best as the main heir. The wives do need to be controlled or coralled in some way to ensure security of paternity.

Strictly speaking, that's "polygyny" (many women); polygamy just means
"many spouses (spice?)" and polyandry is a form of polygamy, as are
group marriages.

There's a minority culture in Northern China where the people live on a
lake, in houseboats.  The women own everything, and men just "visit", by
invitation, and are kicked out when they become boring.  Can't recall
the name, but I remember a fascinating documentary about it.

And of course, with longer lives, there's the possibility of Heinlein's
"Line Marriage".  Don't know if anyone has ever actually done this, but
it has some interesting properties.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, 
the saddest are these: "It might have been!" 
    - John Greenleaf Whittier

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