A declining marriage rate, rising divorce rate, families breaking up and reforming, homosexual marriage and adoption. Where are the transformations in the family today taking us? In order to understand what is happening and what awaits us, the world-renowned anthropologist Maurice Godelier has decided to open up the whole question of kinship, surveying the accumulated experiences of humanity as regards marriages and unions, the organization of lines of descent, sexuality and sexual prohibitions. In parallel, Godelier studies the history of the study of kinship, from the nineteenth century to the present, in order to develop his own hypotheses. He concludes that it is nowhere the case that a man and a woman are sufficient on their own to bring a child into existence, and nowhere are relations of kinship or the family the foundation stone of a society. Godelier argues that the changes of the last thirty years do not herald disappearance or death agony of kinship but rather its remarkable metamorphosis - one that, ironically, has brought us closer to the "traditional" societies studied by ethnologists.
MAURICE GODELIER is Professor of Anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. His publications include Rationality and Irrationality in Economics, The Mental and the Material, The Making of Great Men, The Enigma of the Gift and In and Out of the West.