Book Notes: Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact

What’s really curious is that serious English-speaking writers have nothing to say about the global transformations we are witnessing. Even Richard Russo is stuck in the 1990s and can move ahead. If one wants to read crisis fiction in English, one has to turn to the authors of unpretentious thrillers like Tana French or Michelle Richmond. 

The Marriage Pact has zero artistic value but it was written by somebody who is very aware of the costs of globalization and whose novel explores the challenges of the liquid world. The novel speaks to the anxieties of successful professionals who know that, in order to preserve their hard-won position of wealth and relevance in the fluid world, they need to shed anything that might tie them down and impede their efforts to imitate ‘the lightning-speed movement of capital.’ 

The only thing that can do that for members of the transnational professional elites is marriage. Marriage is, on the one hand, a marker of a high-class status that is increasingly elusive for anybody who is not succeeding in the new economy, and on the other, an obstacle to constant movement. How can one find a balance between the status that marriage confers and the problems it creates for those who want to remain part of the liquid capital’s elite?

Richmond is worried that the globalization will end up sweeping away marriage because it’s incompatible with the needs of capital. (And this is stated in the novel in pretty much these very terms.) As it is, the only durable links of human connection and interdependence that (at least some) people can rely upon are those of marriage. Take that away, and you’ll see a bunch of solitary, utterly dehumanized fanatics of work who live in lonely luxury and are completely divorced from other human beings. This will complete the dehumanization of the transnational elites, which obviously won’t be good for anybody. 

These are all crucial issues and I’m stunned, just stunned that not a single serious writer in this country is picking up on such a fruitful subject. 

I recommend the novel because it gives food for thought and is devoid of escapism.


3 thoughts on “Book Notes: Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact”

  1. Should one own real estate, or any objects — or have all assets liquid? (My theory is that we need physical objects, I do not trust the financial markets.)
    Only durable links? Most marriages don’t last as long as friendships, organization and church memberships, etc. Maybe now they will last longer than jobs, though.


    1. Hey, thanks for mentioning the new colle tion of Bauman’s articles on your blog. I had no idea it existed, and now I already ordered it. It was edited by Bordoni who, on this subject, is sometimes better than even Bauman.


  2. “These are all crucial issues and I’m stunned, just stunned that not a single serious writer in this country is picking up on such a fruitful subject. ”

    My guess is that more Americans aren’t writing about it because they don’t perceive it the way that Spanish authors do. They probably see liquid capital not as the dissolution of local values but rather as an expansion of specifically American values which is not that alarming to them (and the disruptions are seen as bumps on the road to a great future and not as massive disruptions). To be clear, I don’t agree with this position at all but it might be part of their thinking.

    Not sure about other countries…


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