In what way does the contraception practiced by some couples have a political dimension? Isn't it a purely private affair?

a) What is politically worrisome is that the radical separation of sex from procreation allows for the intervention of a third party - for example, a doctor, whether ordered to do so or not - in the most intimate interpersonal relationship. Control over the sexual conduct of spouses, that is to say fertility, risks being transferred to a new class of technocrats or to the state. Alas, examples from China and Vietnam are only too well known, but people neglect to reflect on them. They also neglect to reflect on other examples just as disturbing like that of Brazil.1

b) Also our society is witnessing two new forms of alienation.

Many children are without parents as well as parents without children. Infants born outside of wedlock, of the same mother but of different fathers, are found mainly in many Latin American countries. Deprived of the affection of a family, they become delinquents, drug "dealers," criminals and prostitutes. This is the drama of the street urchins. If we but observe that children born outside of marriage are the expression of a significant aspect of demographic phenomena in the Third World, then it becomes all the more urgent for us to work at reaffirming the value of the family.

On the other hand, if it is not rare that children are alienated from their parents, it is becoming more and more frequent that spouses are deprived of the natural result of their conduct which is procreation. We are witnessing the dawn of the very reverse of the situation denounced by Marx. For him, in effect, the proles, or offspring, were the sole riches for the proletariat of which they weren’t deprived. The proletariat described by Marx was deprived, not of children, but of the product of their labor.2 Now couples of the twenty-first century run the risk of being alienated from their offspring.


  1. See Délcio da Fonseca Sobrinho, Estado e População. Uma história do Planejamento familiar no Brasil. (Rio de Janeiro: Rosa dos Tempos et FNUAP, 1993). On the attitude of the US and of the Brazilian military government, see 91-100. One should finally refer to Carlos Penna Botto, "Explosão demográfica," Revista maritima brasileira (Rio de Janeiro) 113 (Jan.-March 1993) 103-113.
  2. Hannah Arendt devoted several remarkable pages to the relationships between work and procreation in Condition de l'homme moderne (Paris: Calman-Levy, 1958, reprinted in 1988). See, for example, pp. 133, 152f.

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