The Problem with Polygamy

Philosophical Topics, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 109-122, 2009

23 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2009 Last revised: 5 Jan 2015

See all articles by Thom Brooks

Thom Brooks

Durham University - Law School

Date Written: January 22, 2009


Polygamy is a hotly contested practice and open to widespread misunderstandings. This practice is defined as a relationship between either one husband and multiple wives or one wife and multiple husbands. Today, 'polygamy' almost exclusively takes the form of one husband with multiple wives. In this article, my focus will centre on limited defences of polygamy offered recently by Chesire Calhoun and Martha Nussbaum. I will argue that these defences are unconvincing. The problem with polygamy is primarily that it is a structurally inegalitarian practice in both theory and fact. Polygamy should be opposed for this reason.

Note: This paper is an earlier draft of Thom Brooks, "The Problem with Polygamy," Philosophical Topics 37(2) (2009): 109-22.

Keywords: polygamy, Calhoun, Nussbaum, Brooks, Parekh, Barry, marriage, polygyny, polyandry, polyamory, egalitarianism, egalitarian, inegalitarian, multiculturalism, toleration

JEL Classification: K0, K10, K14, K19, K30, K39, K40, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Brooks, Thom, The Problem with Polygamy (January 22, 2009). Philosophical Topics, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 109-122, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Thom Brooks (Contact Author)

Durham University - Law School ( email )

Durham Law School
Durham University
Durham, County Durham DH1 3ET
United Kingdom
+441913344365 (Phone)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics