J. D. Unwin

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File:J-D-UNWIN c1917.png
Unwin c. 1917, Captain, Northamptonshire Regiment

Joseph Daniel Unwin MC (1895 – 1936) was a British ethnologist and social anthropologist at Oxford University and Cambridge University.

Contributions to anthropology

In Sex and Culture (1934), Unwin studied 80 primitive tribes and 6 known civilizations through 5,000 years of history and found a positive correlation between the cultural achievement of a people and the sexual restraint they observe.[1] "Sex and Culture is a work of the highest importance," Aldous Huxley wrote;

Unwin's conclusions, which are based upon an enormous wealth of carefully sifted evidence, may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of four cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the rationalistic the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.[2]

According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses it cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The process, says the author, is irreversible:

The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.[3]

See also


  • Sexual Regulations and Human Behaviour. London: Williams & Norgate ltd., 1933.
  • Sex and Culture. London: Oxford University Press, 1934.
  • The Scandal of Imprisonment for Debt. London: Simpkin Marshall Limited, 1935.
  • Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behaviour. London: Oxford University Press, 1935.
  • Sex Compatibility in Marriage. New York: Rensselaer, 1939.
  • Hopousia: Or, The Sexual and Economic Foundations of a New Society, with and introduction by Aldous Huxley. New York: Oskar Piest, 1940.
    • Our Economic Problems and Their Solution (An Extract from "Hopousia.") London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1944.

Selected articles

  • "Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy,” The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XXV, 1927.
  • "The Classificatory System of Relationship," Man, Vol. XXIX, Sep., 1929.
  • "Kinship," Man, Vol. XXX, Apr., 1930.
  • "Reply to Dr. Morant's 'Cultural Anthropology and Statistics'," Man, Vol. XXXV, Mar., 1935.


  • Dark Rapture: The Sex-life of the African Negro, with an Introduction by J. D. Unwin. New York: Walden Publication, 1939.


  1. "Any human society is free to choose either to display great energy or to enjoy sexual freedom; the evidence is that it cannot do both for more than one generation." Unwin, J. D. (1934) Sex and Culture. London: Oxford University Press, p. 412.
  2. Huxley, Aldous (1946). "Ethics." In: Ends and Means. London: Chatto & Windus, pp. 311–12.
  3. Unwin, J. D. (1927). "Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy,” The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XXV, p. 662.

Further reading

External links