With characteristic lucidity, Eivor Oftestad analyses a recent documentary on surrogate parenthood. We assume we know what the parental-filial social contract consists in. She helpfully highlights the extent to which it is conditioned by changing circumstances:
‘Our understanding of what a child is cannot be taken for granted. It reflects, at any time, conditions and notions prevalent in cultural paradigms. An agrarian society understood the begetting of children as generation. The industrial society was inclined to regard it as production. Today, in a consumerist society that hardly permits experiences of deferred need, it is increasingly seen in terms of acquisition – and everything, as we know, can be acquired if we pay for it.’
Do we think in terms of being given children or of getting them? The question really matters.