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What’s the future of the family in America? How will that change our government?

11 November 2012

Summary:  As the dust from the election settles, let’s not forget the powerful elements of the conservative critique of 21st C America. Here we look at one of the many forces driving the expansion of the government — the family. What might be its fate in the next few generations?

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Contents

  1. A question about the family, our government,
    and the future of America
  2. The answer: it’s toast, it’s growing, and …
  3. Allan Boom explains
  4. For More Information

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(1)  A question about the family, our government, & America

Question from Matt D, in response to Civil rights just took a step forward, the slow hard way. The right way. (about same-sex marriages):

I read your first link with quotes from de Tocqueville, and I have a question: How does your support for gay marriage square with de Tocqueville’s observation that the suppression of natural hierarchy among individuals drives societies towards centralized despotism? It is clear enough that the legitimization of same-sex marriage is not a driver of the degeneration of well-defined gender roles, which has been taking place over the last half-century. But it is the direct result of this degeneration, and helps to make it more durable.

Through the lens of de Tocqueville’s analysis, would not the blurring of male-female distinctions represent the elimination of the last natural focus of authority in the smallest and most basic unit of human organization? I won’t speculate about the observable results of this process, as that is a topic where there is much diversity of opinion. But on a purely theoretical level, using de Tocqueville’s framework, will not the man who can no longer order his family and the woman who can no longer be protected by her man be filled with a thirst for an ever-stronger and more intrusive centralized authority?

(2)  The answer: it’s toast, it’s growing, and …

Here we come to deep waters, in which the conservative viewpoint has much to say — if we can find these insights among the trash in which it hides today.

In brief, the family is toast in its current configuration. My guess is that the places where this disintegration have advanced most (eg, Scandinavia, Los Angeles) society is coasting, support by inherited cultural traditions which no longer have any foundation. My guess is that this is one of our greatest social problems, which the boomers bequeath to future generations much as the Founders did slavery. We’ve built a system that we don’t like with hopes it will all work, but no ideas as to how.

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I agree with de Tocqueville, that the disintegration of the family leads to the growth of the State. Like night follows day. This might be the factor unforeseen by Martin van Creveld that not only prevents the decline of the State — but empowers it beyond anything seen so far.

(3)  Allan Boom explains

For an explanation of our situation and how we got here I recommend turning to Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (1987), pages 97 -140. Here’s a brief excerpt, which only hint at the depth of Bloom’s reasoning.

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Sex

Contrary to the popular prejudice that America is the nation of unintellectual and anti-intellectual people, where ideas are at best means to ends, America is actually nothing but a great stage on which theories have been played as tragedy and comedy. This is a regime founded by philosophers and their students. All the recalcitrant matter of the historical is gave way here before the practical and philosophical ought to be, as the raw natural givens of this wild continent meekly submitted to the yoke of theoretical science.

… Now we have arrived at one of the ultimate acts in our drama, the informing and reforming of our most intimate private lives by our principles. Sex and its consequences—love, marriage and family—have finally become the theme of the national project, and here the problem of nature, always present but always repressed in the reconstruction of man demanded by freedom and equality, becomes insistent.

… The change in sexual relations, which now provide an unending challenge to human ingenuity, came over us in two successive waves in the last two decades. The first was the sexual revolution; the second, feminism. The sexual revolution marched under the banner of freedom; feminism under that of equality.

… At the origins of modern natural rights teachings, freedom and equality were political principles intended to bring both justice and effectiveness to the relationships of ruling and being ruled, which in the conventional order were constituted by pretended rights of strength, wealth, tradition, age and birth. The relations of king and subject, master and slave, lord and vassal, patrician and pleb, rich and poor, were revealed to be purely manmade and hence not morally binding, apart from the consent of the parties to them, which became the only source of political legitimacy. Civil society was to be reconstructed on the natural ground of man’s common humanity.

Then it would appear that all relationships or relatedness within civil society would also depend on the free consent of individuals. … The radical transformation of the relations between men and women and parents and children was the inevitable consequence of the success of the new politics of consent.

… Hobbes and Locke supposed that, although the political order would be constituted out of individuals, the subpolitical units would remain largely unaffected. Indeed, they counted on the family, as an intermediate between individual and the state, partially to replace what was being lost in passionate attachment to the polity. The immediate and reliable love of one’s own property, wife and children can more effectively counterpoise purely individual selfishness than does the distant and abstract love of country. Moreover, concern for the safety of one’s family is a powerful reason for loyalty to the state, which protects them.

The nation as a community of families is a formula that until recently worked very well in the United States. However, it is very questionable whether this solution is viable over the very long run, because there are two contrary views of nature present here. And, as the political philosophers have always taught, the one that is authoritative in the political regime will ultimately inform its parts.

In the social contract view, nature has nothing to say about relationships and rank order; in the older view, which is part and parcel of ancient political philosophy, nature is prescriptive. Are the relations between men and women and parents and children determined by natural impulse or are they the product of choice and consent? In Aristotle’s Politics, the subpolitical or prepolitical family relations point to the necessity of political rule and are perfected by it, whereas in the state-of-nature teachings, political rule is derived entirely from the need for protection of individuals, bypassing their social relations completely.

Are we dealing with political actors or with men and women? In the former case, persons are free to construct whatever relations they please with one another; in the latter, prior to any choice, a preexisting frame largely determines the relations of men and women.

… Man in the state of nature, either in the first one or the one we have now, can walk away from a sexual encounter and never give it another thought. But a woman may have a child, and in fact, as becomes ever clearer, may want to have a child. Sex can be an indifferent thing for men, but it really cannot quite be so for women. This is what might be called the female drama.

Modernity promised that all human beings would be treated equally. Women took that promise seriously and rebelled against the old order. But as they have succeeded, men have also been liberated from their old constraints. And women, now liberated and with equal careers, nevertheless find they still desire to have children, but have no basis for claiming that men should share their desire for children or assume a responsibility for them. So nature weighs more heavily on women.

In the old order they were subordinated and dependent on men; in the new order they are isolated, needing men, but not able to count on them, and hampered in the free development of their individuality. The promise of modernity is not really fulfilled for women.

… Locke believed, and the events of our time seem to confirm his belief, that women have an instinctive attachment to children that cannot be explained as self-interest or calculation. The attachment of mother and child is perhaps the only undeniable natural social bond. It is not always effective, and it can, with effort, be suppressed, but it is always a force. And this is what we see today.

But what about the father? Maybe he loves imagining his own eternity through the generations stemming from him. But this is only an act of imagination, one that can be attenuated by other concerns and calculations, as well as by his losing faith in the continuation of his name for very long in the shifting conditions of democracy. Of necessity, therefore, it was understood to be the woman’s job to get and hold the man by her charms and wiles because, by nature, nothing else would induce him to give up his freedom in favor of the heavy duties of family.

Here Come the Brides!

But women no longer wish to do this, and they, with justice, consider it unfair according to the principles governing us. So the cement that bound the family together crumbled. It is not the children who break away; it is the parents who abandon them. Women are no longer willing to make unconditional and perpetual commitments on unequal terms, and, no matter what they hope, nothing can effectively make most men share equally the responsibilities of childbearing and child-rearing. The divorce rate is only the most striking symptom of this breakdown.

More than two hundred years ago Rousseau saw with alarm the seeds of the breakdown of the family in liberal society, and he dedicated much of his genius to trying to correct it. He found that the critical connection between man and woman was being broken by individualism, and focused his efforts, theoretical and practical, on encouraging passionate romantic love in them. He wanted to rebuild and reinforce that connection, previously encumbered by now discredited religious and civil regulation, on modern grounds of desire and consent.

… He set utter abandon to the sentiments and imaginations of idealized love against calculation of individual interest. Rousseau inspired a whole genre of novelistic and poetic literature that lived feverishly for over a century, coexisting with the writings of the Benthams and the Mills who were earnestly at work homogenizing the sexes. His undertaking had the heaviest significance because human community was at risk. In essence he was persuading women freely to be different from men and to take on the burden of entering a positive contract with the family, as opposed to a negative, individual, self-protective contract with the state.

Tocqueville picked up this theme, described the absolute differentiation of husband’s and wife’s functions and ways of life in the American family, and attributed the success of American democracy to its women, who freely choose their lot. This he contrasted to the disorder, nay, chaos, of Europe, which he attributed to a misunderstanding or misapplication of the principle of equality — only an abstraction when not informed by nature’s imperatives.

This whole effort failed and now arouses either women’s anger, as an attempt to take from them rights guaranteed to all human beings, or their indifference, as irrelevant in a time when women do exactly the same things as men and face the same difficulties in ensuring their independence.

Rousseau, Tocqueville and all the others now have only historical significance and at most provide us with a serious alternative perspective for analyzing our situation. Romantic love is now as alien to us as knight errantry, and young men are no more likely to court a woman than to wear a suit of armor, not only because it is not fitting, but because it would be offensive to women.

… Here Rousseau is most helpful, for he honestly exposed the nerve of that incantation, whereas the discussion of roots is an evasion. There is a passage in Emile, his educational novel, which keeps coming back to me as I look at my students. It occurs in the context of the teacher’s arrangements with the parents of the pupil whose total education he is undertaking, and in the absence of any organic relation between husbands and wives and parents and children after having passed through the solvent of modem theory and practice:

I would even want the pupil and the governor to regard themselves as so inseparable that the lot of each in life is always a common object for them. As soon as they envisage from afar their separation, as soon as they foresee the moment which is going to make them strangers to one another, they are already strangers. Each sets up his own little separate system; and both engrossed by the time they will no longer be together, stay only reluctantly.

That is it. Everyone has “his own little separate system.” … The possibility of separation is already the fact of separation, inasmuch as people today must plan to be whole and self-sufficient, and cannot risk interdependence. Imagination compels everyone to look forward to the day of separation in order to see how he will do. The energies people should use in the common enterprise are exhausted in preparation for independence. What would, in the case of union, be a building stone becomes a stumbling block on the path to secession. The goals of those who are together naturally and necessarily must become a common good; what one must live with can be accepted. But there is no common good for those who are to separate. The presence of choice already changes the character of relatedness. And the more separation there is, the more there will be.

This continual shifting of the sands in our desert — separation from places, persons, beliefs — produces the psychic state of nature where reserve and timidity are the prevailing dispositions. We are social solitaries.

Divorce

… The most visible sign of our increasing separateness and, in its turn, the cause of ever greater separateness is divorce. … Divorce in America is the most palpable indication that people are not made to live together, and that, although they want and need to create a general will out of the particular wills, those particular wills constantly reassert themselves. There is a quest, but ever more hopeless, for arrangements and ways of putting the broken pieces back together. The task is equivalent to squaring the circle …

The decomposition of this bond is surely America’s most urgent social problem. But nobody even tries to do anything about it. The tide seems to be irresistible.

Love

The problem, however, is not that people are not authentic enough, but that they have no common object, no common good, no natural complementarity. Selves, of course, have no relation to anything but themselves, and this is why “communication” is their problem.

Gregariousness, like that of the animals in the herd, is admitted by all. Grazing together side by side and rubbing against one another are the given, but there is a desire and a necessity to have something more, to make the transition from the herd to the hive, where there is real interconnection. Hence, the hive — community, roots, extended family — is much praised, but no one is willing to transform his indeterminate self into an all too determinate worker, drone or queen, to submit to the rank-ordering and division of labor necessary to any whole that is more than just a heap of discrete parts.

Selves want to be wholes, but have lately also taken to longing to be parts. This is the reason why conversation about relationships remains so vacuous, abstract and unprogrammatic, with its whole content stored in a bottle labeled “commitment.” It is also why there is so much talk about phenomena like “bonding.” In the absence of any connectedness in their souls, human beings seek reassurance in fruitless analogy to mechanisms found in brutes.

No, it probably will not last.

But this will not work because human attachment always has an element of deliberate choice, denied by such analogy. One need only compare the countless novels and movies about male bonding with Aristotle’s discussion of friendship in the Ethics. Friendship, like its related phenomenon, love, is no longer within our ken because both require notions of soul and nature that, for a mixture of theoretical and political reasons, we cannot even consider.

The reliance on relationships is a self-delusion because it is founded on an inner contradiction. Relations between the sexes have always been difficult, and that is why so much of our literature is about men and women quarreling. There is certainly legitimate ground to doubt their suitability for each other given the spectrum — from the harem to Plato’s Republic — of imaginable and actually existing relations between them, whether nature acted the stepmother or God botched the creation by an afterthought, as some Romantics believed.

… The arrangement implicit in marriage, even if it is only conventional, tells those who enter into it what to expect and what the satisfactions are supposed to be. Very simply, the family is a sort of miniature body politic in which the husband’s will is the will of the whole. The woman can influence her husband’s will, and it is supposed to be informed by love of wife and children.

Now all of this has simply disintegrated. It does not exist, nor is it considered good that it should. But nothing certain has taken its place. Neither men nor women have any idea what they are getting into anymore, or, rather, they have reason to fear the worst. There are two equal wills, and no mediating principle to link them and no tribunal of last resort. What is more, neither of the wills is certain of itself.

This is where the “ordering of priorities” comes in, particularly with women, who have not yet decided which comes first, career or children. People are no longer raised to think they ought to regard marriage as the primary goal and responsibility, and their uncertainty is mightily reinforced by the divorce statistics, which imply that putting all of one’s psychological eggs in the marriage basket is a poor risk. The goals and wills of men and women have become like parallel lines, and it requires a Lobachevskyan imagination to hope they may meet.

… I am not arguing here that the old family arrangements were good or that we should or could go back to them. I am only insisting that we not cloud our vision to such an extent that we believe that there are viable substitutes for them just because we want or need them.

… women, due to the unreliability of men, have had to provide the means for their own independence. This has simply given men the excuse for being even less concerned with women’s well-being. A dependent, weak woman is indeed vulnerable and puts herself at men’s mercy. But that appeal did influence a lot of men a lot of the time. The cure now prescribed for male irresponsibility is to make them more irresponsible. And a woman who can be independent of men has much less motive to entice a man into taking care of her and her children.

… All our reforms have helped strip the teeth of our gears, which can therefore no longer mesh. They spin idly, side by side, unable to set the social machine in motion. It is at this exercise in futility that young people must look when thinking about their future.

Women are pleased by their successes, their new opportunities, their agenda, their moral superiority. But underneath everything lies the more or less conscious awareness that they are still dual beings by nature, capable of doing most things men do and also wanting to have children. They may hope otherwise, but they fully expect to pursue careers, to have to pursue careers, while caring for children alone. And what they expect and plan for is likely to happen.

The men have none of the current ideological advantages of the women, but they can opt out without too much cost. In their relations with women they have little to say; convinced of the injustice of the old order, for which they were responsible, and practically incapable of changing the direction of the juggernaut, they wait to hear what is wanted, try to adjust but are ready to take off in an instant. They want relationships, but the situation is so unclear. They anticipate a huge investment of emotional energy that is just as likely as not to end in bankruptcy, to a sacrifice of their career goals without any clarity about what reward they will reap, other than a vague togetherness.

Meanwhile, one of the strongest, oldest motives for marriage is no longer operative. Men can now easily enjoy the sex that previously could only be had in marriage. It is strange that the tiredest and stupidest bromide mothers and fathers preached to their daughters — “He won’t respect you or marry you if you give him what he wants too easily” —turns out to be the truest and most probing analysis of the current situation. Women can say they do not care, that they want men to have the right motives or none at all, but everyone, and they best of all, knows that they are being, at most, only half truthful with themselves.

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(4)  For More Information

Posts about Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind:

Posts about the writings of Alexis De Tocqueville:

  1. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  2. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  3. A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
  4. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
  5. Can Americans pull together? If not, why not?, 29 August 2008
  6. A warning from Alexis De Tocqueville about our military, 7 August 2009

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41 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 November 2012 6:01 pm

    Bloom: “The most visible sign of our increasing separateness and, in its turn, the cause of ever greater separateness is divorce.”

    It might be worth noting that divorce rates in America have been steadily decreasing since the early 1980s:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/46797203/As_Two_Income_Family_Model_Matures_Divorce_Rate_Falls
    http://psychcentral.com/lib/2012/the-myth-of-the-high-rate-of-divorce/all/1/
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18600304/ns/us_news-life/t/us-divorce-rate-falls-lowest-level

    Indeed things changed between the immediate post-war period and the close of the 1970s. It would appear that—in some strata of society—we are adapting reasonably well to those changes. Poor and poorly educated sub-cultures are not adapting in what most (of the rest?) of us would consider promising ways.

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    • 11 November 2012 6:55 pm

      (1) Bloom is not saying that the divorce rate is rising, but that the nature of our relationships is changing in response to the high rate of divorce.

      (2) Is the divorce rate rising?

      Unfortunately the news media is an unreliable guide to information about social trends. Total national divorce rates will change as the nation’s demographics evolve (eg, as the boomers age). Age-adjusted divorce rates have fallen slowly (SSA report 1979-1996).

      The probable explanation (or major factor) is the increased age at which women marry; see “Why Have Divorce Rates Fallen? The Role of Women’s Age at Marriage“, Dana Rotz (written for PhD economics at Harvard)”, October 2011 — Conclusion:

      During the past several decades, women moved into the labor force, increased their wages, and gained greater control over their fertility. As these changes occurred, divorce rates first rapidly rose but then began to fall. Although much is known about the initial rise in divorce, little had been previously said about its subsequent strong and sustained decline. This paper first demonstrates that once one controls for bride’s age, cohorts marrying from 1980 to 2004 have similar risks of divorce.

      (3) This interacts in a complex way with the primary point Bloom is making about children growing up in homes other than with the two birth parents. I have read research saying that the incidence of this continues to rise, but don’t have anything handy.

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  2. gaiasrequite permalink
    11 November 2012 7:09 pm

    FM:

    This post brings up good points!

    1. “the degeneration of well-defined gender roles,”

    Who defines gender roles? If we are speaking of the “ancient” definitions put forth by history, then we are speaking of the definition put forth by religion. But, we must not stop there, for we must ask WHICH religion has defined our historical understanding of the roles of gender? (Wikipedia on Boudica, queen of the British Iceni tribe)

    Answer: Christianity, which by its own history is not the religion of our ancestors (at least not mine I am of purely western European decent).

    If one looks at history through the eyes of Western Europe we can see a much different understanding of gender roles (.
    Here is a bit of history on just one of the women of Western Europe.
    When needed, in Celtic society, women left the home and fought side by side with the men. There is not much history on this subject, but from what I have read I cannot see that the men were intimidated by this aspect of their culture.

    I made a statement in a different comment thread that men who seek a return to the “Christians” definition of gender roles; might seek relocation to the middle east. There the people (for the most part and despite our efforts of “giving them democracy”) men still maintain the power.

    Here is an article to entice American men with traditional values to make said move. “Pakistani parents say they killed daughter for eyeing boy“, CBS, 5 November 2012.

    In short: our old belief system was based on a system of belief that shares its roots with the same culture we now are at war with.

    2. “ be filled with a thirst for an ever-stronger and more intrusive centralized authority?”

    Run a quick search on the web, type in domestic violence. It may be shocking to some FM readers, but most of the stories will involve women and or children. Returning me to another comment on the other thread, “the ridiculous idea that we women need the protection of a man, when in fact, it is to often from them that we need to be protected”.

    3. “ And a woman who can be independent of men has much less motive to entice a man into taking care of her and her children.”

    Absolutely agree with this, but it would seem the failing of the family system lies with the mans biological flaws and not with women obtaining equality. In my mind this mean to fix the break down of the family system we must first fix the man. But I believe God already did that, he created woman.

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    • 11 November 2012 7:34 pm

      gaiasrequite,

      All great questions! Here are a few thoughts in response.

      (1) “Who defines gender roles? Answer: Christianity”

      I think you’re making this far too abstract. The gender-role debate is about changes in the current roles, as it always is (this battle has raged for at least 3 millenia, perhaps longer). The various ways people justify the current roles is of rhetorical significance only. You say GOD, I say FREEDOM! We settle these debates the traditional way: the stronger social force wins. As Thucydides said:

      “Since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

      (2) “but it would seem the failing of the family system lies with the mans biological flaws and not with women obtaining equality.”

      What does it mean to declare biology a “failing”. Do you propose to complain to God, Nature’s God, or evolution? Or is genetic engineering the solution?

      To me, in the cheap seats, biology is what it is. We have to work with biological realities, but that doesn’t mean we’re always slaves to them. On the other hand, getting cross-purposes with biology has its risks. Which is Bloom’s point. He doubts that the system we’re evolving, which he describes presciently, will work. It’s too soon to say if he was right or wrong.

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    • 11 November 2012 8:51 pm

      “[I]t would seem the failing of the family system lies with the mans biological flaws and not with women obtaining equality. In my mind this mean to fix the break down of the family system we must first fix the man.” — gaiasrequite

      “To me, in the cheap seats, biology is what it is.” — Fabius Maximus

      Biology is not immutable; it changes more slowly than culture, but perhaps not as slowly as we might think. Consider that the Russian Farm-Fox experiment (“Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment“, Lyudmila N. Trut, American Scientist, March- April 1999 — “Foxes bred for tamability in a 40-year experiment exhibit remarkable transformations that suggest an interplay between behavioral genetics and development”) saw new behavior in just six generations:

      In the sixth generation bred for tameness we had to add an even higher-scoring category. Members of Class IE, the “domesticated elite,” are eager to establish human contact, whimpering to attract attention and sniffing and licking experimenters like dogs. They start displaying this kind of behavior before they are one month old. By the tenth generation, 18 percent of fox pups were elite; by the 20th, the figure had reached 35 percent. Today elite foxes make up 70 to 80 percent of our experimentally selected population.

      I suspect that in contemporary society the optimal propensity for males to display aggression must be quite a bit lower than it was five to ten generations past. While those of us alive now can’t expect to see observable change, it seems likely that male aggression a couple hundred years from now will be notably less than it was a couple hundred years ago, if social conditions continue along generally the same path. (That’s just an example; both sexes adapt over time, but will always be “behind the curve” relative to cultural changes; yet, cultural changes can’t get too far ahead of adaptation, either, or they simply won’t work.)

      In the United States, though, this is complicated by the existence of a persistent underclass, for whom selection pressures are quite different than those that affect less marginalized members of society.

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    • 11 November 2012 9:20 pm

      Coisees,

      That’s interesting! Thanks for posting this. It’s far outside my field of interest (or knowledge), but a quick check at PubMed shows a massive literature on this subject.

      I picked one that looked like a summary of sorts, and it described the various theories in this controversial field (the famous Farm-Fox experiment you cite being one pole of the debate, if I understand this correctly): “What did domestication do to dogs? A new account of dogs’ sensitivity to human actions.“, Monique A. R. Udell et al, Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, May 2010.

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    • gaiasrequite permalink
      11 November 2012 10:30 pm

      FM;
      To Clarify, my question was the definition of gender roles which defines those role by the women being in the house raising the children. I will hold to my argument that this definition is a result of Christian ideology. And, that the argument to day concerns working women (result of living in a free nation) and women with out liberty (result of following ye ol’ Adam and Eve scenario.)

      There are several different takes on the roles of gender, hence the argument. And unless we lose all of our liberties, and end up in a state more similar to the middle east, I absolutely disagree that the stronger social force will win. In a free country there are no winners or losers in this debate; people will live the life they want regardless of the definitions you, I or anyone else believe should be in place.

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    • 11 November 2012 10:46 pm

      Here gaiasrequite takes us into deep water, where even the questions become murky.

      (1) “the argument to day concerns working women (result of living in a free nation) and women with out liberty (result of following ye ol’ Adam and Eve scenario.)”

      That’s a different framing of Bloom’s concern with the nature of men & women’s relationships. It’s two adjacent but distinct questions; there are many cultures with women subordinated but working — sometimes working very hard. But it’s an important issue.

      (2) “I absolutely disagree that the stronger social force will win. In a free country there are no winners or losers in this debate; people will live the life they want regardless of the definitions you, I or anyone else believe should be in place.”

      That strikes me as unlikely. Social laws and customs have powerful effects. Women’s options in the US & UK were limited by cultural rules governing their ability to own property, have access to education and many occupations, to act without permission of their fathers/husbands. Today the lives of men and women are shaped by the laws regarding marriage and divorce.

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    • gaiasrequite permalink
      11 November 2012 11:02 pm

      “Women’s options in the US & UK were limited by cultural rules governing their ability to own property, have access to education and many occupations, to act without permission of their fathers/husbands. ”

      I am utterly confused by this statement. I live 2012 were with out the permission of my father or husband (I no longer have one of those) I own my house, I own my car, I have full custody of my children, and when I choose to return to work, I will do so without the permission of my father or husband?????

      “Today the lives of men and women are shaped by the laws regarding marriage and divorce.”

      And to this there is no response just awe.

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    • 11 November 2012 11:13 pm

      (1) “And to this there is no response just awe.”

      Ask someone who has gone through a messy divorce. There are many of them, so they’ll be easy to find.

      (2) “am utterly confused by this statement. … In a free country” … “live 2012 were with”

      The conditions for women I described applied for most of its history, slowly starting to change in the late 19th century. The 19th amendment was ratified August 1920. Yet your comment appears to state these don’t apply in a “free country”. So when did the US become a “free country” in your view?

      As I said, these are murky questions. IMO they’re too complex to discuss in this format. We wind up talking past one another.

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    • gaiasrequite permalink
      11 November 2012 11:25 pm

      The US became a free country for you ( I am guessing you are a white male correct me if I am wrong) directly after the revolutionary war. For me it was much later. I am free today because I have been given those wonderful inherent rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, you are free for the same reasons. When you and I became free however differs because of when those rights were given.

      Messy divorces, I know all about them first hand, yet I don’t believe my life has been shaped by the laws of either my marriage or divorce?

      But like you said, this is a difficult topic to discuss via blog comment so unless you have more to add I am calling a truce. I think there is quite a bit of talking past one another going on here.

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  3. gaiasrequite permalink
    11 November 2012 8:37 pm

    “We have to work with biological realities, but that doesn’t mean we’re always slaves to them.”

    I agree with this, and was my meaning to my above statement. Biology is the systems with which we are made (or the vehicles with in which “we” reside) and one of the primary systems being our brain. Our brain is nothing more than a series of chemical reactions driving us to perform various actions. FM speaks of love, a chemical reaction of the brain that can be duplicated by eating large quantities of chocolate.

    So are we more then the chemical “impulses” that drive us. I say yes and no. Some people have a higher understanding of self which allows them to easily deny said impulses when they interfere with that persons set of values and or beliefs. It is my observation however, that a large share of people do not have that ability.

    How do we fix this? “Do you propose to complain to God, Nature’s God, or evolution? Or is genetic engineering the solution?”

    None of the above.
    I believe in god but I also believe he washed his hands of us long ago.
    I also believe in the existence of a “Nature’s God” but I believe she also has washed her hands of us. Which leaves us with science and all we have to do is study more current trends to realize (that though they have given us great amounts of knowledge) they are not God or Gaia and there for should leave well enough alone.

    So where is the fix? It is within the individual. But because so many seem to have an issue with making the right choice we must depend on a system of laws and governance to keep them in line.

    I do not believe our current system is accomplishing that task. But, I also do not believe that returning to a past variant of that system is the answer. We must find a way to return to sound family structure but we must do so by taking a new untraveled road.

    I am not willing to sacrifice my potential of being human to encourage some man to want to take care of me and my children and I think it is safe to say I am not alone. If the issue is that men are irresponsible and a women’s ability to take care of her self gives them an out of the responsibility of family; then the cure occurs in the home with the way in which we raise our sons.

    I have a son, and my hope for him is that he rise above many of the insecurities that seem to plague men. That in the course of his life he need only the physiological proof of his man hood and avoid any of the life choices many men make in the effort of proving they are a man. Funny thing about that, I also have two daughters I however have no concern that they will question the validity of their womanliness. Why is that? If we a find an answer to that question we may have a solution to the fixing of men.

    Like

    • 12 November 2012 6:36 am

      gaiasrequite : “If we a find an answer to that question we may have a solution to the fixing of men.”

      Wonderful. Fine Example of a work in progress. One generation soon, women will have arrived at the Place of which their mothers could only, at best, dream of. Some men will wait and all will be exhaling a deep breath.

      Could Mr. Boom find an editor? Obtuseness works in some genres I guess.

      Breton

      Like

    • 12 November 2012 1:58 pm

      “Could Mr. Boom find an editor? Obtuseness works in some genres I guess.”

      The “fixing of men” were from gaiasrequire’s comments, not the excerpt from Bloom.

      In the chapter following this excerpt he discusses this quite common viewpoint, but believes the project will fail. Here’s a brief excerpt:

      The souls of men —their ambitious, warlike, protective, possessive character—must be dismantled in order to liberate women from their domination. Machismo— the polemical description of maleness or spiritedness, which was the central natural passion in men’s souls in the psychology of the ancients, the passion of attachment and loyalty—was the villain, the source of the difference between the sexes. The feminists were only completing a job begun by Hobbes in his project of taming the harsh elements in the soul. With machismo discredited, the positive task is to make men caring, sensitive, even nurturing, to fit the restructured family. Thus once again men must be re-educated according to an abstract project.

      … Men tend to undergo this re-education somewhat sullenly but studiously, in order to avoid the opprobrium of the sexist label and to keep peace with their wives and girlfriends. And it is indeed possible to soften men. But to make them “care” is another thing, and the project must inevitably fail.

      Like

  4. david jones permalink
    12 November 2012 5:35 pm

    “Could Mr. Boom find an editor?” i have to agree. anyway:

    “People are no longer raised to think they ought to regard marriage as the primary goal and responsibility”.

    It’s all right. Maybe its better to discover the need for reproduction and family a little later in life, make room for some of the other goals a person could pursue.

    Reproduction, romance, career, wealth, social status, adventure, security, family, freedom, spirituality? Fixating on just one is bad. Can’t pursue them all at once either- they must take turns during a persons life, so therefore you have to do them in some order. I think allowing a rearrangement of that order is a worthy experiment. I would be happy to see our society give people who try it a chance to succeed.

    Like

    • 12 November 2012 6:04 pm

      Jones.

      “Could Mr. Bloom find an editor”

      I don’t believe your comment well reflects what Bloom is saying. This is typical of the responses to his book from both Right and Left. This is too off-topic to discuss — and comments are an inadequate medium to do so. But I’ll address one aspect implicit in your comment.

      Bloom is writing descriptively, NOT prescriptively. This is one section of a book tracing how we came to be, starting with early developments in western philosophy.

      Bloom — who was gay, fyi — was shocked at how people read his book as a defense of traditional society. He was quite clear about the intent of the book — both in the preface, and in repeated mentions throughout the book. As in this from the the except given:

      … I am not arguing here that the old family arrangements were good or that we should or could go back to them. I am only insisting that we not cloud our vision to such an extent that we believe that there are viable substitutes for them just because we want or need them.

      He lists in some detail the possible consequences of the social changes we’re making, both good and bad. He wonders about the net effects — as have many people, including social scientists (which he’s not).

      We can only guess about these things, until time presents the answers.

      Like

    • 12 November 2012 6:43 pm

      Jones,

      I should have said this first: I agree with you, and (having read most of Bloom’s writings) I am confident that Bloom would as well!

      Like

    • david jones permalink
      13 November 2012 11:27 pm

      I admit I wasn’t really sure what exactly he was saying. (I have never read him, just saw the quoted exerpts). Thanks for the clarification

      Like

    • 14 November 2012 2:03 pm

      “I admit I wasn’t really sure what exactly he was saying.”

      That reflects the difficulty of capturing Bloom’s thinking in excerpts. And my lack of skill in giving and editing these excerpts. I recommend reading the book!

      Like

  5. gaiasrequite permalink
    12 November 2012 5:59 pm

    Here I would like to make a comment to both epagbrenton and the excerpt FM posted from Bloom.

    “The souls of men —their ambitious, warlike, protective, possessive character—must be dismantled in order to liberate women from their domination. Machismo— the polemical description of maleness or spiritedness, which was the central natural passion in men’s souls”

    And

    “And it is indeed possible to soften men. But to make them “care” is another thing, and the project must inevitably fail.”

    Now I will agree that there is a movement among some who believe that the problem with men is their “maleness” and that we must quash this to fix society.

    I however, adamantly disagree with that theory. I too disagree with the idea that Making men ‘care” is a project that will fail. I don’t believe we must make men care, I believe they do that on their own. What they care about where their passions lie, are of course different from those of women. Is this the issue? Shall we turn men into women and women into men? I say no.

    “The souls of men —their ambitious, warlike, protective, possessive character” Anyone who watches male and female children closely will see that the above traits are inherent in most boys, starting at a very young age. I do not see this as a problem and actually encourage it in my own son. However the way in which it is encouraged is were I see the issues arise once the child has reached adulthood.

    For example do we, as parents, nurture these traits in a way that encourages “chivalry” (if you will) or, in way that promotes the idea of “ might is right”. I see a lot of examples of parents encouraging the ladder of the two.

    I have on countless occasions heard mothers correcting their sons be countered by (generally) older males in the family with the phrase “ oh leave him alone he is just being a boy”. In some of these cases it is a situation where the boy child is tormenting the cat or the dog or the smaller children. I see this as a problem as it is IMO, going to grow into ideals of might is right and in so much, direct their natural, inherent traits for destructive ends instead of positive ones.

    The “fixing of men” is not IMO, turning them into (excuse the crudity) whining pussies. But, instead to direct their natural strengths in a way which demands responsibility and respect.

    Like

  6. Jim permalink
    12 November 2012 8:31 pm

    We are dealing with the complex relationships and linkages between culture (an historically shifting moral demand system of what we can or cannot do) social/political/economic structure (the institutional organizations of public and private power that have been created historically and possibly reflect our evolving moral demand system ) and individual character and personality(the process of socialization and individual psychological development).

    In my opinion a great tragedy of earlier political movements in the United States (for example, the populists, the progressives, the New Deal, and the new right and new left of the 1960s) is their respective failures(for various reasons) to think through all of these linkages when formulating their respective visions.

    My guess is that the chances for a significant new political mobilization and political realignment are dependent on the outcome of such analysis.

    Like

  7. underscore33 permalink
    12 November 2012 10:44 pm

    so, first off, thanks for posting on a very controversial and interesting topic. i think it’s clear to many here that the changing social structures of the US are a major cause of acrimony within our social/political system. gay marriage, abortions, and now ‘legitimate’ rape have all weaseled their way into the political dialogue as wedge issues, though in many cases they bear little direct impact on a person’s well being or freedom (in other words, if your neighbor is gay or gets an abortion, that does not [as far as i know] interfere with your ability to engage in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). yet these issues remain contentious because they reflect obvious contrasts between the traditional and modern, religious and secular, affluent and working class, and even coastal versus interior divides in our country. maybe how they are settled will reflect which “order” is stronger within US society, or maybe they are something we are doomed to continually struggle with as part of our political freedoms.

    what makes me uncomfortable with this analysis, however, is that i think it is one sided. the nature and dynamics of romantic relationships, domestic bliss, and marriage have changed. that is very clear. but that isn’t just a reflection of economic and political freedom. i think it is also a consequence of economic and political necessity. single income households are no longer as viable as they were in the past. as Americans shift from pastoral to urban livelihoods and commodities like food and real estate appreciate in value, it is increasingly necessary for women to work outside of the household in order to maintain a standard of living above poverty levels. i don’t believe that this is merely a consequence of feminism and sexual liberation, but maybe it is. regardless, i think the idea of a single income middle class household is increasingly unrealistic in our economy. while this empowerment is bound to lead to some friction, i.e. women gaining a greater say in decision making, resentment or emasculation when women are the primary wage earner, etc. etc., i think there’s also an upside here that doesn’t always get measured. women now have the economic and legal means to leave destructive relationships–not every traditional household was a positive one–and through alimony/child support, public assistance, and, in cases where wage equity exists, through personal income support themselves. that doesn’t seem to me to be a bad thing in the least, though it is far different than the options available to previous generations.

    another aspect which i think is worth considering is how educational and class/race structures affect household composition. these issues are understandably sensitive but also have an appreciable impact on our social structures. has the development of a semi-permanent urban underclass been created by a deterioration of traditional values or has it led to it? could it be both? it’s very difficult to measure in complex and interdependent systems, and i admire Bloom’s willingness to tackle the issue, but i am not convinced his analysis is sufficient. looking specifically at the idea of machismo–when one cannot define themselves through career, education, and wage earning, does that in turn lead men to defining themselves through sexual prowess and willingness to engage in violence as a way to build/prove self worth? is our inability to “subdue” this behavior due to an innate presence in men (and by extension the perceived freedom to “opt out” of relationships) or a result of structural inequality that we have failed to address? i can’t pretend to know the answer, but i don’t think Bloom really explores those alternative explanations in the excerpt you provided. the idea that political freedom and equality has dramatically altered household composition seems sensible, the understanding that it is the single greatest explanatory factor does not. the fact that a alternate social dynamic has not appeared to take the place of traditional marriage (and by extension whatever that means vis a vis the individuals understanding of their relationship with the State) might have just as much to do with the male prison population as it does with birth control.

    finally, on a biological level, i have to admit i am mostly ignorant. but one thing i want to bring up is that humans are both a tournament species and a pairing species. when our life expectancies were shorter and our living conditions were harsher, traditional social structures around marriage made a lot of sense. as the realities of human existence changes, why shouldn’t social structures evolve along the same line? it may ultimately be to our benefit if individuals experience a variety of relationships before settling on what they believe to be the best possible arrangement for their personal situation. perhaps because we are in a transitional phase in much of the developed world it is difficult for us to see just how the healthy household might look in the future. if that’s the case, i’m not sure we should fear the change as much as seek to understand what a renegotiated social contract would look like.

    Like

  8. Matt D. permalink
    14 November 2012 1:52 pm

    Lots of interesting discussion. I’d like to respond to a pair of assumptions that many posters seem to have made, and as I am afraid I would be unable to do so adequately with a brief comment, I will resort to a narrative example. Many posters here appear to make the assumptions that total equality of the sexes is a requirement both for women to have negotiating power in their marriages and the power to end them if need be, and for women to have freedom in terms of education and employment opportunities. This example, from one segment of humanity, should show that this is actually not the case. I will also depart somewhat from this purpose to comment on gaiasrequite’s and others’ thoughts on violence in men, and whether or not taming them is the solution.

    I don’t want to over-generalize, but from extensive anecdotal observation I can say with a high degree of confidence that the following conditions hold more or less for a large proportion of the secularized middle-class in the Middle East. Women have a large degree of freedom in terms of pursuing educational and employment opportunities, and are generally encouraged to marry later so that they can better pursue them. Traditional expectations about gender roles in marriage have survived mostly intact: men are expected to provide for the family independent of the woman’s income, and women are expected to give first priority to their house and children once they are married. One expectation in particular has retained peculiar strength– while the rate of deviation has increased to some degree, it is still overwhelmingly shameful if a woman’s first husband is not the first man in her life.

    Strong social pressures reduce a woman’s willingness to use the powers of the state to her advantage in marital disputes: if her husband beats her, she will not call the police, and divorce is so shameful that she will only look to it as a last resort. Still, even in states where family law is still “biased” by Western standards, a woman has considerable leverage in negotiating the conditions of her marriage both before and after sealing the deal. If she doesn’t like the way her husband treats her, she will take the kids and go to her family’s home. Sometimes she will stay there until her husband comes literally on his knees begging her father or eldest brother to let her come back with him. In places where the rule of law is weak, a man who marries a woman who has a large number of brothers or who comes from a particularly powerful family will often face the threat of violence if he mistreats his wife.

    And while I’m only speaking of a certain segment of contemporary society, there are indications that this trend has much older roots: the famous ruler Saladin once invaded his son-in-law’s province and besieged his castle because his daughter had complained of mistreatment. (The crisis was eventually resolved through negotiations and reconciliation between the two spouses.)

    For gaiasrequite, this is where men’s violent nature and the “protection” of women meet. If a woman must pair herself with a man who is physically stronger than she is and may have some natural tendency toward violence, then she will naturally need some strong and potentially violent force outside herself to provide a “check” on her husband. This role can be filled by the state. It can also be filled by male relatives, as long as she is willing to behave in a way that will maintain their feeling of zealous loyalty towards her.

    As is only natural given the conditions of some of the societies I am speaking of, it is becoming more common for women to marry even against the advice of their families. It is becoming more normal for families to acquiesce, but it normally comes with a caveat: don’t come crying to us if he mistreats you. Iterating this process forward, we can see how we arrive at the situation that holds in America today– women marry with minimal input from parents and relatives, and a strong state is needed to check spouse abuse.

    The alternative is to “tame” men like the Russian scientists tamed foxes. I have little faith in this experiment. To me, this does not seem like a new experiment, but rather a very common experiment which has been tried time and time again throughout history, with a certain degree of regularity in the results. Persian men, according to Greek reports shortly before Alexander’s conquests, were quite soft. Xenophon tells us a story of one Persian noble who, when a band of Greek soldiers came to the city he governed, went and hid in the mountains, leaving his wife behind to entertain the Greek leaders and attempt to secure his safety!

    So history tells us that “taming” men is indeed possible, and also that it is usually not a durable trend, at least not over the very long run.

    Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      14 November 2012 8:32 pm

      What Matt D is talking about has a name, it is referred to as coverture. Here is a link about that topic.
      http://www.libertarianism.org/blog/coverture-liberty

      He also, in a few short paragraphs, lends support to my argument that to move forward in (and eventually “out of”) the gender war, we must begin in the home. In my “humble” opinion Matt D is an exact example of what I spoke of. That being an example of poor upbringing; where instead of parents nurturing a son in a way that promotes self confidence and a oneness of being. Instead, we as parents create children (women included) who reach adult hood lacking in the ability to support their own egos through the course of their lives. The result of this being countless adults who need something outside them selves, to give them selves validity. In Matt D’s case, he needs complete domination over something he perceives to be weaker then him, to feel his “manhood” in full.

      It is examples such as these that are the core of my argument. Until we rise above our immature and antiquated beliefs of gender and the roles they ought fulfill, we will continue to see the family structure in America fail.

      Like

    • 14 November 2012 9:08 pm

      Opinions differ among these things. It’s all over my pay grade. Here’s another voice on the subject.

      “The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your chest their wives and daughters.”
      — attributed to Genghis Khan (1162 – 1227)

      Although the source of the quote is disputed, none can argue that it’s a widespread value system.

      Every civilization is only a few generations from total destruction, from either external threats or failure to socialize the next generation. Or both.

      How to choose among different values is the greatest challenge for a society. Socrates and Nietzsche are our greatest advisors to this; neither have easy answers.

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      14 November 2012 9:43 pm

      FM,
      Do you believe a society must choose between value systems? Or is it possible for people to exist with in a society where there are multiple systems of values?

      I my self have no opinion on this, just wondering if any one else did.

      Like

    • 14 November 2012 10:14 pm

      Many things are possible in theory.

      In real history societies have embedded in their laws and customs (customs often more important than law) a value system.

      Since societies are often multiethnic — like the Roman Empire — the framework is sometimes quite broad. It’s often said that multiethnic societies do not work as well or last as long as more homogeneous ones, but I’ve seen none of the research on this subject (not my field or interest).

      But even “broad” must have limits. Even utopian libertarian dreamers assume a framework of laws (which embed values).

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      14 November 2012 10:25 pm

      So am I right then in drawing from your comment, that regardless of the variance in say religious values or other systems of belief; that there exist a set of values which apply to all across the board?

      I can’t be sure, but off the top of my head it seams one of the ancients spoke of this, perhaps Aristotle?

      Like

    • 14 November 2012 10:44 pm

      Gaiasrequite,

      There might be some set of universalist values that always work.

      Note that is a distinct quest to the traditional western question if there is a”true” or “best” set of values. Logically those are three “sets”. Perhaps two or all three overlap (ie, universal, best operationally, true). Perhaps they don’t overlap at all.

      Cultures disagree as to what is the highest value, so even if there are “answers” to all three questions, we are probably unable to prove or get agreement on the third (“true”). I doubt we can get agreement or prove any of the three.

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      14 November 2012 11:18 pm

      Truly a subject that has been argued for so long it is impossible to nail down when the argument began. I would like to bring something up most people are unaware.

      In a older version of the “Garden of Eden” tale, god made a woman from the same dirt Adam was made from, her name was Lilith and was Adams first wife. She however would not be subservient to Adam and (according to some tellings) left him for a “son of god” Angel, Alien, what ever. At this point god made Eve from Adam so they would be one.

      So obviously a very old issue and not a subject brought about by Americans or their liberation of women.

      Like

    • 15 November 2012 1:52 am

      gaiasrequire,

      I don’t see this as an arguement, as I have no position in this debate. It’s not a subject I have any interest in, other than an academic one.

      In the Wikipedia entry for Lilith it says that this story was from :

      “… Jewish folklore, from the 8th–10th (AD, aka Common Era) centuries Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards, Lilith becomes Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam.”

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      15 November 2012 2:09 am

      Huh, I think Wiki is wrong on that one. I first encountered this story in “the chaldean account of genesis” and I might be wrong (going from memory) but I believe there are accounts of the name Lilith in the dead sea scrolls. Either way the story varied depending on who and time period its being told.

      I brought it up as a point that we did not start the debate in this country by any of our action, but that it is much older. (sort of falls into your articles of American exceptionalism, “it had to be an American idea right”!)
      Just find it interesting that family structure has obviously been a subject of debate for at least centuries if not millennia. And I am wondering if we still don’t have a good solution….will we ever?

      Like

    • 15 November 2012 2:22 am

      “Just find it interesting that family structure has obviously been a subject of debate for at least centuries if not millennia. And I am wondering if we still don’t have a good solution….will we ever?”

      The various family structures of humanity vary across the world at any time — and everywhere vary across time — because family structure is a social mechanism to function in a certain social, economic, and environmental circumstance. Polynesian natives and medieval peasants, and California billionaries will have different family structures. These will vary over time as all the relevant factors change.

      We see this recorded in the Bible. Multiple wives and concubines in the Old Testament, a sign of wealth and God’s favor. Then in Titus 1:6, a church leader must have only one wife. Then eventually, only one wife at a time allowed for everybody. Even Kings.

      Mormon history shows this process at work in modern times.

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      15 November 2012 3:47 am

      Except the structure is not that varied, seeing how historically and continuing on until recently it is; a man a woman and some children. Even in cases where it is a man with several wives and quite a few more children, we have traditionally had structures that put the man at the head of the house hold and in charge.

      This is what I am referring to when I speak of the argument never resolving it’s self. perhaps I was to vague in the above, the way in which we have traditionally rearranged the system was to find various ways in which the man will be head of the house hold. We have only recently put forth a system where man and wife walk side by side down the road of life, instead of man leading woman/ women following.

      Many will say it is out of a mans natural want to be protecting of “his” woman, but, alas as I said in the thread that got this started, my mind is pretty well made up on the belief that it is more out of insecurity then a want to protect.

      So, though I liked the post, and though there are points where I think we absolutely agree. I am afraid my opinion has not been changed. BUT, that is why I like having opinions, to see if someone can convince me other wise.

      In other news…….how about all those succession petitions eh? Are we acting like responsible citizens exercising our civil liberties? OR…Spoiled children who didn’t get our way?

      Like

  9. 15 November 2012 4:56 am

    gaiasrequite wrote:

    Except the structure is not that varied, seeing how historically and continuing on until recently it is; a man a woman and some children. Even in cases where it is a man with several wives and quite a few more children, we have traditionally had structures that put the man at the head of the house hold and in charge.

    There have been a couple lines of thought on that, e.g.:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_God_Was_a_Woman
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Matriarchal_Prehistory

    The fact we cannot escape is that patriarchal societies must have out-competed whatever others might have been tried. That does not mean they will continue to do so; conditions in contemporary advanced nations are far different than those of even a few generations past.

    Like

    • 15 November 2012 5:05 am

      Agreed! Effective cheap contraceptives and lower birth mortality for mothers changed the world, starting social evolution in ways we can even now only guess at.

      Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      15 November 2012 5:43 am

      Coises;
      Those both look like interesting reads I will have to pick them up. Thanks for posting the links, if you or anyone else knows of any good titles on this subject I love the reference.

      Thanks
      Gaiasrequite

      P.S
      Either view point I like to see both sides.
      T.Y

      Like

  10. Matt D. permalink
    17 November 2012 11:18 am

    I think the crux of the issue is whether we view humans as atomic free associators or whether we view human associations organically. In America in recent history the atomistic view has been very influential, to the point where people mock the more organic arrangements that existed in our own history and still exist elsewhere in the world, attributing them to psychological defects of the individuals involved.

    But I don’t think the organic view of human relations is going away. It is still very influential not only in one region but in most of the regions that make up the “developing world”. We isolate ourselves from the majority opinions of humanity and scoff at them at our own peril.

    Reality imposes constraints that we can’t wish away. For a silly example, take the fact that when two people dance together, there are three things that can never coexist– beauty, equality and spontaneity. If two people try to dance spontaneously and no one leads, the result will be very ugly (if you don’t believe me, try it. If you try it and you thought it was beautiful, you have no taste.) If two people dance according to a previously-agreed-upon, highly-detailed choreographical plan that they both had an equal role in deciding, then the result can indeed be quite beautiful.

    But spontaneous, beautiful dancing is only possible when one person leads. It is a law of nature. We might do well to ponder it.

    Like

    • gaiasrequite permalink
      19 November 2012 7:59 pm

      “It is still very influential not only in one region but in most of the regions that make up the “developing world”.

      Can you give examples? I am only coming up with the one region. Also, the areas in which your ideological belief of relationships exists as the primary social arrangement, the people and communities are religious fundamentalists. And by all accounts, people who allow the extreme beliefs of their story book religions rule their societies, generally live under tyrannical and oppressive leaders. This is why the founding fathers of this nation sought for the separation of church and state.

      There is no “organic” functioning with in the human species (or any other of the complex species) that creates a natural want of monogamous relationships where “one person leads” (your implication that needing to be the man).

      It is actually a much more natural and “organic” state for primates to live in family groups where there is one lead male and many females. However, as Diane Fossey discovered while studding the Gorillas of the Congo region, if a male is insufficient in some way the females will get rid of him.

      I like to live in the belief (perhaps delusional) that we as a species have risen above the instinctual impulses that drive our less evolved family members, and for that reason can design social structures that fit our more advanced living conditions. We are no longer in need of the men fighting off predators, weather those threats be wild animals or invading tribesmen from the neighboring region.

      In this way we have progressed (some of us) beyond both our need to be protected and our need to worship; which inevitably leads to the establishing of a religion where keeping people ignorant and closed minded becomes the order of the day. This occurs because there is no other way to keep people gathered around and believing in a plethora of stories that are ridiculous.

      The belief in what you refer to as organic relationships, derives only from a religious stand point. There is no longer a need for these type of arrangements in our natural world.

      Like

    • Matt D. permalink
      19 November 2012 11:46 pm

      You asked me to give examples of other regions. Take Spanish-speaking Latin America, which I also have first-hand experience with. Latin culture, in general, celebrates gender dimorphism, and emphasizes it in every possible aspect. In the more liberalized Carribean countries they love sassy, vivacious women; in more conservative areas of Mexico, they prefer them to be more demure; a common thread through all of the diverse national and local cultures is a love of manly men and womanly women. Latins are also, both in stereotype and in fact, very family oriented, especially when judged against the North American standard. Even in liberal areas, a clear distinction between men’s and women’s roles in marriage is accepted as common sense. I can’t comment on Brazil, but to the extent that the culture is comparable to that of its neighbors, this will hold there as well.

      Take Asia– traditional social values related to organic social hierarchy and family patterns are, from what I have been told, still strong in most of the Asian cultures. This is directly verifiable in the South Korean community in America. There are also numerous reports in popular culture that this is the case in Japan. I don’t know much specifically about other east and southeast asian countries, but if you know something about them, maybe you can share what you know.

      Across all of Africa, according to the universal consensus of sociologists, socially-conservative, traditional views are the norm.

      India is home to around 20% of the world’s population. Nearby Pakistan and Bangladesh account for another large portion. Throughout all of this territory an organic view of social relations is very comfortably entrenched, and this also holds true for the region’s large diaspora community.

      I can’t say anything about Russia, but the Truth and Beauty blog, which has been quoted from time to time on FM, has on occasion said some interesting things about the culture there.

      Like

    • 20 November 2012 1:16 am

      Matt,

      Thanks for a interesting perspective on these other cultures!

      Like

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