Skip to comments.Too much pleasure, too few children
Posted on 02/25/2008 1:13:10 PM PST by Caleb1411
Civilization depends on the health of the traditional family.
That sentiment has become a truism among social conservatives, who typically can't explain what they mean by it. Which is why it sounds like right-wing boilerplate to many contemporary ears.
The late Harvard sociologist Carle C. Zimmerman believed it was true, but he also knew why. In 1947, he wrote a massive book to explain why latter-day Western civilization was now living through the same family crisis that presaged the fall of classical Greece and Rome. His classic "Family and Civilization," which has just been republished in an edited version by ISI Press, is a chillingly prophetic volume that deserves a wide new audience.
In all civilizations, Zimmerman theorized, there are three basic family types. The "trustee" family is tribal and clannish, and predominates in agrarian societies. The "domestic" family model is a middle type centering on the nuclear family ensconced in fairly strong extended-family bonds; it's found in civilizations undergoing rapid development. The final model is the "atomistic" family, which features weak bonds between and within nuclear families; it's the type that emerges as normative in advanced civilizations.
When the Roman Empire fell in the fifth century, the strong trustee families of the barbarian tribes replaced the weak, atomistic Roman families as the foundation of society.
Churchmen believed a social structure that broke up the ever-feuding clans and gave the individual more freedom would be better for society's stability and spent centuries reforming the European family toward domesticity. The natalist worldview advocated by churchmen knit tightly religious faith, family loyalty and child bearing. From the 10th century on, the domestic family model ruled Europe through its greatest cultural efflorescence. But then came the Reformation and the Enlightenment, shifting culture away from tradition and toward the individual. Thus, since the 18th century, the atomistic family has been the Western cultural norm.
Here's the problem: Societies ruled by the atomistic family model, with its loosening of constraints on its individual members, quit having enough children to carry on. They become focused on the pleasures of the present. Eventually, these societies expire from lack of manpower, which itself is a manifestation of a lack of the will to live.
It happened to ancient Greece. It happened to ancient Rome. And it's happening to the modern West. The sociological parallels are startling.
Why should expanding individual freedoms lead to demographic disaster? Because cultures that don't organize their collective lives around the family create policies and structures that privilege autonomous individuals at the family's expense.
In years to come, the state will attempt economic incentives, or something more draconian, to spur childbirth. Europe, which is falling off a demographic cliff, is already offering economic incentives, with scant success. Materialist measures only seem to help at the margins.
Why? Zimmerman was not religious, but he contended the core problem was a loss of faith. Religions that lack a strong pro-fertility component don't survive over time, he observed; nor do cultures that don't have a powerfully natalist religion.
Why should we read Zimmerman today? For one thing, the future isn't fated. We might learn from history and make choices that avert the calamities that overtook Greece and Rome.
Given current trends, that appears unlikely. Therefore, the wise will recognize that the subcultures that survive the demographic collapse will be those that sacrificially embrace natalist values over materialist ones which is to say, those whose religious convictions inspire them to have relatively large families, despite the social and financial cost.
That doesn't mean most American Christians, who have accepted modernity's anti-natalism. No, that means traditionalist Catholics, "full-quiver" Protestants, ultra-Orthodox Jews, pious Muslims and other believers who reject modernity's premises.
Like it or not, the future belongs to the fecund faithful.
So . . . to cure the ills of American society . . . go talk to someone about Jesus Christ. Who woulda thunk it?
I am not childless, I am childFREE!!!!!
FREERIDERS! PREPARE FOR THE ASH HEAP OF HISTORY!
Make a baby !
I find pleasure and children to be very closely correlated. I wonder why the author doesn't ...
Basic Darwinian fact: He who breeds leads!
Because he’s a narcissistic leftist.
When you have children, you have to become less self centered, or things go haywire.
Amen. You gotta wonder about somebody who looks at children as the punishment for having sex.
Rod Dreher actually considers himself a conservative, although I don’t. Like that guy at the New York Times ... is it David Brooks?
That bit of nonsense shows where this author is coming from. What a twit he is.
To be fair, that might be the headline writer rather than the author :-).
Because the selfish and selfishness dominate the chattering classes.
As I moved forward in my career and associated with more higher earners, I noticed a larger and larger group of married couples without children. When it came down to why, the reason was "more for me".
The three styles of family; Rock, Paper, Scissors? We keep advancing until we become susceptible to the barbaric we left long ago.
You’re three Duggars short in that picture.
Families are primarily strengthened by one ancient tradition: arranged marriage. Elders trade the lives of their daughters for gold and influence. In the absence of that practice and others now deemed abhorrent to modern society, families have inevitably become less important. The Muslims with their ego-mad, daughter-killing men are actually reminding us what the "strong family" model looks like in action. It ain't a pretty picture, for anyone capable of independent thought.
This is one of the sillier articles I've read recently - unless perhaps the author is in fact a shill for the Mohammedans? ;)
This is an interesting thesis. The problem is that if being family-oriented is such a big deal, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore ought to have sky-high birth-rates. Instead, their birth rates are almost half of what we see stateside. I think the real problem is that in non-agrarian societies where parents are expect to pay their childrens’ way through college, kids are an economic liability rather than an asset. In fact, the family-orientedness of East Asian societies makes this worse - for as long as they remain single, the children continue to leech off their parents after they grow to adulthood instead of moving out and living on their own.
Well, if true, our country is really in for “Change,” without Mr. Obama. We have many atomist families, with one or two children, but an influx of clannish imigrants who have three or more babies.
sorry, but I am not bringing a child into this here world. Difficult times lie ahead, and I don’t believe it would be fair to the child.
Plus I am selfish and lazy and like kids only marginally.
I agree with you, but from a different direction, sorta. It is "boilerplate" unless "right-wingers" consistently take a stand for family (and individual) freedom and responsibility, against the encroachments of government.
If anything, I am getting ROBBED to pay for schooling and health care for you breeders. ;-)
What was it Alfred Hitchcock said?
“I love children—— for breakfast.”
Think of sorting the socks in that family’s laundry!
Beautiful family. Is it yours?
One of my friends in college was one of thirteen - I forget what the boy/girl breakdown was, but he said that for the boys, his mom would buy identical 6-packs of tube socks, and all the blue-with-red-stripes belonged to boy 1, yellow-witth-blue to boy 2, etc. I’d have gone with all white myself.
Families with children are coming to your door with guns, demanding you pay their medical bills and school fees? You should call the police immediately!
Just ask the Shakers - well if there still were Shakers you could.
Agreed right back. Liberalism is all about avoiding personal responsibility.
I think that’s a beautiful picture. God bless them!!
Yes, and when "conservatives" move away from the principles of self-sufficiency and voluntary charity, they fall into the same trap. It's not germane to this article, but the author is Huckabee-type "conservative."
Doesn't exactly explain the truly massive population explosion in the USA and most of Western Europe during the 19th century, does it?
I’m doing my part, with four daughters, while living modestly, and driving the wheels off of the cars.
The children are blessed with good friends from good family’s. What not to like.
Can I quote you on that?
I don’t see why you blame Rod for pointing out the obvious fact that a great many people in today’s society think any appeal to the importance of demographics or families is just “right wing boilerplate,” and as such should be ignored.
I don’t agree with them, you don’t agree with them, and I don’t think Rod agrees with them, but they are a major force in our society, and they are completely dominant in Europe.
There are many large, strong families extant that are not Moslem. And they did not come about through arranged marriages. Believe it or not there are many Christian sects that believe in large families because they believe God did, in fact, join man and woman and make them one flesh and then commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth. And there are many men and women who have children because they love children and find real happiness and fulfillment in bearing and raising their children. And the fathers and brothers in these families do not kill their daughters and sisters over matters of “honor”.
I know quite a few people who have 4 or more children. These families are indeed a pretty sight. They are, virtually without exception, composed of loving, intelligent, active people. They also tend to be well-educated. They are also all committed Christians of one sort or another. They have struggles and challenges in their lives just like everyone else. But they tend overwhelmingly to strive to support and nurture one another even in the face of severe challenges. These tend to be quiet people. To me they are inspiring. They give me real hope for the future in the face of so much of the lunacy that is so rampant today.
Are you serious, Clark?
The Roman Empire didn't fall in the fifth century, the Western Roman Empire fell.
The Eastern Empire kept plugging along for just about a thousand more years.
Any claims about the "cause" of the Fall need to explain why the Eastern Empire didn't fall when the Western part did. Were families stronger in the East than the West?
Homeschool, stay out of debt, and let the kiddies pay their own way in college if you aren’t rich. Problem solved : ) . . .
I stopped at 4....because I ran out of bedrooms.
And since I pay for their healthcare, and they are homeschooled I am getting ROBBED too!!
Regardless of the immaturity of the author, that fact needs repeating often enough that our society notice that it is a truism.