As Goes The Family…

As Goes The Family… By Rod Dreher.

If you haven’t read it yet, Harvard sociologist Carle C. Zimmerman’s 1947 classic Family And Civilization (available on Kindle for only $9.99) will knock you off your chair.

In brief, Zimmerman examines the role family structure played in Greco-Roman civilization, as well as the medieval period, up until today.

He shows that in ancient Greece and Rome, a collapse of “familism” — a worldview that placed the family at the core of society’s self-understanding — preceded a more general civilizational collapse. Zimmerman explains how and why this works. Signs of the ongoing and future collapse include declining fertility rates, abandonment of marital norms, widespread divorce, and the normalization of aberrant forms of sexuality.

For contemporary readers, one striking aspect of the book is that Zimmerman published it in 1947, and saw all these things rising in the West in his day — and indeed, had been rising for centuries. Any conservative today who thinks this all began in the 1960s should read Zimmerman.

Some quotes from Zimmerman:

Parents must now try to rear a family under a social and legal system adjusted to those couples who do not want the paraphernalia of familism — common income, expenses, children, union for perpetuity, or serious familistic obligations.

In our modern Western society the forgotten person is the man or woman who honestly and sincerely wants to be a parent.

This affects our whole social system; it affects all the practicalities of life, from renting a house to economic advancement under our different forms of bureaucracy. If there are children, renting a house is difficult, changing jobs is difficult, social activities are difficult. In the words of Bacon, to have children is to give “hostages to fortune,” and one is no longer a free bargaining agent. …

When the United States has exhausted the surplus population of the French-Canadians and the Mexicans — almost the only fertile peoples of the Western world now available to us — we too will begin the grand finale of the crisis. …

Dreher again:

Five years ago, I was shocked to hear a professor at a conservative Evangelical college say that he doubts that most of his students will be capable of forming and sustaining families of their own. Why? Because most of them have never seen what a normal family is. …

Most young people today — at least in the West — have been formed by a powerful capitalistic and hedonistic culture that exalts individual freedom and personal choice, and that sees the authority of Scripture, of the church, of tradition, of family, and of anything outside the Self as either irrelevant or an impediment to liberty and self-realization.

hat-tip Stephen Neil