Thursday, March 12, 2020

Brooks: Nuclear Family Was a Mistake

NY Times columnist David Brooks writes in The Atlantic:
The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake

The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. ...

If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.

This article is about that process, and the devastation it has wrought—and about how Americans are now groping to build new kinds of family and find better ways to live. ...

Today, only a minority of American households are traditional two-parent nuclear families and only one-third of American individuals live in this kind of family. That 1950–65 window was not normal. It was a freakish historical moment when all of society conspired, wittingly and not, to obscure the essential fragility of the nuclear family. ...

But the blunt fact is that the nuclear family has been crumbling in slow motion for decades, and many of our other problems—with education, mental health, addiction, the quality of the labor force—stem from that crumbling. We’ve left behind the nuclear-family paradigm of 1955. For most people it’s not coming back.
What to make of this? It reminds me of the Unabomber Manifesto, which starts "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race." There is a popular Netflix document on the author.

David Brooks is a divorced Trump-hating Jewish man, writing for Jewish publications.

This is so strange, that I am beginning to think that there is a Jewish plot to destroy the nuclear family. The nuclear family has never been important in Jewish culture, and Commies seeking social change have often regarded the family as a huge obstacle.

Here is how Brooks wants to replace the nuclear family:
The modern chosen-family movement came to prominence in San Francisco in the 1980s among gay men and lesbians, many of whom had become estranged from their biological families and had only one another for support in coping with the trauma of the AIDS crisis. In her book, Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship, the anthropologist Kath Weston writes, “The families I saw gay men and lesbians creating in the Bay Area tended to have extremely fluid boundaries, not unlike kinship organization among sectors of the African-American, American Indian, and white working class.” ...

Ever since I started working on this article, a chart has been haunting me. It plots the percentage of people living alone in a country against that nation’s GDP. There’s a strong correlation. Nations where a fifth of the people live alone, like Denmark and Finland, are a lot richer than nations where almost no one lives alone, like the ones in Latin America or Africa. Rich nations have smaller households than poor nations. The average German lives in a household with 2.7 people. The average Gambian lives in a household with 13.8 people.
Really? He is haunted by Denmark being richer than Gambia?

Here is what Brooks does not mention.

The nuclear family is an invention of White Christian Northwest Europe, in the last millennium. It is popular there and in America, and not much elsewhere. It was a byproduct of the feudal system and Christianity.

Nuclear families have created the greatest civilizations. If you look at what is great in the world today, nearly all if from the cultures with nuclear families.

For the past 50 years or so, a long list of legal and social policies have served to undermine the nuclear family. Most of those bad policies are promoted by NY Times columnists, and others who come from cultures that do not appreciate the nuclear family.

These attacks on the nuclear family are attacks on Americanism.

There is no indication that Brooks understands any of these issues. Or maybe he does and he wants to destroy Americanism.

There is some online criticism of Brooks, such as here. They cite some data on advantages to the nuclear family, but they great understate the importance, and even concede some of Brooks's stupid points.

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