While I doubt the Chinavirus will fully convince Normals of globalism’s evil, the sight of families spending time together has triggered at least one globalist pundit into honesty.
The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake
By David Brooks, March 2020 issue
The scene is one many of us have somewhere in our family history: Dozens of people celebrating Thanksgiving or some other holiday around a makeshift stretch of family tables—siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts. The grandparents are telling the old family stories for the 37th time. “It was the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen in your life,” says one, remembering his first day in America. “There were lights everywhere … It was a celebration of light! I thought they were for me.”
The oldsters start squabbling about whose memory is better. “It was cold that day,” one says about some faraway memory. “What are you talking about? It was May, late May,” says another. The young children sit wide-eyed, absorbing family lore and trying to piece together the plotline of the generations.
After the meal, there are piles of plates in the sink, squads of children conspiring mischievously in the basement. Groups of young parents huddle in a hallway, making plans. The old men nap on couches, waiting for dessert. It’s the extended family in all its tangled, loving, exhausting glory.
As visions of Heaven go, that one comes closer than most.
This particular family is the one depicted in Barry Levinson’s 1990 film, Avalon, based on his own childhood in Baltimore. Five brothers came to America from Eastern Europe around the time of World War I and built a wallpaper business. For a while they did everything together, like in the old country. But as the movie goes along, the extended family begins to split apart. Some members move to the suburbs for more privacy and space. One leaves for a job in a different state. The big blowup comes over something that seems trivial but isn’t: The eldest of the brothers arrives late to a Thanksgiving dinner to find that the family has begun the meal without him.
“You cut the turkey without me?” he cries. “Your own flesh and blood! … You cut the turkey?” The pace of life is speeding up. Convenience, privacy, and mobility are more important than family loyalty. “The idea that they would eat before the brother arrived was a sign of disrespect,” Levinson told me recently when I asked him about that scene. “That was the real crack in the family. When you violate the protocol, the whole family structure begins to collapse.”
What a selfish, arrogant prick, to demand that all should suffer for his whimsy…. but the author said the family did wrong? I don’t see that story’s relevance to how families break up, which today is typically variations on “wifey got bored”. Not because the eldest son wasn’t properly kowtowed to.
As the years go by in the movie, the extended family plays a smaller and smaller role. By the 1960s, there’s no extended family at Thanksgiving. It’s just a young father and mother and their son and daughter, eating turkey off trays in front of the television. In the final scene, the main character is living alone in a nursing home, wondering what happened. “In the end, you spend everything you’ve ever saved, sell everything you’ve ever owned, just to exist in a place like this.”
A place like… America? If David doesn’t like living here then there are six other continents. I recommend Central Africa for its total lack of white, male Christians.
This is the story of our times—the story of the family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.
By design. We all can point to the laws and NGOs whose stated purpose was making that fragmentation happen. The nuclear family did not fall; it was pushed. Betrayed.
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.
Yes, yes, congratulations on the success of your Long March. Problem, however: extended families are made up of nuclear families. How is it that Brooks can champion the one against the other?
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.
Buckle up for his vision of Brave New World!
Part I: The Era of Extended Clans
Through the early parts of American history, most people lived in what, by today’s standards, were big, sprawling households. In 1800, three-quarters of American workers were farmers. Most of the other quarter worked in small family businesses, like dry-goods stores. People needed a lot of labor to run these enterprises. It was not uncommon for married couples to have seven or eight children. In addition, there might be stray aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as unrelated servants, apprentices, and farmhands. (On some southern farms, of course, enslaved African Americans were also an integral part of production and work life.)
That was a frontier situation… not something that was going to last and certainly not the One True Way to raise a family.
Steven Ruggles, a professor of history and population studies at the University of Minnesota, calls these “corporate families”—social units organized around a family business. According to Ruggles, in 1800, 90 percent of American families were corporate families. Until 1850, roughly three-quarters of Americans older than 65 lived with their kids and grandkids. Nuclear families existed, but they were surrounded by extended or corporate families.
It took a village to raise a child!
Are we talking about Baby Boomers not being cared for by their kids, David? Open THAT can of whoop-ass, I dare you.
Extended families have two great strengths. The first is resilience. An extended family is one or more families in a supporting web. Your spouse and children come first, but there are also cousins, in-laws, grandparents—a complex web of relationships among, say, seven, 10, or 20 people. If a mother dies, siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents are there to step in. If a relationship between a father and a child ruptures, others can fill the breach. Extended families have more people to share the unexpected burdens—when a kid gets sick in the middle of the day or when an adult unexpectedly loses a job.
A detached nuclear family, by contrast, is an intense set of relationships among, say, four people. If one relationship breaks, there are no shock absorbers. In a nuclear family, the end of the marriage means the end of the family as it was previously understood.
That is not true at all. Brothers are still brothers. Nephews still have uncles. If you lose one parent then you still have the other.
The second great strength of extended families is their socializing force. Multiple adults teach children right from wrong, how to behave toward others, how to be kind. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, industrialization and cultural change began to threaten traditional ways of life. Many people in Britain and the United States doubled down on the extended family in order to create a moral haven in a heartless world. According to Ruggles, the prevalence of extended families living together roughly doubled from 1750 to 1900, and this way of life was more common than at any time before or since.
Bullshit. We colonial Americans/Englishmen did not look to the family for a moral haven. We looked to Christ Jesus, our Creator. Accept no substitute deity!
You want to see extended family, check out the clans of Scotland. Early America was nowhere close to that level of extended family.
During the Victorian era, the idea of “hearth and home” became a cultural ideal.
No. The nuclear family was created by God Himself, from the beginning. Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Grandpa is not a factor in that. The clan chief is not a factor in that. The husband symbolizes Christ and the wife symbolizes humanity.
Does Brooks reject the father’s leadership of his family as a symbol of rejecting Christ’s leadership of humanity?
The home “is a sacred place, a vestal temple, a temple of the hearth watched over by Household Gods, before whose faces none may come but those whom they can receive with love,” the great Victorian social critic John Ruskin wrote. This shift was led by the upper-middle class, which was coming to see the family less as an economic unit and more as an emotional and moral unit, a rectory for the formation of hearts and souls.
But while extended families have strengths, they can also be exhausting and stifling. They allow little privacy; you are forced to be in daily intimate contact with people you didn’t choose. There’s more stability but less mobility. Family bonds are thicker, but individual choice is diminished. You have less space to make your own way in life. In the Victorian era, families were patriarchal, favoring men in general and first-born sons in particular.
Victorian England did a lot of things wrong but household idols wasn’t one of them. Did Brooks really quote a social critic to describe Victorianism? *Checks* Ruskin was involved in a famous love triangle when his wife fell in love with another man and sought an annulment on grounds that Ruskin had, after years, never consummated their marriage. Ruskin even confirmed it! I would not trust his perspective on Victorian family life.
As factories opened in the big U.S. cities, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, young men and women left their extended families to chase the American dream. These young people married as soon as they could. A young man on a farm might wait until 26 to get married; in the lonely city, men married at 22 or 23. From 1890 to 1960, the average age of first marriage dropped by 3.6 years for men and 2.2 years for women.
That’s not family breakup. It’s simple math: if a man has many sons and divides his farmland equally between them, then in only a couple generations his descendants will own uselessly tiny acreage.
Thus, all of the farm is given to just one of the sons, typically the firstborn. The other sons either leave the farm or work for their brother.
One reason for the marriage age dropping was because young men had more money because of factory work. That’s why they went to the city in the first place, for well-paying jobs. Henry Ford didn’t send press gangs into the countryside.
The families they started were nuclear families. The decline of multigenerational cohabiting families exactly mirrors the decline in farm employment. Children were no longer raised to assume economic roles—they were raised so that at adolescence they could fly from the nest, become independent, and seek partners of their own. They were raised not for embeddedness but for autonomy.
This is a recurring point that Brooks makes. He doesn’t like men having independence.
By the 1920s, the nuclear family with a male breadwinner had replaced the corporate family as the dominant family form. By 1960, 77.5 percent of all children were living with their two parents, who were married, and apart from their extended family.
The Short, Happy Life of the Nuclear Family
For a time, it all seemed to work. From 1950 to 1965, divorce rates dropped, fertility rates rose, and the American nuclear family seemed to be in wonderful shape. And most people seemed prosperous and happy. In these years, a kind of cult formed around this type of family—what McCall’s, the leading women’s magazine of the day, called “togetherness.” Healthy people lived in two-parent families. In a 1957 survey, more than half of the respondents said that unmarried people were “sick,” “immoral,” or “neurotic.”
Because sex. We were a Christian nation and God says no sex except in marriage. Marital status was thus a proxy for sexuality. They took it too far, of course, and hated bachelors as well as homosexuals.
During this period, a certain family ideal became engraved in our minds: a married couple with 2.5 kids.
A stereotype, not an ideal. Planned Parenthood wasn’t yet around to provide that half of a kid.
When we think of the American family, many of us still revert to this ideal. When we have debates about how to strengthen the family, we are thinking of the two-parent nuclear family, with one or two kids, probably living in some detached family home on some suburban street. We take it as the norm, even though this wasn’t the way most humans lived during the tens of thousands of years before 1950, and it isn’t the way most humans have lived during the 55 years since 1965.
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.
Unlike today when all of society conspires, wittingly and not, to sabotage the nuclear family? Since 1965, coincidentally? How can Brooks claim the nuclear family was essentially fragile when the government had to make hideously expensive efforts (read: the welfare system) to replace it?
Here’s a Ward Cleaver family ideal that Brooks didn’t bring up: a man’s home is his castle. That concept isn’t just gone, it was criminalized.
How like a Socialist to create the very problems he then uses to justify Socialism! First, scum like Brooks outlawed fatherhood, now he says fatherhood doesn’t work because there aren’t any fathers left. What we need is more government in the families! It takes a village to raise a child! We can’t trust a father to stick around for his kids, not when we destroy every one we find!
For one thing, most women were relegated to the home. Many corporations, well into the mid-20th century, barred married women from employment: Companies would hire single women, but if those women got married, they would have to quit. Demeaning and disempowering treatment of women was rampant. Women spent enormous numbers of hours trapped inside the home under the headship of their husband, raising children.
For another thing, nuclear families in this era were much more connected to other nuclear families than they are today—constituting a “modified extended family,” as the sociologist Eugene Litwak calls it, “a coalition of nuclear families in a state of mutual dependence.” Even as late as the 1950s, before television and air-conditioning had fully caught on, people continued to live on one another’s front porches and were part of one another’s lives. Friends felt free to discipline one another’s children.
No. Men disciplined their own children and unless you were exceptionally tight with him, taking that duty upon yourself was a gross violation of… paternal rights.
Yeah, I’m picking up LOTS of hostility for the concept of a man raising his own children as he sees fit.
In short, the period from 1950 to 1965 demonstrated that a stable society can be built around nuclear families—so long as women are relegated to the household…
…nuclear families are so intertwined that they are basically extended families by another name…
That’s oxymoronic. “Nuclear families can work when they’re basically extended families.” And again, extended families are made up of nuclear families. This is like arguing that steel is good because it doesn’t contain iron.
and every economic and sociological condition in society is working together to support the institution.
Fuck your whore-mother, David, and fuck your “every economic and sociological condition in society” Convergence. That’s what YOU do, not US.
Brooks, you aren’t even talking about extended families, are you? You’re talking about government services that replace the father’s position in a nuclear family, that’s what your “extended family” is all about.
But these conditions did not last. The constellation of forces that had briefly shored up the nuclear family began to fall away, and the sheltered family of the 1950s was supplanted by the stressed family of every decade since. Some of the strains were economic. Starting in the mid-’70s, young men’s wages declined, putting pressure on working-class families in particular. The major strains were cultural. Society became more individualistic and more self-oriented.
If being individualistic and self-oriented a bad thing then get back in the kitchen, Barbie, and prepare for Nookie Night!
Ohh, I see. “Society” only means men. Women didn’t abandon their families for the Eat, Pray, Love life in the Seventies, they were… liberated, or something.
People put greater value on privacy and autonomy. A rising feminist movement helped endow women with greater freedom to live and work as they chose.
QED! “Society became self-oriented” but “women were endowed with greater freedom”.
A study of women’s magazines by the sociologists Francesca Cancian and Steven L. Gordon found that…
Skip. A study of womens’ magazines informed Brooks’ beliefs that fatherhood is bad? I know he’s a pathological liar for the New York Slimes but that’s just sad.
Eli Finkel, a psychologist and marriage scholar at Northwestern University, has argued that since the 1960s, the dominant family culture has been the “self-expressive marriage.” “Americans,” he has written, “now look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth.” Marriage, according to the sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, “is no longer primarily about childbearing and childrearing. Now marriage is primarily about adult fulfillment.”
David Brooks, can you PLEASE cite a non-Jew? Besides a Victorian freak and Cosmo magazine? I’ve been biting my tongue at how you approach American family life from, apparently, the inside of a kibbutz. You even started this article with a depiction of Russian Jewish family life made by a Jewish film director about how terrible life among the Gentiles is. It’s so horrible that you keep staying here! You care nothing about the Christians whose nation you live in, whose nation your people have repaid evil for good, whose beliefs you killed and now fault for being killable.
Go home, you xenophobic Christ-killer. Go home to HELL and take your feminists with you!
This cultural shift was very good for some adults, but it was not so good for families generally.
It was good for nobody, not even the feminists who dare not admit they were wrong.
Over the past 50 years, federal and state governments have tried to mitigate the deleterious effects of these trends. They’ve tried to increase marriage rates, push down divorce rates, boost fertility, and all the rest. The focus has always been on strengthening the nuclear family, not the extended family. Occasionally, a discrete program will yield some positive results, but the widening of family inequality continues unabated.
Over the past 50 years, the problem got worse while the government ‘tried to help’. Hmm.
Skipping ahead to what Brooks proposes by way of solution,
The most interesting extended families are those that stretch across kinship lines. The past several years have seen the rise of new living arrangements that bring nonbiological kin into family or familylike relationships. On the website CoAbode, single mothers can find other single mothers interested in sharing a home. All across the country, you can find co-housing projects, in which groups of adults live as members of an extended family, with separate sleeping quarters and shared communal areas. Common, a real-estate-development company that launched in 2015, operates more than 25 co-housing communities, in six cities, where young singles can live this way. Common also recently teamed up with another developer, Tishman Speyer, to launch Kin, a co-housing community for young parents. Each young family has its own living quarters, but the facilities also have shared play spaces, child-care services, and family-oriented events and outings.
The kibbutz. Holy sheet, he wants to re-model American family life into the freaking kibbutz. I didn’t know how right I was when I made that slur.
Courtney E. Martin, a writer who focuses on how people are redefining the American dream, is a Temescal Commons resident. “I really love that our kids grow up with different versions of adulthood all around, especially different versions of masculinity,” she told me. “We consider all of our kids all of our kids.” Martin has a 3-year-old daughter, Stella, who has a special bond with a young man in his 20s that never would have taken root outside this extended-family structure. “Stella makes him laugh, and David feels awesome that this 3-year-old adores him,” Martin said. This is the kind of magic, she concluded, that wealth can’t buy. You can only have it through time and commitment, by joining an extended family. This kind of community would fall apart if residents moved in and out. But at least in this case, they don’t.
As Martin was talking, I was struck by one crucial difference between the old extended families like those in Avalon and the new ones of today: the role of women. The extended family in Avalon thrived because all the women in the family were locked in the kitchen, feeding 25 people at a time. In 2008, a team of American and Japanese researchers found that women in multigenerational households in Japan were at greater risk of heart disease than women living with spouses only, likely because of stress. But today’s extended-family living arrangements have much more diverse gender roles.
THAT *IS* THE STRESS!!!! “Women who live our Brave New lifestyles die younger of heart attacks, true, but the living arrangements have much more diverse gender roles!”
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.”
Disgusting, loathsome mockeries of God’s work! This is wrong, evil, pure evil. Sodomy has never defined a relationship. It’s an abomination specifically because it’s a perversion of the natural order.
And QED again, Brooks’ “new families” will be Pedophile Central.
Over the past several decades, the decline of the nuclear family has created an epidemic of trauma—millions have been set adrift because what should have been the most loving and secure relationship in their life broke. Slowly, but with increasing frequency, these drifting individuals are coming together to create forged families. These forged families have a feeling of determined commitment. The members of your chosen family are the people who will show up for you no matter what. On Pinterest you can find placards to hang on the kitchen wall where forged families gather: “Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile & who love you no matter what.”
Behold Satan’s endgame for us.
Brooks believes that nuclear families are bad because the father leads them. Extended families, and forged/chosen/homopedosexual families, are ‘good’ because fathers are either controlled by third parties or nonexistent. Typical for both a Socialist and an atheist Jew, David Brooks’ fundamental problem with family life is God the FATHER.