Friday, December 6, 2019

Offsite Post: ‘Industrialism and the Breakup of the Family’

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson caused quite a stir earlier this year with his comments on the breakdown of the family in the united States, a problem for which he believes the Elite are showing too little care:

This brought forth a stream of reaction from various conservative commentators - National Review, American Family Association, etc.  A few examples:

For ourselves, we would like to focus on one thing he said near the end:  Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society’.

It is here that the lower classes Mr Carlson dotes on have been their own worst enemy.  They have cheered on the technological revolution in the hopes of attaining the much-ballyhooed American Dream of a higher standard of living.  In so doing, they have created the very economic system ‘that weakens and destroys families’, ‘that is the enemy of a healthy society’.  That economy is the industrial economy.

At this point, we will let another Carlson, Allan Carlson, have his say on the industrial economy and the capitalism that undergirds it:

I turn now to my remarks on the Industrial Revolution. To be sure, this event had sweeping effects on human life. Whether industrialization was pursued under the creed of Manchester liberalism, as in 19th Century Britain, or under the creed of Stalinist Marxism in the Soviet Union of the 1930s, or under the new hybrid creed of Communistic-Capitalism now found in China, some of industrialism’s effects have proved to be universal.

The most important of these, and the one most often forgotten, has been the wrenching apart of the workplace from the place of residence. Prior to industrialization, the vast majority of people — well over 90 percent — lived and worked in the same location, be it a peasant or family farm, a fisherman’s cottage, a nomad’s tent, or an artisan’s shop. This unity of workplace and home formed the normal, even natural, human experience. Men and women, joined in marriage, worked together to make their small enterprises a success, sorting out tasks according to their strengths and skills; and so finding a natural complementarity. Children, too, commonly found useful places within these small home economies.

The Industrial Revolution — resting on centralized factories and offices — tore these productive homes apart. The men moved into certain factories; the women moved into others; and, in the early decades, so did the children as well, most working 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week. Economic historian Karl Polanyi calls this change “The Great Transformation.” Francis Fukuyama prefers “the Great Disruption.” Both phrases capture the huge effects on human relationships of this event.

Industrialization, by definition, also has meant the progressive displacement of the home economy. In pre-industrial societies, most homesteads sought and achieved some degrees of self-sufficiency. They raised, and preserved their own food – grains, vegetables, and meat animals. They spun their own cloth and sewed their basic garments. They built their own shelters and raised their own draft animals for field work and transportation. At their best, as on the freehold peasant or family farm, these self-sufficient home economies delivered an autonomy, or freedom, that analysts of liberty such as Thomas Jefferson would admire.

Industrial Production means replacing these products and tasks of a home economy by industrially made goods and services. As it turned out, there would be no end to the process. It usually began with factory-spun cloth and world proceed relentlessly until family households would be stripped of virtually all productive functions, including in the end infant care and meal preparation (in our terms think “daycare” and “fast food”).

Again, these effects are common to all industrial orders, be they of the classical liberal variety or of one of the socialist models. The conservative remembers that the gift of industrialization — a great array of commodities — has been accompanied by these large social costs.

 . . .

Fifth, capitalism undermines natural human bonds and wages a relentless war against tradition. Economist Joseph Schumpeter viewed capitalism as an evolutionary system, one full of nervous energy, one that could leave nothing untouched and changed. This was and is the process of “Creative Destruction,” — his phrase — which “incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” [Capitalism, Socialism & Democracy]

Capitalism also excels in leveling natural institutions — most notably, the family itself. Writing in the 1930s, Schumpeter could point to data showing that marriage, family life, and parenthood meant ever less to men and women. Tumbling martial birthrates and “the proportion of marriage that produce no children or only one child” were the clearest signs of this revolution in values. This revolution derived, he said, from capitalism’s “rationalization of everything in life,” the embrace by persons in the capitalist era of an “inarticulate system of cost accounting” that exposed “the heavy personal sacrifices that family ties and especially parenthood entail under modern conditions.” This sharp decline in a desire for children left already functionless homes with even less value.

But what is the alternative?  Mr A. Carlson answers with some words from the conservative economist Wilhelm Roepke:

 . . .


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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