The Fragmenting Family

The Fragmenting Family

The Fragmenting Family

The Fragmenting Family

Synopsis

Brenda Almond throws down a timely challenge to liberal consensus about personal relationships. She maintains that the traditional family is fragmenting in Western societies, and that this fragmentation is a cause of serious social problems. She urges that we reconsider our attitudes to sex and reproduction in order to strengthen our most important social institution, the family.

Excerpt

What is the family? There are many ways of answering this question, but I take as my starting point here G. K. Chesterton’s striking metaphor of family as ‘this frail cord, flung from the forgotten hills of yesterday to the invisible mountains of tomorrow’. in more prosaic terms, it is the chain of personal connections that gives meaning to our human notions of past, present and future—a mysterious genetic entity that binds us in our short span of individual existence to our ancestors and to our successors. But for many people, these familiar domestic foundations, taken for granted by previous generations, have begun to crumble. the signs are there in personal lives diminished by unstable relationships, broken commitments, and loss of contact with a whole range of peripheral but important relationships, from grandparents and in-laws to distant cousins and aunts. But, while the family is not indestructible, it is resilient. the family is, and always has been, the foundation of communities in which the cherishing of each individual person can flourish, and perhaps the only one that can survive social change, preserving the shape and structure of civil society through the vicissitudes of history: war and peace, the rise and decline of nation states, demographic fluctuations and economic change. the original architects of a liberal and individualist social philosophy are often taken to have propounded a message of self-interest and egotism. But, even for these earlier thinkers, the ‘atomic individual’ of modern political thought was an alien concept, unless perhaps as hermit, recluse, or solitary mystic. Even for them, as for their contemporary successors, the ‘individual’ whose self-determination sometimes needs protection from an overzealous state can be seen, not as a rival concept, but as one that is itself deeply embedded in the broader concept of family.

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