The Minimal Family

The Minimal Family

The Minimal Family

The Minimal Family

Synopsis

Drawing on the work of social historians, political economists, sociologists, and psychologists, the authors go well beyond the usual arguments that show how the needs of the newly industrializing society eroded the traditional bonds of kinship.

Excerpt

The Minimal Family arose from an argument that began between the two of us over fifteen years ago. While we both agreed that the family was being steadily weakened, principally by the ways the economy erodes family solidarity, we disagreed about the significance of the change. Jan saw it as a mixed blessing at best. The change was bringing about greater equality between husband and wife; however, the basis of this equality had less to do with venerable forms of egalitarianism than it did with the reduction of men and women to self-interested economic agents. The decline of the family, from this vantage point, is lamentable. The lament, though, can only evoke nostalgia for a former golden age of family living, an idealization for which Jan had no appetite.

Howard avoided this dilemma by adopting the position that the demise of the family is largely to the good. Both the ideal and the reality of the family carry so many encumbrances on individual freedom and growth that they are insupportable. Even more important, as its conservative defenders insist, the family is a bulwark of the social order. Were the social order just and humane, then the family might be defensible. But clearly . . .

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