Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Corporate Progressivism

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Corporate Progressivism

Article excerpt

CORPORATE PROGRESSIVISM by Patrick J. Deneen November 2018 From Tolerance to Equality: How Elites Brought America to Same-Sex Marriage BY DAREL E. PAUL BAYLOR, 256 PAGES, $39.95

In 2013, the Supreme Court reversed a determination by the Internal Revenue Service that $363,053 in inheritance taxes were owed on an estate of $4.1 million. One side of the American political spectrum swooned in joy-the left. These supposed opponents of inequality were largely indifferent to the financial element of the case. They were simply cheered by the fact that United States v. Windsor held that the Defense of Marriage Act had unconstitutionally limited the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples. And so avoidance of inheritance taxes was celebrated as an achievement for equality.

We can see a similar dynamic when it comes to corporate politicking. President Obama said of the 2010 Citizens United decision, "This ruling strikes at our democracy itself," and "I can't think of anything more devastating to the public interest." Yet one searches in vain to find progressive denunciations of the role played by corporations in several recent high-profile controversies about state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. The governors of Arizona, Arkansas, and Indiana all retreated from enacting these laws when threatened with capital strikes and the relocation of major sporting events. Corporations successfully ousted North Carolina's governor after he supported legislation that required transgendered persons to use bathrooms matching their biological sex. Far from decrying such corporate interference as a corruption of democracy, the left cheered it on. Frank Bruni wrote a column in the New York Times titled "The Sunny Side of Greed" in which he said it was "fine with me" if "big corporations will soon rule the earth," given that they were "more democratic" than politicians-at least on issues of sexuality.

These examples encapsulate one of the strangest features of contemporary progressive politics: the transformation of the egalitarian agenda from an economic program into a movement for sexual liberation. The party that once promoted the interests of the working class now celebrates when wealthy couples dodge the "death tax" and corporations overturn democratic verdicts-all the while holding up signs displaying the equal sign.

Darel Paul, a political scientist at Williams College, details the curious convergence of elite interests and progressive sexual politics in his eye-opening book, From Tolerance to Equality: How Elites Brought America to Same-Sex Marriage. Paul catalogues how elites-especially a vanguard populating the universities, often lodged in the social sciences such as psychology and sociology- led the effort to normalize gay marriage.

From the beginning, this movement was about more than the status of gay couples. It assumed and celebrated a broader de-linking of marriage and childbearing that applied to heterosexual couples as well. A reproductive ideal of marriage with defined gender roles was replaced by a vision of marriage as an egalitarian emotional relationship that could be easily entered and exited. This, not incidentally, is the form of marriage favored by the managerial elite.

One of the results of the decoupling of marriage and childbearing is the decline of "patriarchy." Fashionable as it is to denigrate this institution, it has long served a valuable function: the domestication of men. As Paul puts it, "Higher fertility creates patriarchs, men who understand themselves as attached to the family of which they are the head." Whereas gay men were once likely to remain bachelors and straight men were most often fathers, both now converge in a new ideal of childless egalitarian coupling. A culture in which gay marriage is normal is one that is reconceiving not only marriage but manhood itself.

Paul notes that men without children are much more likely to be approving of homosexuality. …

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