This article is the first chapter of a book written by Elton and Pauline Trueblood called The Recovery of Family Life. It is long out of print. You might be able to find a copy in a used bookstore.
What is truly striking about this article is the date it was written. You would think in 1953 there would be no need for Christians to write a book called The Recovery of Family Life. We tend to think of the 1940's and 1950's as an American "golden age." Back then morality and truth was hip - or so we are told. Sometimes our naive nostalgia gets the better of us. Certainly, the family looked better back then from the outside, but if you read this article you will see many seeds that led to the current demise of the American family were already strongly rooted and growing in our culture. The Truebloods provide a powerful analysis of their and our contemporary family situation. Their insight is prophetic. All back in 1953.
The title of the Truebloods’ article is a play off the Marxist idea of the "withering away of the state." But, you might be thinking, we won the Cold War, right? We are the land of Free. Why bother talking about Communism any more? That’s ancient history. Well, if we forget what Marxism was all about we’ll not recognize related ideas we see today. And if we don’t recognize it we just might accept it. And if we accept it then we’ll see it as normal American life. By then it'll be far too late to object, because the objectors will be labeled "un-American." Maybe it is too late. Has anyone compared the Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto to contemporary life in America? You might find that an interesting read. All I know is we live in Freedom - I know that because the Superbowl pre-game show told me so (wink, wink). -Editor
The Withering Away of the Family
By Elton and Pauline Trueblood - 1953
"We Replace home education by social" - Communist Manifesto
As we plunge deeper into the undeclared civil war of the planet, which waxes and wanes, but does not thereby cease, we tend to exaggerate, at many points, the differences between the thought and practice which characterize human life on the two sides of the iron curtain. The really frightening thought, however, is that of the degree to which the two sides are similar. In spite of the different labels, we are more like the Russians than we realize or choose to admit. In no area of our experience is the developing similarity more disturbing than that of family life. The sobering truth is that, in our conception of the family and its place in a total society, we are producing without considered and conscious intent, much that the Russian planners have achieved by deliberate ideological emphasis. We are doing by neglect much that the Marxists have done by social planning.
The Communist Manifesto made the attack on family loyalty perfectly clear. The Manifesto spoke of, "The bourgeois claptrap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child." That the family, as developed through Judeo-Christian influence would come to an end with the completed revolution was vigorously asserted. "The bourgeois family," says the Manifesto, "will vanish as a matter of course when its complement (prostitution) vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital." The main shift which the communists authors envisaged was from the family unit to larger social agencies. The teaching was that children belong primarily to the state and not primarily to the home.
We cannot understand modern Marxist doctrine unless we know something of the degree to which it has embraced militant feminism. The basic idea is that men and women must be treated in identical ways except for some special provision for pregnancy and nursing. The notion of a woman as the center of the home, giving it peace, order and continuous affection, is considered a quaint bourgeois prejudice which the emancipated or "scientific" modern will give up as soon as he is awakened to the true situation. Women must, therefore, be expected to work in factories, in offices and on farms, exactly as men do. They will earn in the same way and they will be willing to give up the antiquated notion that children are better trained in homes than they are in public institutions. The shift of the cultural center of gravity from the home to public institutions was explained by Engels in the following statement:
"It is already clear at this point the emancipation of woman, her equalisation with man, is and remains impossible so long as the woman is excluded from the productive work of society and remains restricted to private household work. The emancipation of woman first becomes possible when she is able on an extensive, social scale, to participate in production, and household work claims her attention only to an insignificant extent. And this for the first time has been made possible by large scale industry, which not only admits women’s labor over a wide range, but absolutely demands it, and also strives to transform private household work more and more into public industry."1
It is important to remember that the breakup of the family is not incidental, but central to official communist ideology. This was one of the main ideas on which Lenin insisted most strongly. He described the public nursery, which sets the mother free from the burden of constant care of young children, and thus enables her to earn an independent livelihood, as being the "germ cell of the communist society." Communist ideology thus sought to carry to the ultimate conclusion the familiar feminist ideal of the nineteenth century. We can understand and even appreciate this conception as a violent reaction against the former subjection and extreme domesticity of women, but this is no justification, inasmuch as the one extreme may be quite as unlovely as the other.
The official Marxist doctrine, all along, has been that the home, when it is given social priority and real importance, involves parasitism. The unemployed woman is declared to be a parasite, roughly comparable to the industrialist who is guilty of profiting by directing to his own use what is known as surplus value. Of course it follows, if the unproductiveness of home life can be demonstrated, that families, as ordinarily organized, represent economic waste. Since there are fully as many females as males, the "emancipation of women" practically doubles the labor power at one stroke. At the same time the state wins a great victory of another kind, in that the task of propagandizing all minds is made far easier when the center of education becomes public rather than private. Education which is "an instrument of propaganda for the communist regeneration of society" is made easier if the family does not compete or interfere. A woman who works all day in the factory or office will not have the extra energy to engage seriously in her time-honored educational task or to share in it with her husband. All of her surplus energy will be required for the domestic duties which necessarily occupy the margin of her time.
As early as 1920 Lenin reported great success in his crucial enterprise, especially in the following words:
The Government of the proletarian dictatorship, together with the Communist Party and trade unions, is, of course, leaving no stone unturned in the effort to overcome the backward ideas of men and women, to destroy the old uncommunist psychology... We are establishing communal kitchens and public eating-houses, laundries and repair shops, infant asylums, kindergartens, children’s homes, educational institutes of all kinds. In short, we are seriously carrying out the demand of our programme for the transference of the economic and educational functions of the separate household to society.
As is well known, a great deal of sexual promiscuity was permitted or even encouraged in the early days of the Revolution, because the older loyalties, especially the religious ones, were breaking down, but the time soon came when the leaders realized that such promiscuity was disastrous. In the earliest days of the new order, sexual intercourse was often considered a wholly personal matter, having no moral or social implications, and was sometimes compared to drinking a glass of water. But as early as 1921 Lenin denounced strenuously the "glass of water" theory on the grounds that intercourse has social results, which the drinking of water does not have. He called the theory "uncommunist" and called for a stern self-control in the interest of the new society. "The Revolution," he said, "demands concentration... And so, I repeat, no weakening, no waste, no destruction of forces. Self-control, self-discipline, not slavery, not even in love... Such questions are part of the woman question."
The Russians have retreated ideologically on the marriage aspect of what Lenin called "the woman question" but not essentially on the family aspect. They have made divorce less easy than it was at first, but they have not retreated from the belief in universal employment, with the consequent diminution of the importance of the home. What they fear is not marriage or even neo-Puritanism, in regard to sex, but rather the cultural independence of the family unit. This fact is very important for any serious consideration of our own cultural predicament in the life of the West.
"The state," said Engels, "will not be ‘abolished,’ it will wither away." This is the classic statement of a well-known communist doctrine, but the conception involved is broader than this particular application. Other institutions besides the state may wither away even if the state does not, and of these the family is a conspicuous example. In the life of the West, and particularly of America, there is no self-conscious or concerted attack on the family, as there has been in Russia since the beginning of the Revolution, but harm may nevertheless come. Our danger arises, not from direct attack, but from a multitude of separate factors, no one of which is sufficient, of itself, to destroy the family, but which, in their combination, make an impact which is truly terrible to observe or contemplate.
One factor is the uprootedness of people in the industrial age. Hundreds of thousands live in trailer camps or in other temporary quarters where the stabilizing factors in family life are almost wholly absent. The people who exist this way, moving from one well-paid job to another, often have a good deal of ready money, but they miss almost entirely the sense of belonging that can be so stabilizing. We have millions who have no real stake in the community and no membership in a group whose approbation is highly valued. Uprooted men and women do not take the same pride in family success, and when people cease to care, the family naturally goes to pieces.
Ease of divorce, a lowered sense of the importance of sexual morality and the general dislocations of the postwar period have combined to put the family in jeopardy, but it is the subtler forces which count for most in this regard. Of all the disintegrating factors the chief is the loss of the sense of meaning of what a family ought to be. Our basic failure is not the failure to live up to a standard that is accepted, but rather the failure to keep the standard clear! The majority who live in settled homes rather than trailer camps may be uprooted also, because they have lost confidence in the essential sacredness of the family as the basic unit of society.
The central question is the question of priority. Many Americans, like many Russians, are willing to permit the existence of homes, since people must eat and sleep somewhere, but they allow the dignity of the home to be lost by degrees, because they do not resist the tendency to make the home chiefly an adjunct to other institutions. Actually, the family is so important in our total life that the shoe ought to be on the other foot. A good case can be made for the thesis that the various social organizations should be judged by what they do to the family. The club, the school, and other agencies ought to exist to serve them, because these institutions are instrumental while the family is terminal in value. The family is an end in itself because it is a place in our world where the loving fellowship, which is the purpose of all our striving, is actually demonstrated. A symptom of our sickness is our strange tendency to reverse the order of value.
It is part of the paradox of contemporary life in America that some of the greatest dangers to the family come from institutions inspired by noble aims, bent on lifting of the level of civilization, yet failing at the central point. A conspicuous example of this is the modern school. Much of the contemporary educational philosophy is really totalitarian, though, of course, it does not claim to be so. The school proposes to take over many of the functions formerly associated with the home as well as many historically belonging to the church. Often the school sets itself up as the teacher of morals as well as the director of the entire social and recreational experience. The father of the family may be so old-fashioned that he would be willing to give a few nights to reading aloud in in the family circle, but school life is so over-organized that it is almost impossible to find a free evening. Some schools now play more than twenty basketball games in a season and great pressure is put on all students to attend all games as a matter of school loyalty. Then there are the plays, with the interminable rehearsals, the dances, the selling of tickets, the drives, the entertainments.
The consequences of all this is that a terrible onus is put upon the parent who resists. In one large school a visiting psychologist was brought by the school administration to address the Parent Teacher Association, the burden of his message being that parents who keep their children away from any of the social activities sponsored by the high school are thereby harming their children, possibly irreparably.
The strange thing about all this emphasis is that so few seem to realize how presumptuous it is. In short, without calling ourselves Marxists at all, we have actually adopted a great part of Marxist ideology at a crucial point. In the words of the Communist Manifesto, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, "We replace home education by social." We have so much lost our pride that we do not even resent the presumption of the "expert" who tells us blandly that he can handle our children better than we can. We build our lovely homes, at great sacrifice, and then tolerate meekly a situation in which nearly all of the child’s waking hours are spent outside its sheltering walls.
There are some who have declared that the existence of television reverses this trend away from the home, but the judgment is premature. Home life is not really restored to its priority by the simple expedient of turning one of its rooms into a theater in which people sit in semi-darkness and without conversation or other creative enterprise. The recovery of family life is not a problem so simple that it can be solved by the introduction of a new technological device. Undoubtedly, television does tend to keep some members of the family at home, but the question of the beneficence of this experience remain unanswered. If our major choice is between separation from the home and hypnosis in the living room we are in a bad way indeed. Those who stay at home only for television are still in the theater, spiritually.
It cannot be doubted that many parents aid and foster the tendencies which take the children out of the home or keep them passively occupied in it. They welcome the television program, whatever the unconscious sinister influence involved in it, because the program keeps the children quiet for awhile. Likewise many parents welcome the Saturday motion picture at the neighborhood theater, however vulgar, because it keeps the children out of the house. Quite easily it is easier to patronize commercial entertainment than to think up profitable family enterprises or to give them the time and effort they require when they are carried out.
There is no doubt that many parents send their children to Sunday School, on Sunday morning, not merely because they are eager for religious instruction, but partly because the practice gives the father a little peace while he reads the oversize newspaper. The fact that children are sent rather than accompanied is soon obvious to them and helps account for a general decline in attendance during adolescence.
The adults of the modern family find the real centers of their lives outside the home almost as much as the children do. The father comes home from work, eats his dinner, and then, becoming restless, goes out to the club house or to the tavern. He feels he needs some relaxation. In similar fashion countless women find their steady satisfaction in bridge clubs or other extradomestic undertakings. When such is true of both fathers and mothers as well as children they are bound to arrive sooner or later at the spectacle of the atomized family, already experienced by many in varying degrees. The chief social forces are centrifugal, with the result that there is a marked contrast between the beautifully furnished houses, which the home magazines encourage, and what goes on inside them. Our difficulty lies not primarily in our domestic architecture; neither does it lie in our equipment; it lies chiefly in our poverty of spirit.
In no phase of our family life is the similarity of pattern on the two sides of the iron curtain more obvious than in the public employment of women. The chief differences are differences of degree and the reasons for the practice, but many of the harmful effects are essentially the same in both areas of the world. The chief reasons why wives and mothers in America seek employment are three, economic, ideological, and personal. Sometimes these motives are combined.
The economic motives cover a wide range. Sometimes the earning of the mother is a necessity for survival, as is obviously the case when the woman is a widow or the wife of a husband who is physically handicapped , incompetent or faced with financial calamity. In numerous instances, however, the economic motive is far less compelling and amounts to little more than a desire for a higher standard of living.
It might be supposed that current high wages in America would practically eliminate the threat to family life which comes from economic strain, but this result has by no means come to pass. High as wages are, there has been no marked diminution in multiple earning within a single family unit. Even more damaging, is the practice among men, of accepting two jobs, with the result that father and children almost never see one another, for the father is away evenings as well as week-ends. A survey in one great city is astonishing in that it shows that 35 per cent of the employed men had a double employment. The short working week, looked for so eagerly as a means of providing creative leisure and time for home life, has, for thousands, become only an opportunity for longer hours of employment and greater earning in the effort to keep up with the economic rat race, made more intense by twin factors of the inflation of our money and the increased desire for ever more expensive objects. This desire is greatly stimulated by the constant and highly appealing advertising of what are essentially luxury products. Increasingly, what were formerly luxuries are now felt as genuine requirements, especially necessary in the maintenance of social standing at some particular level.
The growing tendency for great corporations, such as the chain grocery stores, to operate seven days a week is a threat to family life. The persons employed are, of course, given at least one day each week to be at home, but usually the days are so staggered that it is almost impossible for family occasions to be planned and carried out. The situation in which the father is home each evening, and for a long week-end, seems to many of our people a beautiful dream, but practically impossible for them to enjoy in practice.
Many devices are used to care for the children while both parents are away. A grandmother or other relative is the most widely used substitute for the mother, but in many situations these are not available because they do not live nearby. The absence of close relatives is one of the human prices we pay for our migratory industrial economy. Some children are left with strangers for pay, some are left in day nurseries and others are left to shift for themselves. Almost 20 per cent of the children of employed mothers were found to be wholly without supervision before and after school. Several hundred children were found to be in a position where they had to shift for themselves during the evening meal, early evening and all or part of the night.
It is important to realize that nearly all mothers who are interviewed tend to put the situation of their children in the best possible light, because they do not with to be accused of neglect. Accordingly, we may be sure that the actual effect in the lives of children is worse than the factual reports indicate. The worst effects, having to do with the child’s sense of insecurity, are intangible and largely unconscious, but this phase of the withering away of the family is undoubtedly building up a sad human harvest for the future.
Most parents who operate on the basis of double earning report that they do so from economic necessity, though this is, of course, a term of high ambiguity. In many cases the need is obviously genuine, especially when there has been catastrophic illness with consequent debt. Many are trying desperately to get together enough money to provide a down payment on a house of their own while others are trying to keep up payments on a car or a television set. Only a few of the young employed mothers are widows. Eighty-five percent of those employed are not heads of households.
When we consider the human price of this increasingly accepted social pattern of double earning, we usually stress the harmful effects upon the children or the hardening of the mothers, but the effect upon the adult men may be quite as important in the long run. Once men took great pride in being able to provide for their families and resented any implication that a second pay check was needed, but now many men welcome whatever help the wife can give. What we are witnessing is the feminization of men, a psychological development independent of physical characteristics. In modern life a man often goes from dependence on one woman to dependence on another. Thus the man is cheated of his own basis of self-respect and the woman is cheated in that she never has the sense of security which a strong man gives. In this situation it is hard to know how much is cause and how much effect; the wife has to earn because the man does not provide sufficiently, but his very failure to provide may come partly because of a social pattern which undermines his self-respect.
We do not claim to have any easy answers to these problems, but we are very sure of two things. First, those of us who do not face this economic and social problem must be very tender toward those who do, and, second, we must understand clearly the human harm which comes as the family withers away at important levels in our society. Only as we understand the loss will we have the incentive adequate to make us use our imagination to reverse the process of decay.
The ideological motive for the employment of married women may now seem a bit dated, but nevertheless continues strong in some areas. Many women are very ambitious to prove that they can compete with men in men’s fields, but they are not willing to give up the opportunity to have families, so they try to perform the miracle of carrying on two full-time occupations at once. "I do not deny," says Chesterton, "that women have been wronged and even tortured; but I doubt if they were ever tortured so much as they are tortured now by the absurd modern attempt to make them domestic empresses and competitive clerks at the same time."2
The third motive for the paid employment of married women is easily understandable and very widespread in its effect. This is the personal one, according to which women leave the circle of the home out of boredom and loneliness. They young woman, taking care daily of the needs of little boys and girls and answering innumerable questions when she is physically tired, begins to envy the life of her husband and her unmarried sisters. Their lives seem so attractive by contrast. They chat endlessly with other adults, they go out for mid-morning coffee, they work in groups and they have the excitement of daily transportation. It is very easy for the tired mother to romanticize about other occupations, particularly those in which a person can use her mind. Escape can come by employment, she thinks, and the children won’t suffer much because the extra money will pay for their care.
At this point it is easy to combine the second motive with the third. The mother feels, perhaps justifiably, that our present culture accords no real prestige or distinction to what a mother does in her home, but she understands very well that honor comes to those who succeed in business or the professions. Many of the powerful opinion makers of our time are conspiring against the woman who operates at the center of the home, helping to make her despise her own role in society. Several of the photo magazines have presented recently highly glamorized scenes from the lives of women who are engaged in business or some professional work all week and who graciously give their week-ends to their families. The mother who has finally sent her three little ones to school by eight o’clock and then has sat down to read the beautiful magazine may be pardoned if she feels a touch of envy of the glamour mothers in the advertising game.
The test of any pattern of life is what it does to the people involved. In this case we are concerned both with the effect on married couples and the effect on children. Inevitably it is the children who suffer most. Some men may not resent a situation in which they are deprived of the satisfaction of being the adequate breadwinner of a family and some may actually encourage the wife’s participation in earning, but the children are not usually consulted. Some of them do not know what they are missing, because they have never experienced any other arrangement, but they are harmed nevertheless.
The harm in the situation is that of always coming home to the empty house with no one there to welcome the one who returns. Character and temperament are formed far more by such intangibles than they are by overt teaching. The woman who thinks that she has a dull job, staying at home and doing dull work, may, in fact, be performing an amazing service by the psychological stability she provides. Because numerous fathers must, in the nature of the case, be away a great deal in the accomplishment of their needed tasks, it is all the more important that a center of stability be maintained. The notion that this can be done adequately by hired servants is grotesque. How lacking in self-confidence a mother must be who supposes that the steady impact upon character can be better performed by persons she hires to do the job while someone hires her to do another job. It would take a very strange ideology to justify such a procedure, yet many accept it uncritically as a matter of course.
The usual assumption is that mothers can be employed outside the home with no consequent harm to the children because of the use of nursery schools. This is really part of the collectivist philosophy, strikingly similar to that enunciated by Lenin, and now has very wide vogue in America, but there are at least two things wrong with it, however fashionable it may be. In the first place, it is far from self-evident that children are better off under what is known as expert social care. They get some advantages thereby, but they miss others that may be more important. It was impressive to watch the late Ray Lymon Wilbur, when the collectivist fashion was proposed, as it normally was in marriage courses in the university of which he was president, and hear him say in his Lincolnesque manner, "I’ve never noticed that children brought up in orphan asylums are so much superior to children brought up in families.:
The second defect of the collectivist philosophy of child training is that, when all the members of the family are home together at night, the little children who are naturally hungering for loving interest are given only the tag end of the parental day. Domestic work must be done somehow, even in Russia, and the fact that it is supposedly done by both father and mother as equal partners does not eliminate it. What chance do children have when both parents are not only tired from the day’s work outside, but also have to do all the day’s housework in their supposedly leisure hours? Anyone who has witnessed many such scenes knows that they are far from the loveliness of the Marxist Utopian dream. It is the right of little children to have individual love all day long and to have more than the tag ends of affection. But this situation will not change until the family is seen as an institution so precious that men and women will sacrifice something, even in excitement and personal expression, in order to maintain it.
The tide of ideological fashion seems still to be moving in the direction of universal employment outside the home. It is not uncommon to find great factory and commercial establishments where there are more female than male employees. There are the so-called "chicken farms," offices in which endless rows of women are busy pecking away all day long. The sight is somehow very depressing. En masse they seem desexed, like the workers in the beehive. They are potential queens who have missed their vocation. Each could be pictured at the center of a home, making an island of peace and order in the confusion and strain of our day, but instead she runs an adding machine or files addresses in a noisy room filled with women.
The chain of disaster is clear. The homes devoid of regular or continuous care lead directly to insecurity and delinquency on the part of the young. These in turn set up homes where a similar pattern is demonstrated. How shall we break this vicious chain? Before we can break it we need to know the nature of the trouble. Part of the trouble is, of course, economic, but by no means all. A good share of the trouble is moral and, if we go beyond the surface, most of it may be. One of the chief reasons why so many habitations are not homes is that other things are prized more.
The moral aspect of the decay of family life is obvious in the relations of the sexes to each other. There are, of course, millions of families in which there is lifelong marital fidelity, but it is frightening to realize that these may now only constitute a minority of our population. If the figures given out by the Kinsey Report are reliable, it may be estimated that more than half of the adult population of contemporary America shows, in practice, only slight respect for marital fidelity. What seems to have occurred is that great numbers consider sexual morality something quaint and meaningless for our time. Like the Russians in the first flush of the Revolution, many accept the "drink of water" conception and believe adultery a trivial affair, especially in light of the fact that modern inventions make unlikely the permanent effects that have sometimes served as deterrents in the past.
Part of the trouble lies in the fact that so much of the idea of sanctity is gone. Easy divorce and quick remarriage, after the Nevada model, mean that a marriage is seen primarily as a private convenience rather than a sacred undertaking. C.C. Zimmerman, in his Harvard study, Family and Civilization, perhaps the most thorough work of the kind now in existence, puts the matter tersely when he says, "In other words the family is considered de facto, a private contract of a very brittle nature and as having not even a mild public significance." It ought to be clear that the present withering of the family is exactly what we should expect in the absence of a generally accepted philosophy which would support the sanctity of marriage. The people who rush to Reno are not doing the surprising thing; they are doing the wholly natural thing, given their presuppositions. It is at this point that Zimmerman’s analysis is both helpful and clear. "The religious and moral agents," he writes, "which once supported their systems of familism are largely corrupted by lack of knowledge of their real functions in society."
The secular atomism of the modern family makes three fundamental mistakes. First, it sees marriage as mere contract, second it understands marriage as a private affair, and third, it adopts a philosophy of self-expression and empty freedom, which rules out the claims of self-sacrifice and self-control.
As marriage becomes less sacred, and divorce more acceptable, many reach the facile conclusion that easy divorce is thereby justified. This is akin to the curious reasoning based on the Kinsey Report of sexual behavior, to the effect that infractions of the moral code are no longer evil because many commit them. But what a curiously naive logic to conclude that right and wrong can be discovered by statistical method. Homosexual practices are not justified by the revelation, which nobody doubted, that a good many persons have temptations in this direction. What is commonly practiced is often wrong, in spite of its popularity.
Another phase of the problem of the family concerns the attitude of children toward their parents. The revolt against parental authority has gone so far that many young people have lost both politeness and a sense of respect. A characteristic college boy, when he heard the phrase "elders and betters," replied, "I have no betters." This superficial notion of equality, where equality does not exist is the logical result of the doctrine of empty freedom, according to which each person is encouraged to follow self-expression and resist any limitation on personal decision. Naturally the family suffers first in this situation since the major values of family life, whether we realize it or not, depend upon a great degree of limitation on the personal action of the individual. The doctrine of freedom as popularly held and sometimes practiced leads not only to easy divorce, when marriage becomes galling, but likewise to a refusal, on the part of children, to accept the responsibilities which membership entails. In so far as freedom of action is seen as the primary or sole value, the family is progressively atomized and consequently destroyed.
We know a great deal about our diseased time when we see the growth of interest in abnormal psychology. In many universities the courses in abnormal behavior are the most popular of all courses in psychology, while numerous marriage courses achieve popularity because of their reputation for emphasis on sex. Apparently, the undisguised pornography of the books in the drug stores is not sufficient to satisfy the demand. But what widespread futility there must be which causes people to turn to such substitutes! The bizarre interests are symptoms of a deep failure to find something positive and satisfying at the center of our lives.
A contemporary notion that is almost as popular as it is absurd is the belief that the good life can be produced by the simple expedient of spreading sex knowledge. The fatuousness of this belief ought to be obvious when we reflect upon the fact that some of the most ruthless of sexual offenders are the those whose sexual information must be immense. More than knowledge is necessary for the good life, whatever the area of experience. Knowledge is necessary, but it is certainly not sufficient.
It is likewise not enough to go to the other extreme and take a stiff line in regard to the remarriage of divorced persons. This is only one incident in a large whole. What we need is a far wider view in which we refuse to concentrate on merely on the relations of husband and wife and give our attention even more to the relations between parent and child. We make much of the break of affection which leads to divorce, but we have not given adequate attention to the break between parents and children, for which there is no handy common noun. What we need is an ideological transformation in regard to the family, including a new sense of motivation.
Fortunately, there are still thousands, perhaps millions of good families in America where the bonds of affection are kept strong, but not even these are free from the danger of withering processes around them. Only by vigilance can the valued life we already have be kept and only by careful thought can its scope be increased. As the major threat to the life of the family lies in our ideas and convictions, so it is in this same area that our hope for a better future likewise lies. Can we recover or produce a conception of family life so intrinsically appealing that it makes us dissatisfied with the withering of the family in either Russia or the Western style? That we can is the thesis of this book, and to the delineation of such a conception we turn in the next chapter.
1. Friedrich Engels, "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State," A Handbook of Marxism, pp. 318-19. Engels, after the death of Marx in 1883, wrote this work, making use of Marx's notes. Marx had intended to write on the subject.
2. G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1910), p. 160.