Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
steveo73
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by steveo73 »

@daylen - thanks for the tip.

The complexity is the problem isn't it. You can't model complex processes well and people are complex. It's is interesting but you have to recognize there is often no right way. Family structure is about as complex as it gets if you are assigning some value judgement to it being a success or not. I mean an abusive home that is a nuclear family isn't great is it ? What about a loving home ? Then you have to ask how close those people are to other people outside of that nuclear family and on it goes.

GandK
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by GandK »

I read this article a few days ago and shrugged.

His arguments regarding the shortcomings of "nuclear" families reminded me of (the common, and my, experience of) growing up in a small town. People who thrive in a cooperative environment, and whose strengths are valued by it - the winners - stay put, marry within, and raise families there. And people who feel stifled by the interconnectedness and the social controls there, or whose ideal path/partner in life is either taken by another community member or flat-out unavailable - the losers - move away to the big city instead of settling for a life path within the community that they see as less desirable than the one they feel capable of or entitled to.

What the author of the piece doesn't make room for in his paradigm is the idea that some people leaving nuclear families and others staying put might actually be a good thing for everybody, just like some people leaving small towns and some staying is a good idea. Why is the fact that traditional family structure works for some but not all, a disqualifier for all of society? Why is it not perfectly okay for people who want nuclear families and thrive within them to live one lifestyle, and those who don't to form their own tribes and live another, without this being a Greek-level tragedy requiring social deconstruction and hand-wringing opinion pieces?

This is the aggressive left. We can't have nuclear families for all, so let's do what we can to burn those ships. Let's make them less desirable even for those for whom tradition is a perfect fit.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by classical_Liberal »

Fabulous topic!
jennypenny wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:08 am
I'm also not looking at social capital with scorekeeping in mind. [/b]People here project that ontoI think some of you are missing the finer points of the article. Brooks isn't arguing that extended/forged families are better because then you don't have to pay someone to watch your kids. That was only a side benefit. The point is that if other people help out with child care, the kids (and those adults) get social and emotional benefits out of the relationship. It's those hard-to-quantify bennies that are missing and why so many people struggle with loneliness and depressions these days.
I agree with @JP. Many people are missing the point. This is something I was struggling with deeply this autumn, trying to account for other forms of capital. You can buy the services a good social network (avoiding the family argument here for a moment) provides, but it's not cheap, and it's less resilient. This is because if the money flow stops, the service stops as well. Good social capital works in reverse, when times get tough the benefits increase. The best financial analog I can think of here is insurance, or maybe an annuity. Having a good social network provides a safety net similar to that of FI. It doesn't only provide life benefits when you are directly realizing some form of "gains". It significantly reduces daily life stress because someone else can always cook the dinner, give you a ride, pick up the kids, etc. This provides the stability and feeling of safety that allows for greater risk taking and experimentation, which intern leads to greater success. This is exactly what FU/FI does in the sense that you can always pay for a ride, a babysitter, or a cooked dinner. So you don't have to worry about it and are free to spend your time doing other things, when those other things are more important.

I also tend to believe the science behind socialization and happiness is pretty overwhelming.(*) So on top of the insurance you also get a better, happier life. @daylen, Happiness is not overrated, you should try it :P

(*) Although there are always exceptions to the rule and we may have a higher than normal population cross section of those exceptions on this forum.
jacob wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 8:37 am
You guys are thinking "too middle class" wrt the "social capital" concept. The middle class tends to be transactional
I'm not sure how many people here have experience across the US social classes. I have a lot of cross-social experience personally and professionally. @Jacob is dead on correct, IMO. It's mostly the middle class and upper middle class that transactionalizes social capital.
thrifty++ wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:56 pm
Totally agree with Ertyu's comments about how extended families can be oppressive, particularly in non-western or pre modern western times.
This is something I don't have experience with, I never had a strong extended family. I know people who do though, and they tend to complain about the expectations, restrictions, etc. So, I have to assume its a huge problem. I'm not sure this has to be a continuum though. With individualism on one end, and communalism on the other. Modern travel and communication have allowed the unprecedented ability to create one's own tribe. This is a freedom few people seem to take advantage of, maybe because they have to spend so much time making money to pay for the benefits a tribe provides. I believe the idea of crafting an extended family through a strong social network can allow for individualistic preferences and provide the source of community needed to actualize all the benefits it provides. It takes work though, just like FI, so most don't put in the effort.

Edited to add: @JP had an excellent point in another thread. Maybe the reason people do not place value on the idea of tribe/extended family is because we are not able to measure the benefits as easily as we can with a large pile of money, a 3%WR, and a monthly budget of services we purchase.
Last edited by classical_Liberal on Sat Feb 15, 2020 1:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

Toska2
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by Toska2 »

I am speaking more towards communal bonding.

Modern society is set up so the alternative won't work either. Individuals lack the skills to personally help the other and the work doesnt have the gravitas.

Any time over 100 years ago a broken leg meant almost death without help. Animals, crops, firewood, food gathering/prep all needed to be done in a timely matter. Now the work is "Water my houseplants while I go to Dollyworld." The bonding work has to be meaningful to the individual and the group. Both, the individual and the group, improve when the work is accomplished.

Modern work skills has very little to do with living. Pushing paper, designing widgets and building cogs are all highly company specific. A SO couldn't help, the cousin couldn't help nor a neighbor. That work is his living, he is immensely more tightly coupled into a situation nobody can help.

*One factor I forgot is solutions are cheap. Going back to a broken leg, I can now order food online. The food can be cooked, prepped or ingredients. This is cheaper than interacting with a community large enough to supply a couple months of food. The same could be said for clothing, tools and ect.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by classical_Liberal »

@Toska2

Right, but just because I can't ask someone to "go to work for me", doesn't mean what they are doing isn't providing equal value. It's all a matter of limiting factors in a system. It isn't a monetary transaction.

Generally, for the full-time worker, time is a hugely limiting factor. A neighbor who waters your plants for you, so you don't have to worry about it, may provide you a huge psychological benefit. This is the same as the continual argument around here about keeping high wage jobs and outsourcing to increase net worth, vs working less and learning to DIY with a skill set. It's like apples and cheeseburgers, both can fill you up, but the flavor is much different, one has a denser (more efficient) caloric value, and the long term consequences of doing one too much adds up.

IlliniDave
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by IlliniDave »

classical_Liberal wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:27 am
I'm not sure how many people here have experience across the US social classes. I have a lot of cross-social experience personally and professionally. @Jacob is dead on correct, IMO. It's mostly the middle class and upper middle class that transactionalizes social capital.
...
This is something I don't have experience with, I never had a strong extended family. I know people who do though, and they tend to complain about the expectations, restrictions, etc. So, I have to assume its a huge problem.
...
Edited to add: @JP had an excellent point in another thread. Maybe the reason people do not place value on the idea of tribe/extended family is because we are not able to measure the benefits as easily as we can with a large pile of money, a 3%WR, and a monthly budget of services we purchase.
r.e. across social classes. I was raised on the lowest fringe of the middle class and slowly gravitated to the upper side of middle class. Outside of "my" class I have the most interaction with folks in the lower economic classes. I must be missing something along the way because I don't see much that looks transactional when it comes to social capital among my demographic peers. As a matter of fact, the only place I've ever seen transactional social capital floated as an idea is in this group. What exactly are these transactions I'm supposed to be engaging in? Using simple diction and putting transaction and social capital together the only place the combination seems to fit is at the fringe of social connections where the social connection was established via some sort of transaction to start with. JP mentioned the idea of embeddedness which I can see, although it is a condition where transaction is an action.

r.e. extended families. I think your assumption is possibly off base. It's certainly not the case for me or anyone I know. Extended families are not free from conflict or drama, but generally don't seem to be huge problems for anyone I know, unless you are a Corleone or something.

r.e. value. Are you talking about why some individuals happen to not explicitly value family/friends/tribe? Granted, most people don't include those in their financial portfolios, but when asked I'd bet relatively few people would say they don't value their family/friends/tribe. Maybe it's a matter of respect. My financial assets are my property and within reason I have complete control over them. I don't have the same control over my extended family/friends network (nor would I ever want such a thing). So I don't bake in an assumption that my relatives will take care of me if I do something stupid. They probably would to some extent, but I feel honor bound to do a reasonable amount to ensure that doesn't happen.

I'm not picking at you personally CL, you just happened to hit on a few of the points in the discussion for which I can't get the tumblers to tumble into place.

I think K had a good observation above, that resilience is probably found in having a variety of means towards the end of people being able to find the social interaction best suited for them. In iDave-ese it's the "both/and" I often mention. The idea of pointing at some individual outcomes as rationale to condemn entire traditions is pretty common and usually unfortunate. Looking at my own experience, the idea of a golden age of the nuclear family seems to be either a myth or a strawman. The nuclear family has generally been a social building block in western civilization (the tradition of marriage makes it so) for a long time. Within the constraints of relative prosperity it seems like there are many ways it can be folded into a larger tapestry or discarded. Maybe the core New Yorker readership are biased towards being discarders.

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Ego
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by Ego »

Perhaps because I do not have a traditional nuclear family I read the article through the.lens of a sociologic investigation into the history of the epidemic of loneliness.

How did we get to a place where:
-Seniors are living sad and alone in big houses
-Young people are depressed and anxious
-Middle agers are overwhelmed trying to help both while paying the bills.

The puzzle pieces are there. They can fit together. Somehow we got to the point where our culture refuses to permit their assembly.

Admittedly, I don't want to live in that environment. I've got in-laws who do and we frequently come away from a visit with them wondering how they pull it off. But none of them are depressed, lonely or hungry for love.

bigato
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by bigato »

steveo73 and daylen: the nature of the field you are studying limits the methods you can use, but it’s science all the same. For example, the fact that you can’t easily get an actual sample of the atmosphere of a planet in another galaxy, constrains you to analyzing the spectrum of light reflected/filtered or something like that. Other example: since you can’t for ethical reasons to control precisely what people eat in a controlled experiment like you do with animals, that means that studies in human nutrition have to be epidemiological. Yet another example: you can’t study biology using chemistry methods alone. You can’t just pick parts apart because the system is more complex than the sum of its components.

Those changes in methodology sometimes mean that progress will be slower, studies will often be non-conclusive, but that does not make it less objective and it still is Science all the same. It’s not philosophy where you can build knowledge just staying inside your head. It’s definitely not just something nice to reason about.

ertyu
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by ertyu »

Young people aren't depressed and anxious because they don't live with their parents. They're depressed and anxious because they can't reliably afford to live away from their parents and build a life for themselves.

Seniors living sad and alone in big houses can consider not being judgmental and stuck up, and respecting other people's right to live independent lives of their own without having others tell them who they should be, how they should be, and who they should be doing or not doing. They can also consider respecting their children's rights to raise their own children like they think is right.

Middle agers who are overwhelmed trying to help both while paying the bills (rip gen X) - I see you, and your life sucks. That crusty boomer was your parent, and I feel bad for you. I wish you some joy, wherever you can eke it out, and some time for yourself.

IlliniDave
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by IlliniDave »

Ego, that's a reasonable way to look at it. I don't think I'd point to the nuclear family as the mistake though. It sort of hearkens back to a discussion that kept appearing during 2016: are people who want (and look to their potential leaders) to find work and opportunity where they live stupid for being unable or refusing to relocate to more economically favorable areas? The issue I think is people are generally more individually migratory than in times past, especially those that are highly motivated towards individual economic success. The spreading out over distance I think has a lot to do with lonely seniors (the problem with tribes is they tend made up of one's contemporaries, so when a person gets old their tribe gets old and diminishes).

Young people seem more inclined towards the chosen tribe m. o. (I think it's a stage many of us go through between dependence on a nuclear family and finding a longer term balance between multiple circles as an agent with an amount of self determination).

And it's interesting to ponder whether older people are lonelier, young people more prone to angst, and those in the middle more hard pressed than those cohorts were 50 or 100 years ago. Reconciling the world you find yourself in and the world you envision/desire is an age-old struggle. I'd say in many ways the world is increasingly complex, and maybe the complexity is multiplier.

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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by jacob »

IlliniDave wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:38 am
... because I don't see much that looks transactional when it comes to social capital among my demographic peers. As a matter of fact, the only place I've ever seen transactional social capital floated as an idea is in this group. What exactly are these transactions I'm supposed to be engaging in?
Nobody thinks explicitly in terms of transactions or capital. This is for the same reason that fish don't think explicitly in terms of water. Having been friends/colleagues/family/neighbors with people living in residences ranging from skid row rentals to multi-million dollar houses and ditto salaries and seeing how the different people behave or more importantly what they expect, the different social structures becomes very obvious.

Capital and transactions which are just anthropological words that describe networks of stocks and flows of relations are quite different between classes. The different behaviors tend to be incompatible and social faux pas becomes possible if class-behavior/expectations don't match.

A couple of examples might illustrate:

Dog sitter)
Working class: You ask someone to look out for your dog and they'll just do it for you. Vice versa.
Middle class: If a colleague or neighbor has offered to dog sit because you're on vacation, you feel compelled to at least bring them back a souvenir. Paying with money would be crass, but so would not bringing them a "thank you" present.
Wealthy class: In this case, they'd just hire someone and pay them with cash.

Snow shoveling)
Working class: If your neighbor has the SnowMaster3000 jetpowered snowblower, they might just do your sidewalk as well while they're at it. If you see that it's getting late and they haven't cleared the snow, you'll assume they're away and you just shovel for them.
Middle class: Everybody does their own sidewalk shoveling and not an inch beyond it.
Wealthy class: Hired.

Both examples involve a transaction and a rearrangement of social capital. However, the transactions and rearrangements are very different in each class. An example of a faux pas would be if a working class person offers to repair the fence of a middle class neighbor and the middle class neighbor then offers the working class person $50 for the work. The former is trying to establish a network; the latter is explicitly denying it by ending it with a payment. Conversely, if it was the other way around ... with the middle class person mending the fence with the expectation of getting paid; and then not getting paid, they might conclude that the working guy is cheap or a deadbeat.

This kinda goes back to the OP post (I did not read the article because I maxed out my freebies). In general both the working class and the wealthy class will take care of each other because they're part of a large network; contrast that with the middle class nuclear family. The middle class are the cogs in the machine. They are professionals. Those cogs have to be motile lest they fail, but it's impossible to move an extended family around just because someone got a job. With both adults working these days, it's hard enough as it is (two-body problem) but the nuclear family was designed at a time when the husband worked at the wife took care of the home... yet today, middle class people are beginning to stay single because being single is even easier when it comes to building a career.

This also goes back to books like the Hillbilly Elegy book (about the economically decaying rural America). In past discussions, there was a lot of middle class commentary not understanding "why don't these 'economic losers' just move to where the jobs are?!" ... and the answer is of course that it would require them to give up practically the only capital they have to rely on; their social capital, that is, the people they've known since childhood; people they can count on if things go south; ...

The social capital of the working class very much acts as a form of insurance against adversity. Since fish don't know how they're wet, nobody thinks explicitly in these terms. However, functionally and structurally, an extended family or an extended clan for that matter acts in such a way. It gets stronger when economically impacted.

Conversely, the financial (and educational) capital of the middle class acts as a form of optionality on opportunity. Again, the fish don't know they're wet so they don't think explicitly in those terms. (They just know that money or good credit and a college education is good.) The more they have in terms of education and financial reserves (for most people, this is their credit rating rather than their savings), the better the roles they can serve as cogs.

These are two VERY different strategies and it's very difficult to "do both". The nuclear family in that sense represents a "practical" cut-off in which communalism dominates inside the family and individualism outside the family. The reason people don't move their parents or siblings along for the next job offer is that it is too difficult ... and because a solid job for a middle class person is more important than living close to Aunt Ann and Brother Bob. Conversely, if one is working class and at risk for being laid off ... or makes one's income from a series of part time jobs assembling benches or waiting tables, then moving to a similar job elsewhere is not very rewarding and so people stay where they are because their social network is strong---if they moved it would be lost but their replacement job would not pay enough to afford to buy one.

The wealthy are different in the sense that money is not a constraining factor. Therefore there's no trade-off between "better job elsewhere" and "social network here". However, in terms of networking, the wealthy and the working have a lot more in common than the middle class. The middle class is distinctly the weird one out. Nobody else become professionals whose ability to earn and buy becomes formative of most of their world.

Another way to understand social capital in the working class is to think of it as "the velocity of favors". Like an economy, the more people do for each other, the stronger the bonds become. In other words, social capital increases when it is spent the right way. Conversely, it's pretty hard to understand "social capital" in the middle class (without taking it literally---which in practice nobody does) is because there's generally very little of it (compared to what you find in the working and the wealthy classes). In the middle class most social capital has been replaced with products and services.

Toska2
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by Toska2 »

@bigato

I think the physiological part is different. In my opnion, feeding my dog that I walk around the subdivision has less bonding capability than feeding my dog that I check snares with.

With each weaker bond it compounds, the community doesnt have a net, it has a pile of short ropes.

@Ego Interaction needs quantity and quality. I find watching sports, drinking beer and nursing a hangover not quite the bonding experience.

IlliniDave
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by IlliniDave »

jacob, okay, but my experience is different. Maybe it's because one of my parent's and all of my grandparents were born into the lower class and moved up into the middle class ranks, so our class wasn't tattooed to our foreheads. I see the sort of behaviors you describe across all strata, more as a function of personal inclination. When I was a kid sent around the neighborhood with a snow shovel it was generally the poorest neighbors who would most stubbornly insist on paying me (typically widows who were young adults or midlifers during the Depression era). Maybe more of a function of how people felt about indebtedness. I'm personally uncomfortable about accepting favors but happy to do them, so maybe that's transactional? I have had a weird life bereft of all the generalities, though, haha.

I do have to admit my perception of wealthy people is warped. I've really only known one truly wealthy person in my life, and he was extremely frugal with his money, did nearly everything for himself (I remember him teaching me how to snake out a clogged sewage pipe in his basement--not fun). He wasn't shy about calling on neighbors when needed while always being the first to show up and lend a hand when he was needed. He was a WWII Purple Heart guy who never married or had a family and despite being raised in a mansion (bowling alley in the basement and everything) on a huge country estate, he steered his energy towards his neighbors (he sold the mansion and downsized appreciably after his mother died), his church community and especially the scout packs/troops/post the church sponsored.

In his case it was reluctance to throw money around (probably because he knew how isolating uberwealth could be, and because he found showing off distasteful) that drove the specifics of his social interactions.

When I see the term transaction applied to social behavior rather than defaulting to some esoteric realm of academic inquiry, I tend to look at people like Bloomberg (as an example in the news recently). Throughout his political career he's known for strategically giving support to causes who in turn endorse his political aspirations. He's not unique in that, of course, all politicians practice quid pro quo. That's what leaps to mind given the vocabulary: the doing of favors as a means to a personal end rather than people just being "neighborly". I think jp is right, the vocabulary is unfortunate.

daylen
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by daylen »

@bigato Call it what you want, but even academics do not agree on where science ends and philosophy begins. Personally, I do not treat the scattering of particles the same as I treat the spreading of happiness (or 'positive affect'). I would still call psychology science, but I would not hesitate to call it philosophy as well. It is just not that binary for me. In some sense, philosophy was the precursor of modern psychology, sort of making psychology the oldest science of all.

Plus you get yourself into trouble when talking about objectivity and humans in the same breath. This is an oxymoron in a very profound way. Humans observing humans without using the human-ness adapted for humans dealing with other humans......... it gets hairy quick.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by classical_Liberal »

@Idave
From an anthropological standpoint, social class doesn't mean how much money someone has now. Rather it is referring to the class in which someone was socialized into. Generally if people move economic classes, the social class will change intergenerationally, but not for the initial "mover". IOW, if you grew up working class, you likely view the world as a working class person (EDIT: with some new learned behaviors), even if you're now a millionaire. So, the old poor widow may have been upper middle class.
Last edited by classical_Liberal on Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

steveo73
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by steveo73 »

bigato wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 7:43 am
steveo73 and daylen: the nature of the field you are studying limits the methods you can use, but it’s science all the same.
I get this.
bigato wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 7:43 am
Those changes in methodology sometimes mean that progress will be slower, studies will often be non-conclusive, but that does not make it less objective and it still is Science all the same. It’s not philosophy where you can build knowledge just staying inside your head. It’s definitely not just something nice to reason about.
I don't have your level of confidence here though. To put it into statistical terms there are way too many confounding factors. The biggest of which is nature vs nuture.

The points above are good examples. Jacob tried to put people into categories based on social classification but myself and others have very different experiences and I think that is based on differences in people's nature compared to the social class they were bought up in or currently reside in.

I understand this is a social science technically but the limitations are really significant when it comes to drawing out conclusions on how to live.

I think this posts sums up how these types of studies can be used when they shouldn't be used like this.
GandK wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 10:57 pm
This is the aggressive left. We can't have nuclear families for all, so let's do what we can to burn those ships. Let's make them less desirable even for those for whom tradition is a perfect fit.
To me there is a difference between discussing stuff like this and coming up with value judgements and prescriptions. If the idea was maybe there are alternative options to the nuclear family that would help some people feel more connected and happy that is great. People can even live that way and society can support that. That is different to stating the nuclear family is a mistake and we as society should do something different. I don't trust those opinions. People have evolved into using a nuclear family set-up. Maybe it is the right outcome for the vast majority of people.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by classical_Liberal »

@steveo73
Absolutely agree. Classifications like these are simply frameworks with which to better understand the world. There will always be outliers and there will always be people who don't fit the mold. However, I also think it's possible to go the other way and ignore these frameworks, thinking in terms of individuality, that they do not apply to your life. When, with careful examination and introspection, they actually probably do to at least some extent. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Understanding and accepting how you, or others, tend to think can be really helpful.

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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by Peanut »

Just want to point out Brooks is in no way a leftist. He is a conservative/Republican for the most part. The mistake is that the nuclear family is not enough support for its harried members, particularly the parents. Also, it is no longer the model the vast majority can attain. Reasons why are less clear. He and others have suggested that marriage has evolved into an institution primarily for the upper classes. Assortative mating and durable unions are most in evidence here. The decline of religion and social mores seem to have had the most destabilizing effects on working-class marriages, according to Charles Murray for instance. (Personally I think economic destabilization came first.) I suppose most conservatives would try to repair marriage first, but it doesn't seem to work, so Brooks is looking for alternatives.

Is it a coincidence that he apparently blew up his own nuclear family for his much younger former research assistant? :roll:

steveo73
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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by steveo73 »

@ classical_liberal - I completely agree with you. I find value in these types of studies. We should look at ourselves and try to see a different way to live. That doesn't mean we have to go down that path but it's good to consider it. I also think we should support different social structures.

@Peanut - Interesting point regarding Brooks. I'm not sure that I agree with the idea that it's not a model that the vast majority can attain. The vast majority of people live that way now.

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Re: Brooks: "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake"

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Another old school etiquette book model for determining social class that I always found interesting:
How couples seat themselves when traveling together is an indication of their social class. When two men and two women of the working class are traveling together, the two men sit in the front seats of the car, and the women take the back seats. In the middle class, one couple sits up front, and the other couple sits in the back. Rich, upper class people chose a different arrangement. The woman of one couple sits up front with the male driver of the other couple, while her companion sits with the driver’s female partner in the back seat. The man in the back seat defers to the woman by giving her the seat of honor — passenger side rear. The assumption of this seating arrangement is that a couple spends a good deal of time together. A mixed seating arrangement encourages cross-conversation between couples, thus fulfilling the purpose of getting together – to exchange scintillating conversation, news and ideas.
I believe this also corresponds to working class valuing production of stock (gender based division of labor determines seating) in system, middle class valuing strong boundaries or contracts within and around system, and upper class valuing flow through system. This could also roughly correspond to social "being"-> social "belonging"-> social "becoming."

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