Radicals have always known that the family is the biggest obstacle to achieving their goals. Regardless of their political leanings, cult leaders, utopians, and radical political movements have all done their best to undermine the family and replace it with some other fundamental social unit.
Without families, individuals become atomized. They lose any solid foundation upon which to build a life: the unconditional love that comes from family ties. The new radical power then becomes the substitute, or at least that is the intent.
The collectivization of everything is usually presented as a means of transcending petty selfishness, but the real intent is almost always to facilitate centralizing power into the hands of a small elite or a single dictator. This has been the pattern in communist movements and countries since before Marx, and you see the same thing in religious cults for the same reason.
Despite the apparent obviousness of the intent behind attacks on the family, they persist because collectivism is attractive to a lot of people. It’s easy to get disgusted by selfishness and shallow consumerism, especially in light of the unequal distribution of wealth and comfort. Marxist critiques of capitalism take as their starting point the unequal distribution of wealth and then “deconstruct” the principles of modern society, attempting to lay bare inherent flaws and present an alternative.
I’m not going to give a course on Marxism here, but I wanted to give a bit of background explaining why the family is under attack, and to a great extent why sex has become so intertwined with politics. It is all part of a larger scale attack on the moral foundation of Western society.
The New Statesman has an interesting book review of yet another intellectual calling for the abolition of the family, and it is worth a read if you are interested in such things. The reviewer seems sympathetic to the argument in Sophie Lewis’ book Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation.
Lewis’s proposal to abolish the family is one more attempt to argue what socialists have asserted since Charles Fourier proposed the abolition of the kitchen and the creation of a new utopia based upon the community taking over the essentials of domestic life.
If we begin by abolishing our kitchens, what else might we get a taste for destroying, and for creating? A bit of self-governance here, some collectively organised childcare there: begin with the kitchen, and we might end up with a whole new society. This is the premise of the revolutionary politics of family abolition. The US-based writer and academic Sophie Lewis is our most eloquent, furious and funny critic of how the family is a terrible way to satisfy all of our desires for love, care, nourishment. Her new book, Abolish the Family, offers a powerful introduction to the world beyond the nuclear family. Lewis is the author, too, of the incendiary Full Surrogacy Now (2019), which explored the abuses of the surrogacy industry as a lens into radically expanded concepts of kinship.
The family, Lewis and other abolitionists and feminists argue, privatises care. The legal and economic structure of the nuclear household warps love and intimacy into abuse, ownership, scarcity. Children are private property, legally owned and fully economically dependent on their parents. The hard work of care – looking after children, cooking and cleaning – is hidden away and devalued, performed for free by women or for scandalously low pay by domestic workers. Even the happiest families, in the words of the writer Ursula Le Guin, are built upon a “whole substructure of sacrifices, repressions, suppressions, choices made or forgone, chances taken or lost, balancings of greater or lesser evils”. If we abolish the family, we abolish the most fundamental unit of privatisation and scarcity in our society. More care, more love, for all.
Families have been the basic social unit for millennia, perhaps forever in most societies. There are deviations, of course, but in most places and most times families have been the basic unit of social order. The term economics, which we use to describe…well, economics…derives its root from the Greek “household” (oîkos).
Socialists understood that in order to radically restructure society they must first undermine its very foundation, and that foundation is the family. This is also why socialism is aggressively atheist–they must replace God as a moral authority with the state or the Party.
So much of the assault you see on the family today has its roots in this attempt to radically reshape society. If you understand that, you understand why every single moral impulse and every scrap of natural law is under constant attack.
The Heritage Foundation has a good primer on these issues, and I encourage you to check it out.
As you can tell my inner academic sometimes rears its ugly head. Sorry about that. But I think it is important to understand that the real war we are fighting is only tangentially related to the various issues such as transgenderism, Critical Race Theory, or the other controversial social issues of the day.
It is all of a piece: a fight against Marxism and for Western society.