As the Culture Changes

I’ve been mulling this over for some time but haven’t found any post in which working it in was appropriate. The problems that people are complaining about these days: crime, inflation, income inequality, immigration, politics, homicides, war, and so on and so on are all downstream from the culture. What comprises the culture? History, sexual mores and practices, gender roles, family structure, and language just to name a few of its aspects.

There is copious evidence that culture has an impact on all of the problems in the list. There is very little evidence that culture has zero influence on them. Just to cite one example every country in which English is the primary first language is a liberal democracy. Among countries in which Spanish is the primary first language how many are robust liberal democracies are there? Uruguay maybe? Possibly a couple of others. That’s an obvious difference. We’re not entirely sure why there’s a difference but that there’s a difference is indisputable. BTW, what I’m describing is called the “weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” if you’re interested in the subject.

Here’s something else to mull over. Traditionally, in the United States the family structure known as the “absolute nuclear family” has dominated. The short description is two biological parents plus children. An enormous number of things depend on it: our form of government, jobs, education, and so on.

The absolute nuclear family has been under considerable stress for the last 50 years. My own view is that, like it or not, the absolute nuclear family is disappearing, there’s little that can be done about it, and that has implications. The America that DeTocqueville described is disappearing along with it. What will replace is we don’t know but whatever that may be at this point it certainly doesn’t look pretty.

As just one example of the change I’m talking about in the black community the majority of households are single parent headed by women. We don’t know how that influences crime, attitudes towards education, employment, and so on but it would be incredible if it had no effect whatever.

3 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    “The absolute nuclear family has been under considerable stress for the last 50 years”

    It goes further back then that. Divorce rates started increasing since the 1920’s with what in retrospect was a lull in the 1950’s.

    The point is the cultural forces at work are much stronger, longer lasting than most people can comprehend.

  • Not only are the cultural forces strong, they have implications for everything in the society, something I think insufficiently appreciated.

  • steve Link

    Not just the composition of the family but where they live.

    “From the adult child’s perspective, data from the early 1990s indicated that most lived fairly close to their parents. The median distance to mother was just 8 miles, 5 miles, and 20 miles for unmarried women, unmarried men, and married couples, respectively”

    20 years later those numbers were 150, 67 and 300. Also used to be that families all passed on the same jobs to the kids.


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