What the War on the Family is Actually About
Family is the basis of a community, and, therefore, nationhood. It is for this simple reason that the family is hated and scorned by those who wish to see nations destroyed and remade into a bland homogenous polyglot. The assault against the family by liberals and Marxists rooted in their denial of a summum bonum (the highest good) in life.
Liberals are ultimately relativistic hedonists. As Steven Pinker says in his sermonizing myth defending “liberalism,” any religion, or philosophy, or school of thought which elevates a moral good above “human well-being” -- which he means material comfort and pleasure -- is antagonistic to humanism. How interesting. Moral flourishing is antithetical to humanism even though moral virtue is the basis of humanist thought from the Greeks, Romans, and further elaborated upon in the Christian tradition.
Contrary to relativists, human well-being, which is moral flourishing -- something Pinker would know if he had studied philosophy -- is dependent upon actualizing the moral good in one’s life.
Liberalism, in its denial of the summum bonum, denies the life of a higher calling and anything that binds individuals to others. Family naturally and necessarily suffers. In the liberal mind, by being tethered to families, communities, and any organization, individuals are harmed. Thus they must be liberated to choose to be whatever they want. The logic is played out today: biology is also repressive and harms individuals unless they choose to liberate themselves from biology.
Marxism also denies the summum bonum and agrees with liberalism that the highest good is material comfort and pleasure. Socialism and liberalism are mortal enemies because socialism and liberalism both agree on the same end but differ on the means to actualize that end. Liberals believe the free-choosing individual can best achieve their own comfort and pleasure. Marxists believe universal comfort and pleasure is only possible through class warfare which will redistribute all wealth (comfort and pleasure) to everyone equally.
Leo Strauss aptly writes in assessing modern politics, “the increased emphasis on economics is a consequence of this. Eventually we arrive at the view that universal affluence and peace is the necessary and sufficient condition of perfect justice.” Since affluence and peace are the conditions of perfect justice, and since affluence is disturbed by the sexual division of labor which is instantiated in the family according to Marx, Marxism’s attack on the nation is through its attack against the family as the means to derive that universal affluence which is necessary before the arrival at perfect justice.
Marx himself writes:
“With the division of labor, in which all these contradictions are implicit, and which in its turn is based on the natural division of labor in the family and the separation of society into individual families opposed to one another, is given simultaneously the distribution, and indeed the unequal distribution… the first form, of which lies in the family, where wife and children are the slaves of the husband. This latent slavery in the family, though still very crude, is the first property, but even at this early stage it corresponds perfectly to the definition of modern economists who call it the power of disposing of the labor-power of others.”
By destroying the family, Marxism is also destroying nations, since they understand the two are fundamentally interlinked. And since families and nations create inequality, families and nations must be eliminated for a consummated universal order of peace and affluence.
The individualism of liberalism, though, is ironically statist. As the individual grows in power, through “rights,” the state must also grow in power to enforce those rights. As John Locke wrote, the role of government in the commonwealth society is to decide the rights of subjects. And as Rousseau said, we are forced to be free by the coercive “general will.” This is achieved by the full power and weight of the state.
The growth of a purely individualistic individualism requires a war against the family. It also demands a war against the nation, since the nation is the instantiated embodiment of the love that binds people together in duties and responsibilities which liberalism comes to believe as harmful to hedonistic living. If the family is dissolved, the practical reality of the nation is also dissolved.
Marxism and liberalism are now strange bedfellows in the war against the family and the nation because they are both seeking the same fundamental end of universal affluence and peace but are pursuing this end by different means. However, the family and nation are barriers to this universal affluence and peace and must be done away with; in doing away with the bonds of family, civil society, and nation, the individual is free, according to liberalism; in doing away with the bonds of structure of family, civil society, and the nation, individuals are once again equal, according to Marxism.
Part of the crumbling reality of our societies is in the disintegration of the family. Liberal states have abandoned the family in the pursuit of excessive and wanton individualism; following Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, and even Rousseau, the state is now the instrumental of advancing and creating liberal society. The modern liberal state is not merely ideological, it is socially engineering a society. The liberal state, as we see evidently so clearly today in its greater want to help non-citizens, supersedes the nation of citizens.
Marxism has always regarded nations as inegalitarian power creations rooted in the sexual division of labor and the formation of strong families. Families are themselves also unequal, some families being wealthier than others and therefore needing leveling to advance equality. Without families the love that is manifested through the family is lost, and the love that binds a nation together vanishes with the family. No one is ever going to sacrifice for themselves.
Christ, however, teaches us, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Love is best actualized in the family and then manifested outward in citizenship and is the glue of the nation. Without families there is no love, and without that love there is nothing to stop the tentacles of the Leviathan from seizing everything it wants in whatever name it appropriates to justify its tyranny.
Paul Krause is the editor of VoegelinView. He is the author of Finding Arcadia: Wisdom, Truth, and Love in the Classics, The Odyssey of Love: A Christian Guide to the Great Books, The Politics of Plato, and contributed to The College Lecture Today and Making Sense of Diseases and Disasters.