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Liberal Marriage Value are a conspiracy against conservatives! - Elf M. Sternberg
Liberal Marriage Value are a conspiracy against conservatives!
As I've said before, I'm a firm believer in the red state / blue state dichotomy when it comes to marriage. As eminently described by Jonathan Rauch, the dichotomy is simple:

Red State values are predicated on two assumptions: (1) sex almost always causes babies, and (2) by applying himself, a man can get ahead in this world. The red state response to this environment is to create an idea: Marriage creates adults; that is, since sex causes babies and young people want sex, get them married, get them making children, and get them into the pipeline of providing and raising, i.e. get them into work and motherhood, those ennobling roles for men and women.

Blue State values are predicated on a different set of assumptions: (1) sex doesn't have to create babies at all, and (2) no amount of get-r-done is enough if you don't have the years of education necessary to operate the machinery of a technologically advanced civilization. The response to this is adults create marriages: that is, the task of maturation is a societal and educational one, and once twenty-something have earned the material and social capital necessary to have a stable life, then they can go about having children, often in a multi-disciplinary, shared-responsibilities way.

Early family formation short-circuits this maturation process. Taking on the responsibilities for young children interferes with the education necessary, and consigns those who have young children to the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

My favorite take on this for a long time was Catholic writer Philip Primeau's hand-wringing article about how, yes, he had to admit, blue states not only hewed to their own values successfully, they hewed to red state's values of longer marriages, lower teenage birthrates, lower teenage STD infections, and lower rates of poverty among young adults more successfully than red states did! (Primeau goes on to claim that blue state success is predicated on the "unimaginable tragedy of abortion," but somehow fails to mention that most red states have rates similar to blue states.)

But Ross Douthat may have passed Primeau with his new article, The Imitation of Marriage. Ross admits that the pattern of shared responsibilities, egalitarian roles, longer romantic experimentation, and delayed families will become the norm. Blue state marriages "prepare [young adults] for knowledge work in ways that working class family life do not."

Douthat then whines that this wrecking of the social underpinnings of masculine identity, this creative destruction of the stern paterfamilias, has left a lot of men bereft, and they have reaped "relatively little reward" for doing so.

But what really takes the cake is this:
We may have a culture in which the working class is encouraged to imitate what are sold as key upper-class values — sexual permissiveness and self-fashioning, spirituality and emotivism — when really the upper class is also held together by a kind of secret traditionalism, without whose binding power family life ends up coming apart even faster.
Conspiracies are the refuge of the weak-minded.

I mean, seriously, what he's proposing here is, first, a kind of post-Marxian, post-modern "false consciousness," the classic accusation that secularists and liberals "steal" their moral underpinnings from conservative and Christian America, and that liberals know that if their stated values were to become the norm, America would fall apart. Secondly, he accuses upper-class liberals of, consciously or not, wrecking the lower classes by promulgating their attitudes toward sexuality without a clean and compelling explanation of why or how those attitudes work.

Douthat is edging dangerously close to saying "Democracy doesn't work." As conservative writer Irving Kristol once famously said,
There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.
Douthat is claiming that there are different truths about sex and the technocratic society, and the idea that "liberal" truths should also be true for the common masses is, to Ross, a dangerous experiment.

In fact, what's really failing is the way red states don't keep up; they attempt to mire kids in the red state pattern all the while admitting that there is a different way, a more vibrant way, an urban and liberal way. It's the red states, with their abstinence-only programs and their outright bans on easily accessible birth control, that continue to fail their young adults.

Still, it's nice to see Ross admit that the blue state ideal of marriage works, if only for some people. It'll be even better whet he finally admits that there is no alternative, that the red states have been poisoning their own wells of economic power, and that the blue states are doing all right all along.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
houseboatonstyx From: houseboatonstyx Date: December 17th, 2014 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)
once twenty-something have earned the material and social capital necessary to have a stable life, then they can go about having children

Heh. Aside from the minor detail of not needing to wait for sex, this kind of matches the old old pioneer respectability standard of "First build a house and make a good income to support a family -- before you can start a family."

Edited at 2014-12-17 08:15 am (UTC)
bldrnrpdx From: bldrnrpdx Date: December 24th, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would make an argument.

Red State values are predicated on two assumptions: (1) sex almost always causes babies

should read:

sex *should* cause babies

There should be no sex that couldn't cause babies, the odd blow job notwithstanding.

2 comments or Leave a comment