Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Marriage: The Dream That Refuses to Die

By Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, 191 pages hardcover, ISI, $25, ISBN 978-1-933859-62-0.

While the late Fox-Genovese spends most of her time discussing the history of marriage and why it's good for society, she also skillfully uncovers the philosophical roots and spiritual ramifications of the unraveling of marriage as a norm in society.

Fox-Genovese should know, with her career in the feminist, left-wing dominated academic world and a late convert to Catholicism after tiring of feminist hyper-individualism. In Marriage, she opposes the “complacency and self-satisfaction” which she sees at the root of the culture of death.

She does not advocate a simple return to the situation where fathers ruled the roost. She advocates authentic community based on true respect for others. The current context of rights-as-entitlements threatens human relations by reducing them to contractual obligations that individuals can leave at any moment. Such a view reduces the family to an ever-changing collection of individuals using the family for their own good.

No true family community or culture can thus develop, as family groupings are always changing and appearing and disappearing from existence as individuals come and go from these structures. Mirroring Margaret Thatcher's “there is no society,” Fox-Genovese warns that “Our unprecedented privileging of the individual has reduced the ties that bind us to society to a mere fiction – and a contested fiction at that.”

Fox-Genovese uncovers the roots to this problem in the feminist belief that all human relations subordinate women. Feminists therefore “end by attacking all binding ties as obstacles to women's liberation.”

Feminists have enjoyed short-term gains for their constituency in the form of almost non-existent sexual morality and the acceptance of careerism and gross individualism. Religion has also been changed, to where people now make demands of religion rather than the opposite. The churches have failed, for whatever reason, to stem or even try to stem the tide towards unencumbered individualism and the resulting social disintegration.”

More importantly, women's sexual freedom has come at tremendous cost to real relationship, and has benefited only a certain kind of man. First, abortion rights removes children from the concern of men. Second, “the sexual liberation of women has realized men's most predatory sexual fantasies.”

Most importantly, Marriage traces the close but unintentional relationship between the feminist movement and wild west capitalism. Making all human relations contractual, as feminists have aimed to do, plays in to the hands of big business by leading to the “commodification of personal relations.”

Feminism's rejection of community offers large corporations their dream of access to atomized, unconnected individuals who can move anywhere in the world. Unencumbered labor is a great achievement of big business, even if the corporations themselves didn't directly bring this about. This law of unintended consequences actually leads to a dramatic loss in personal power, as people become beholden to corporate behemoths. Previously, the family acted as insurance against the control of big business by offering people a safety net against joblessness and an alternative, more deeply-connected cultural world.

“Throughout the globe,” Fox-Genovese writes, “multinational corporations are drawing people out of traditional families and communities, binding some individuals to the prospects of new possibilities, while condemning their kin to the dustbins of the cities or the dustbowls of the villages.”

She then puts her finger on the new, awesome power of corporations, which have built an almost totalitarian capitalist society, aided by feminism's destruction of marriage and the family: “The greatest – and most awesome – power of the global economy lies in its ability to touch everything. In this respect, it acts as the ultimate solvent of the bonds that shape and guarantee our humanity – our intrinsic worth and dignity as persons.”

In other words, despite all the cultural and social destruction that feminists have done in the name of women's empowerment, feminism has actually lost to the corporations.

Fox-Genovese urges her reader again and again to realize that the family is the best hope humans have and the “last best ground for resistance” against oppression. Feminists, in other words, are dead wrong.

Marriage takes a large overview of the post 60's Kulturkampf, and echoes Pope John Paul II, who believed that communism and savage capitalism were two sides of the same materialist, individualist, culture of death coin. Feminism on the left and unrestrained capitalism on the right are different constellations of the same thinking. Feminists, Fox-Genovese believes, have completely missed this reality.

This excellent book digs into the roots and history of marriage and the troubles we are experiencing now, even as it discusses the unintended consequences of selfishness and an unloving ideology.

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