On the "culture war"
Posted: 25 July 2006 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
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At the Campus and Community event in Amherst last week several people commented that "there is no culture war", or "we should not engage in a culture war", etc.

#1, There IS, whether we like it or not.

#2 Not being engaged doesn’t achieve anything.

Sure, we can sit on the sidelines, but what does that achieve.

Here is one example of the types of groups and activities that are forming and taking place around the country:

http://www.battlecry.com/index.php

There are hundreds of such groups around the country in America, not to mention the many churches that say basically the same things.

The irony is that, IMO, the "culture war" is really more of an reaction to capitalism than it is to secularism, its just that the majority of people don’t know it.

In that sense, I do think that groups like CFI and other secularist groups can tone the discussion down and shift the focus and actually get "conservative Christians" into a more reasonable discussion.

The majority of things that conservative Christians are complaining about are really products of our capitalist market economy, but intelligent discussion of economics and sociology has been shut down in America since the Cold War, and the conservatives have aligned "capitalism" with "Christianity" because of the alignment of Communism with atheism, but of course if you really look at it, the Communists and the Christians are both complaining about exactly the same things "commodity fetishism" and "alienation".

What, ultimately, are the things that conservatives are unhappy with?

1) Increasing divorce and breakup of the traditional family
2) Increasing "materialism" in the economic sense
3) Youth culture that is fixated on rock stars and pop culture
4) A culture that is driven by desire

All of these things are direct products of market capitalism and industrialization, they really have nothing to do with atheism or anything else, these things, such as homosexuality, secularism, evolution, etc., are all just scapegoats.

The traditional family 100 years ago+ was the basis of the economy. Almost all work took place at home prior to the industrial revolution, which took place at the turn of the 20th century in America in the cities, but is only today fully overturning traditional family based business in all areas of America. The "red sates" are just the last places to join the modern economy.

In the modern economy the role of the family is diminished, it is replaced with the role of the corporation. Families are no longer producers of goods and services, corporations are, which means that families are no longer the producers of our culture, corporations are.

So, conservatives are really railing against this trend which is a product of capitalist industrialization. These things have been mitigated against to some degree in Europe, which ironically makes Europe a more family friendly place than America, despite the fact that conservatives call Europe a "worse place".

Our desire driven culture is also, of course, a product of capitalism, a product of a society that has become a truly "consumer society" not a producer society.

Now, the Bible preaches against desires and against having a "pleasure driven lifestyle", but market capitalism advocates a pleasure driven lifestyle.

So, again, this is where conservatives are really at odds with capitalism itself.

We have to get conservatives to realize that what they are railing against is capitalism, not secularism. This is simply a fact and there is no way around it. The root cause of their distress is not secularism, or evolution, or homosexuality, those are only scapegoats for the real root cause.

There can be no mistake though, there IS a culture war. We didn’t start it, nor do we want it, and it does us no advantage to have it, but we have no choice to engage in it.

Academics have been saying for 200 years that religion would fade away on its own as people became more educated, and the used this belief to justify inaction, to justify sitting on the sidelines and not addressing religious issues head on, but we can see that this approach has failed.

Dawkins, with his introduction of memetics has provided a basis for understanding religions as memecomplexes that themselves evolve and compete and struggle for survival.

It is important to understand that religion is never going to "just fade away on its own". Religions compete for survival through evolutionary mechanisms. If secularism does not compete with theocracy for survival it will be selected against and wither away, again.

Unfortunately competition is not an option, and we of all people should understand that.

I’ve written several articles that relate to the conflict between so-called "conservative" social and economic policy in America:

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/contradictions_inherent_in_ameri.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/assessing_the_vote_and_the_roots.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/capitalism_culture.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/redefining_the_political_spectru.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/religious_criticism.htm

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Posted: 25 July 2006 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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On the "culture war"

At the Campus and Community event in Amherst last week several people commented that “there is no culture war”, or “we should not engage in a culture war”, etc.

#1, There IS, whether we like it or not.

#2 Not being engaged doesn’t achieve anything.

Sure, we can sit on the sidelines, but what does that achieve.

Here is one example of the types of groups and activities that are forming and taking place around the country:

http://www.battlecry.com/index.php

There are hundreds of such groups around the country in America, not to mention the many churches that say basically the same things.

The irony is that, IMO, the “culture war” is really more of an reaction to capitalism than it is to secularism, its just that the majority of people don’t know it.

In that sense, I do think that groups like CFI and other secularist groups can tone the discussion down and shift the focus and actually get “conservative Christians” into a more reasonable discussion.

The majority of things that conservative Christians are complaining about are really products of our capitalist market economy, but intelligent discussion of economics and sociology has been shut down in America since the Cold War, and the conservatives have aligned “capitalism” with “Christianity” because of the alignment of Communism with atheism, but of course if you really look at it, the Communists and the Christians are both complaining about exactly the same things “commodity fetishism” and “alienation”.

What, ultimately, are the things that conservatives are unhappy with?

1) Increasing divorce and breakup of the traditional family
2) Increasing “materialism” in the economic sense
3) Youth culture that is fixated on rock stars and pop culture
4) A culture that is driven by desire

All of these things are direct products of market capitalism and industrialization, they really have nothing to do with atheism or anything else, these things, such as homosexuality, secularism, evolution, etc., are all just scapegoats.

The traditional family 100 years ago+ was the basis of the economy. Almost all work took place at home prior to the industrial revolution, which took place at the turn of the 20th century in America in the cities, but is only today fully overturning traditional family based business in all areas of America. The “red sates” are just the last places to join the modern economy.

In the modern economy the role of the family is diminished, it is replaced with the role of the corporation. Families are no longer producers of goods and services, corporations are, which means that families are no longer the producers of our culture, corporations are.

So, conservatives are really railing against this trend which is a product of capitalist industrialization. These things have been mitigated against to some degree in Europe, which ironically makes Europe a more family friendly place than America, despite the fact that conservatives call Europe a “worse place”.

Our desire driven culture is also, of course, a product of capitalism, a product of a society that has become a truly “consumer society” not a producer society.

Now, the Bible preaches against desires and against having a “pleasure driven lifestyle”, but market capitalism advocates a pleasure driven lifestyle.

So, again, this is where conservatives are really at odds with capitalism itself.

We have to get conservatives to realize that what they are railing against is capitalism, not secularism. This is simply a fact and there is no way around it. The root cause of their distress is not secularism, or evolution, or homosexuality, those are only scapegoats for the real root cause.

There can be no mistake though, there IS a culture war. We didn’t start it, nor do we want it, and it does us no advantage to have it, but we have no choice to engage in it.

Academics have been saying for 200 years that religion would fade away on its own as people became more educated, and the used this belief to justify inaction, to justify sitting on the sidelines and not addressing religious issues head on, but we can see that this approach has failed.

Dawkins, with his introduction of memetics has provided a basis for understanding religions as memecomplexes that themselves evolve and compete and struggle for survival.

It is important to understand that religion is never going to “just fade away on its own”. Religions compete for survival through evolutionary mechanisms. If secularism does not compete with theocracy for survival it will be selected against and wither away, again.

Unfortunately competition is not an option, and we of all people should understand that.

I’ve written several articles that relate to the conflict between so-called “conservative” social and economic policy in America:

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/contradictions_inherent_in_ameri.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/assessing_the_vote_and_the_roots.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/capitalism_culture.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/redefining_the_political_spectru.htm

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/religious_criticism.htm

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Posted: 26 July 2006 02:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think you are mixing apples and turtles here with Christianity and capitalism. As you point out, there is no real solid link between the two. And on the whole, capitalism has been an enormous benefit to the countries where it has been tried ... namely, North America, Europe, and Asia, among other places.

Clearly, the market economy is no panacea, and needs careful regulation and control. But with the proper controls, there is simply no better way to lift people out of poverty, increase health and extend lifespans.

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Posted: 26 July 2006 02:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Increasing “materialism” in the economic sense

It is my uneducated opinion that this is by far the largest element.

The constant drive for material success and acquisitions is the major driving force in our culture and is at the same time one of the most unsatisfying, because greed only begets more greed. As a result, people who have fallen into this cycle feel very unfulfilled. And so they turn to religion for their spiritual fulfillment. But they don’t want to hear that the problem lies with themselves or the lifestyle that they have chosen, so the more market savvy churches have chosen to teach a message that includes the idea that “God wants you to live well”. But they need to channel the rage and feelings of discontent somewhere, and so have chosen homosexuality and other sexual issues as their targets This accomplishes two things: it provides a sense of smug satisfaction to their followers, and at the same time helps to aid their war on human sexuality as a method of controlling behavior, creating a win-win situation for the religions.

Additionally, because of the acceptance of their god approving of their unbridled pursuit of wealth, they also accept the implicit flip side of that, that poverty is the result of God’s displeasure for moral failure. And since there is such a highly visible incidence of crime and drug use and other social problems in impoverished neighborhoods, it is easy for them to justify this thinking. (Of course anybody with a brain and who really wants to look objectively can see that the causal link works both ways.)

But since the overarching agenda of the religion is to generate a larger base and increased revenue, and they have been successful with this strategy, then they will continue become even more aggressive in waging their culture war because it has proven effective in accomplishing this.

Rule #1 - Follow the money.

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Posted: 26 July 2006 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I dunno about this ... Many countries in Europe are MUCH less religious than the US. That’s a given. They are also less acquisitive and capitalistic than the US ... that’s true too. But still and all, European economies are very capitalist-oriented.

If the argument is that Europe has the right balance between capitalism and the social safety-net, I would be inclined to agree somewhat. There are many things that European countries do very well ... better healthcare for the masses, better vacations, less unhealthy competitive drive. (And yet the French have higher productivity per hour worked than the US!)

Of course, in the US it is much easier to start and own your own business—even a small corner grocery store. It is much easier to climb the social ladder than in Europe, where societal stratification is still very real and family or ‘bloodline’ oriented.

But the bottom-line is that you can have strong capitalist impulses and relatively low religious pressure.

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Posted: 26 July 2006 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]I think you are mixing apples and turtles here with Christianity and capitalism. As you point out, there is no real solid link between the two. And on the whole, capitalism has been an enormous benefit to the countries where it has been tried ... namely, North America, Europe, and Asia, among other places.

Clearly, the market economy is no panacea, and needs careful regulation and control. But with the proper controls, there is simply no better way to lift people out of poverty, increase health and extend lifespans.

Its no where near that simple.

Let’s take the issue of “feminism” for example.

Many conservatives will rail against “feminism”, they used to rail against women in the “work place”, though this is less common now, and they, of course, blame “feminism” on “liberals” and college professors, which is absurd.

They furthermore blame the rampant exploitation of sex in the media and advertising today on “feminism” and “women’s liberation”, as well.

This is all nonsense, the root cause of all of this IS capitalist industrialization, and some of it is simply unavoidable.

How does capitalism and industrialization relate to feminism?

Well, first of all, men and women have both always shared the workload throughout history, in fact women have typically done a larger share of the hard work than men in most cultures.

Prior to industrialization, however, almost all work was done AT HOME.

This was especially true in America. In 1800 95% of all production and business in America was done from home. Today less than 1% is done from home.

This radical change, in a 200 year period of time, has had a major impact on society.

A society is, in many ways, WHAT, WHY, and HOW it produces. What, why, and how we produce is essentially what defines our social bonds and makes our society what it is, it the reason why we function together as a social unit, as opposed to individuals off by ourselves in the bush.

Now, when industrialization came along that necessarily moved most production out of the home and into factories and financial centers in centralized cities.

Neighborhoods, then, became unproductive places, “suburbs”, where nothing was produced and there was nothing to do.

Prior to industrialization in America most people were farmers. Even at the turn of the 20th century 30% of American were farmers. Today less than 1% of Americans are farmers.

The country was mostly empty with lots of room to grow. People had large families which, in reality, acted like companies. A man and a women would go out into the land, have a family of 10 or 15 children, and all of those children would begin working around age 5 or 6 on the farm.

So, what were women doing? Not only were they having tons of kids, and caring for those kids, but they were also running the family business. They were all either CEOs or CFOs or at least Directors of HR for their own 8 to 20 person companies (sometimes they also managed hired hands).

So, bring on industrialization.

Now, within a short period of time, about 30 to 50 years, this economic model became uncompetitive.

With progress children began going to school longer instead of going to work in the family business. This means that children were no longer helping to financially support the family from an early age, so raising children became more and more costly.

In addition, home based business could no longer compete with corporations, so fewer people worked from home and more travelled into the city to work for someone else.

What are women doing now? Now we had women, still sitting at home, but now they had fewer kids to care for and no business to run or engage in.

As formerly productive communities turned into suburbs women had nothing to do and they made fewer and fewer economic contributions.

Women demanded to go to school and get out of the house BECAUSE the economy had changed the social structure and left them behind with no role in society.

Now, most of the socially pioneering women were what we would call “leftists”, most were opposed to consumerism and the use of sexuality to get ahead, but look at what has happened the past 20 years?

Women’s sexuality has becoming an increasingly public and exploited issue.

Why? The market economy.

A market economy is fundamentally based on human desire. The objective of all marketing is to generate insatiable human desire and then drive people towards seeking consumption of products to fulfill their desires.

Sexuality is the prime natural desire, and thus, in a market economy the liberalization of sexual norms has been exploited by the market place to drive consumption.

So, yes, these issues are very much linked to capitalism, and we cannot divorce this from the discussion.

The issue is that the economic policy of so-called American “conservatives” (who are actually economic liberals, meaning laissez-faire (except this isn’t true either because they really support government subsidization of the wealthy)) is what promotes the social liberalism that social conservatives rail against, and “we” (meaning atheists, homosexuals, “leftists”, etc.) are the scapegoats for the problems (real and imagined in their eyes) brought about their own policies.

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Posted: 26 July 2006 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Not sure I get your story about the history of the US economy. Women were liberated from having to work at home largely by the invention of things like the washing machine, dryer, vacuum and dishwasher. (Not to mention birth control!) Before these inventions, it was simply necessary to have one person at home all the time doing chores. After their introduction, all of a sudden both adults could work outside the house. At base, this was an issue of improving work efficiency brought about by technology.

Women didn’t get out of the house because they were “left behind with no role in society”, they got out of the house because they thought it was more interesting to do so, and they felt empowered by making their own living rather than being dependent upon a husband to do so for them.

As for sexuality, it has always existed. All that capitalism has done is to make it more available, as it has done with all goods and services. The “exploitation” you mention is largely a fiction of the religious, puritanical right.

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Posted: 26 July 2006 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Not sure I get your story about the history of the US economy. Women were liberated from having to work at home largely by the invention of things like the washing machine, dryer, vacuum and dishwasher. (Not to mention birth control!) Before these inventions, it was simply necessary to have one person at home all the time doing chores. After their introduction, all of a sudden both adults could work outside the house. At base, this was an issue of improving work efficiency brought about by technology.

This is just more Amerian capitalist mythology. What do you think women were doing all day during the 1500s, 1600s, 1800s, washing clothes and cleaning the floor?

No, women worked at home with their husbands and children as farmers, tailors, spinners, cloithers, etc. They also raised the children, cooked food, etc., but since everyone worked from home cooking the food was a part of running the family business. Also, once families had 4 or 5 children, the older children began taking care of the younger ones, women became directors of family labor.

The men typically took care of the business outside the home, taking products to market, making deals with others, dealing with customers, etc. The women essentially took care of the “back office”.

This whole “washing machine”, “vacuume” business, etc. was purely a 1950s and 1960s business after industrialization and capitalism had already created the suburbs and the busywork that they contained, and after the family size had been reduced from an average of about 8 or 10 children that worked from the age of 5 to an average of 3 children that didn’t do any work until they became teenagers.

Prior to universal education the children did most of the house work. It was only after industrialization and universal education that women were left at home along, in relatively large homes, with a lot of traveling to do, that women had all of these chores to do in the first place.

Capitalism created the work that it was saving women from.

Don’t get me wrong, I call this all progress, that’s not the point, the point is that these are the ROOT CAUSES of social change, not “atheist liberals”.

As for sexuality, it has always existed. All that capitalism has done is to make it more available, as it has done with all goods and services. The “exploitation” you mention is largely a fiction of the religious, puritanical right.

Profit motives drives the exploitation of sexuality as an economic tool. Why do clothing companies advertise sexy cloathing to younger and younger “consumers”? Are “liberals” behind this? No, profit motive and private industry are behind this.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 01:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]This is just more Amerian capitalist mythology. What do you think women were doing all day during the 1500s, 1600s, 1800s, washing clothes and cleaning the floor?

I think, in the words of JM Keynes, that you have been indoctrinated by a “defunct economist” .

Washing clothes for a family before the late 19th and early 20th centuries involved getting the water (there was no running water), boiling the water with wood fires in large kettles, stirring the clothes in the boiling kettle, scraping the clothes on washing boards, putting the clothes through a “wringer” to take out most of the water, and then hanging them from cords. For a family this could take a day or two of hard labor every week.

And then ironing with the so-called “sad iron” involved heating it on the side of the stove.

Cooking (there were no gas or electric stoves) involved getting wood or coal, and several hours each morning heating up the stove, and then keeping it hot by stirring the coals in the firebox. This was an all-day affair, as the stove could not be left alone for long, or the fire would die. If the woman was doing baking, the stove would have to be watched constantly to keep the temperature stable.

Of course, all this cooking and cleaning didn’t take them literally 16 hours a day; the rest of the time they did help out as farmers, tailors, clothiers, et cetera. (As well as canning and preserving during the late summer and fall months!)

Advances in efficiencies of farming, clothes-making and canning meant that women no longer had to do these chores. They could buy the end-products for reasonable amounts of money, since they were made more efficiently (= at lower cost per hour) in factories.

And the industrial revolution also brought running water, safe sanitation, and direct gas and electricity.

We should not leave out the invention of the ice-box (later the refrigerator) which allowed one to go to market less often for daily perishables like eggs, butter and milk.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]This whole “washing machine”, “vacuume” business, etc. was purely a 1950s and 1960s business after industrialization and capitalism had already created the suburbs.

This is false. I have Sears catalogues from the late 19th and early 20th centuries filled with washing machines, ice boxes and other labor-saving devices. They were relatively rudimentary by modern standards, but functional, and did help alleviate some of the back-breaking work that women (and, yes, children) had to do before the advent of the industrial revolution.

Suburbs were a feature after the mass introduction of the car, sparked by the advances in efficiency of Henry Ford’s plants.

Just to add one personal anecdote, my mother-in-law grew up in what amounts to (by US standards) a 19th century society. She tells us with no hesitation that the greatest thing they ever bought as a family was a washing machine.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Capitalism created the work that it was saving women from.

“Capitalism” isn’t a thing or a person. It can’t create anything. New work became available as efficiencies were discovered and society became wealthier. To take one mundane example, there was no such job as a “web designer” in the 1950s ... This doesn’t mean that nowadays people are dragooned into becoming web designers.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Don’t get me wrong, I call this all progress, that’s not the point, the point is that these are the ROOT CAUSES of social change, not “atheist liberals”.

Certainly, we “atheist liberals” are very few in number and don’t deserve the opprobium slung our way by the conservative punditocracy. Of course, yes, many of the root causes of social change are economic and technological in character. But that is overall a very good thing.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Profit motives drives the exploitation of sexuality as an economic tool. Why do clothing companies advertise sexy cloathing to younger and younger “consumers”? Are “liberals” behind this? No, profit motive and private industry are behind this.

Sure, in the sense that people like sexy clothing, so industry provides it. That’s exactly what I’d expect them to do. And in general, I have nothing whatever against sexy clothing. Religious conservatives often do. For one example, consider the burka. In the Middle East, the “profit motive and private industry” provide women the burka, rather than sexy clothing. (Or it provides them the sexy clothing and the burka to cover it up). Why? Because that’s what they want to buy.

:wink:

Capitalism is a two-way street. Marketing can make a difference, but in the final analysis, one can only sell what someone else wants to buy.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[color=darkblue]I had to read a lot of misguided nonsense about women to get to the end of this post.
Lets get it right guys, Women did not leave the home for the workplace due to any convenient invention of machines that made life easier. That might have been the case in time had not the Second World War intervened.
You young fellows like to design theories without giving the war the credit and influence it deserves. In the United states Roosevelt wanted the home front to feel the pain of what was happening in Europe and the pacific. He decided to install rationing, and to obtain the things she wanted or needed the young women at home went to work. They went with the best motives to help win the war. They were taught man’s work as welders, electricians. plumbers and they became pilots and coasties too. The war’s effect on our society is overlooked by those who were too young to remember it.
That’s why the women of this country left the home. They built the tanks, ships, planes and bombs that we used to defeat Hitler, something I think all will agree was a good thing to do.
They just never went back after the war was over to the activity and way of life that was past. The family as you describe it ended when the war began.
The war in Europe - its destruction and its huge death toll is what drives the Europeans to unite - they still remember and don’t want fascist capitalism to rise again and cause another more destructive clash of nations. That’s why they are far ahead of us in developing economies that provide for the humans that live in and use them.
Jim
e Jim
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Posted: 27 July 2006 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Washing clothes for a family before the late 19th and early 20th centuries involved getting the water (there was no running water), boiling the water with wood fires in large kettles, stirring the clothes in the boiling kettle, scraping the clothes on washing boards, putting the clothes through a “wringer” to take out most of the water, and then hanging them from cords. For a family this could take a day or two of hard labor every week.

And then ironing with the so-called “sad iron” involved heating it on the side of the stove.

Cooking (there were no gas or electric stoves) involved getting wood or coal, and several hours each morning heating up the stove, and then keeping it hot by stirring the coals in the firebox. This was an all-day affair, as the stove could not be left alone for long, or the fire would die. If the woman was doing baking, the stove would have to be watched constantly to keep the temperature stable.

Of course, all this cooking and cleaning didn’t take them literally 16 hours a day; the rest of the time they did help out as farmers, tailors, clothiers, et cetera. (As well as canning and preserving during the late summer and fall months!)

Advances in efficiencies of farming, clothes-making and canning meant that women no longer had to do these chores. They could buy the end-products for reasonable amounts of money, since they were made more efficiently (= at lower cost per hour) in factories.

And the industrial revolution also brought running water, safe sanitation, and direct gas and electricity.

We should not leave out the invention of the ice-box (later the refrigerator) which allowed one to go to market less often for daily perishables like eggs, butter and milk.

You’re just basically repeating the same thing I already said.

We still have a model of this economy by the way, they are called the Amish people. Many Amish today still have the same basic lifestyle that people did in America 150 - 200 years ago. The women din’t spend all day doing nothing but house work, they produced many goods and services, as I said and you repeated.

This is false. I have Sears catalogues from the late 19th and early 20th centuries filled with washing machines, ice boxes and other labor-saving devices. They were relatively rudimentary by modern standards, but functional, and did help alleviate some of the back-breaking work that women (and, yes, children) had to do before the advent of the industrial revolution.

Suburbs were a feature after the mass introduction of the car, sparked by the advances in efficiency of Henry Ford’s plants.

Just to add one personal anecdote, my mother-in-law grew up in what amounts to (by US standards) a 19th century society. She tells us with no hesitation that the greatest thing they ever bought as a family was a washing machine.

You’re missing my point. You said:

Women were liberated from having to work at home largely by the invention of things like the washing machine, dryer, vacuum and dishwasher. (Not to mention birth control!) Before these inventions, it was simply necessary to have one person at home all the time doing chores.

This is not the case. People weren’t at home all day because they needed to do house chores, they were at home all day because they worked from home.

Prior to things like the washing machine people simply didn’t wash their clothes as much. Several studies have shown that the amount of time spent on house chores has not decreased in the past 100 years, instead the productivity of house work has increased, so that more gets done, but the same amount of time is spent, because more work is created, or at least the perception of needing to do more work is created. People’s standards increase.

I think that you are misunderstanding something. I’m neither attacking capitalism nor saying that changes in the family structure are bad, I’m simply demonstrating the fact that changes in the family structure and in society are caused by economic changes and changes in “the means of production”, to use the blatantly Marxist term.

Why are divorce rates higher today than they were 200 years ago? Is it because of the lack of prayer in schools, as Christians often claim? Of course not.

Its because 200 years ago a family WAS A BUSINESS UNIT, that had many more economic incentives to stay together, and women had fewer opportunities and less freedom. Since women’s work was tied to their family (essentially their husbands were their employers), women had few economic opportunities outside of marriage.

With industrialization however, work became detached from the home and thus detached from the family. Now work and family are separate (for the first time in human history). This has liberated women especially because now their economic interests are not tied exclusively to the family and to a husband.

While industrialization was very rough on women initially, since they made up a large part of the unskilled labor, today is has separated sex from economic survival, which has radically altered the social dynamic.

The point is that there have been many changes in society over the past 200 years, and especially the past 50 years. When you look at things like “sense of community”, divorce rates, the role of sex in society, etc., all of these things, good and bad, are primarily effected by the change in the economic mode of production.

“Conservatives” again and again point to things that they consider to be negative changes in society, and they blame these things on “liberals”, the supposed reduced role of religion in society, etc., etc.

We cannot address these issues, and we cannot properly refute these claims, unless we also acknowledge the complaints that these people have, and then point out the real root causes of these issues.

In essentially every case, the real root cause is the nature of our economic system.

That does not by default mean that the economic system is bad, it just means that its the cause of the characteristic that these people are complaining about. Its a trade off.

Many things that we consider to be “bad” have beneficial social results, in many ways society responds best to challenges. That doesn’t mean tat we should create challenges to make us feel better, but it does mean that we should understand the root causes for change so that we don’t falsely blame the wrong people or things.

For example, after a natural disaster people naturally bond with each other and feel a stronger sense of community and “togetherness”. Does that mean that we should create disasters to create social bonding? No, of course not.

But, many people want social bonding.

Our social bonding mechanisms evolved over millions of years in cooperative communal settings where shared labor and living in proximity with people and sharing communal property created social bonds.

We no longer share communal property to any real degree, we don’t share labor with the people in our neighborhoods, and we don’t share interests with our co-workers per-se, so the mechanisms that trigger feelings of social satisfaction are no longer stimulated, thereby leading to a sense of social emptiness, because our ancient evolved behavior mechanisms are no longer relevant to the current social structure, which is create by the current mode of production.

We should be explaining this to people and trying to reach an understanding of the problem, instead of having Ann Coulter rattle off nonsense about “Godless Liberals” and then “us” just saying “she’s so mean”.

As for the sexuality issue, what you said is incorrect.

No one has a natural desire to be covered from head to toe in a burka. People so have natural desires to both be sexually stimulated and to appear sexually attractive.

In a capitalist society, the market will cater to people’s natural desires.

Even in the Middle East Victoria’s Secret does big business. The women in burkas are wearing thongs, hey have a natural desire to feel desirable. The Muslim religions tries to counter natural desire, capitalism tries to unleash it. In Muslim society today women do all they can to make themselves feel as sexy as possible BECAUSE of the pressures put on them. Yes, they wear burkas in public because they have to, but they still have a NATURAL DESIRE to feel sexy, and they do everything that they can to fulfill that desire without putting themselves in danger.

People are no blank slates”. We have natural evolved tendances, which are behavioral mechanisms that evolved over millions of years in a context completely different from modern society.

All major religious systems today (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) are fundamentally based on controlling people’s desires. Capitalism is fundamentally embracing and encouraging people’s desires.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Well, if, as it seems to you, I am just “repeating what you have already said”, then it must appear to you we are saying the same thing.

It also appears to me you are repeating what I said about Victoria’s Secret and embracing peoples’ desires in the Middle East, so I am happy to see you agree with me there.

My point is that there was enough work to be done each week (before the invention of these labor-saving devices) that it was practically impossible for the woman of the house to support work outside the home.

Once these devices had been invented, the housework could be done more efficiently, which opened up new opportunities (of work elsewhere, or leisure, or, of course, more thorough housework), which had not existed previously. Further, these inventions were produced through the capitalist system. If I understand you correctly to accept all this, then indeed we have no argument.

However, Marxist terminology is overly simplistic. It’s best to avoid talk of the family as “a business unit”. Are families of wolves “business units” too? I wouldn’t think so. They are biological units. Human families are biological and/or social units. Social units may have an economic component, that is certainly not all they are.

That said, it seems we don’t disagree that the religious right is pointing the blame in the wrong direction. If your claim is that they should instead point to some of the advances brought about by labor efficiency and the capitalist system, we are also in agreement there. But the alliance between the religious right and big business has always been an unstable one. I believe the Republican Party has joined the two out of necessity: big business is where the money is.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Well, if, as it seems to you, I am just “repeating what you have already said”, then it must appear to you we are saying the same thing.

It also appears to me you are repeating what I said about Victoria’s Secret and embracing peoples’ desires in the Middle East, so I am happy to see you agree with me there.

My point is that there was enough work to be done each week (before the invention of these labor-saving devices) that it was practically impossible for the woman of the house to support work outside the home.

Once these devices had been invented, the housework could be done more efficiently, which opened up new opportunities for work elsewhere (or leisure), which had not existed previously.

However I would suggest ditching the Marxist terminology and speaking of the family as “a business unit”. Are families of wolves “business units” too? I wouldn’t think so. They are biological units. Human families are social units. Social units may have an economic component, that is certainly not all they are.

That said, it seems we don’t disagree that the religious right is pointing the blame in the wrong direction. If your claim is that they should instead point to some of the advances brought about by labor efficiency and the capitalist system, we are also in agreement there. But the alliance between the religious right and big business has always been an unstable one. I believe the Republican Party has joined the two out of necessity: big business is where the money is.

No, wrong. Wolves are a perfectly fine example.

Why do wolves have the social structure that they have?

Because of the UTILITY of the structure.

Their social structure has evovled because it is a more effective means to aquire food and raise young than living independantly.

As long as wolves live in the natural conditions within which this structure evovled, there will be natural pressures to reinforce this social structure, i.e. the social structure will have utility.

If you change the conditions, however, then that social structure may no longer have utility.

They may still retain evolved social instrincts, but if you create a situation where living separately now has greater utility than living in social groups, then what will happen is you will create tension as individuals seek the highest utility, which will be in conflict with their instincts, which will cause stress and displeasure.

This is exactly what happens in zoos, etc.

This is exactly what is happening in our society as well.

The “traditional family” was a social structure that optomized utility in a pre-industrial society.

Today, in a post-industrial capitalist society, this “traditional” family strucute no longer has the same utility.

Today the corporation has taken over many of the traditional roles of the family. That’s simply a fact of our modern economic and social structure.

The conditions in which the “traditional family” was “useful” no longer exist, our economy has eliminated those conditions, and the progress of our economy continues to make that old structure more and more obsolete.

The only real “utility” of the family today is simply for reproduction. The family is just a social vestige of our behavior evolution and useful for raising chidren, but it no longer functions as the BASIS of the economy, as it did for thousands of years prior to industrialization.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]No, wrong. Wolves are a perfectly fine example.

Why do wolves have the social structure that they have?

Because of the UTILITY of the structure.

Their social structure has evovled because it is a more effective means to aquire food and raise young than living independantly.

Here you are just changing terminology. “Business units” are economic units. Economic units involve some transfer of money or trade goods. Wolves have neither money nor trade goods. They do not have “businesses” in any sense of the word.

What you are talking about now with wolves is fitness which is a biological concept of being adapted to an environment. Inarguably, the family structure helps the wolves’ fitness, that’s why it evolved.

Put another way, Marxism is not Darwinism.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]The only real “utility” of the family today is simply for reproduction. The family is just a social vestige of our behavior evolution and useful for raising chidren, but it no longer functions as the BASIS of the economy, as it did for thousands of years prior to industrialization.

The family has enormous social utility in every human culture, and it always will. It is true that the family has a different economic role to play in our present-day society than it did in the past, but so what?

Today the family is a social unit of mutual compassion and interest, whether or not reproduction takes place.

There is a lot of cutting-edge research in psychology, anthropology and sociobiology that backs up the fact that family structures are biologically driven and always will be with us. Steven Pinker’s new book The Blank Slate goes through it all quite well.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Economic units involve some transfer of money or trade goods. Wolves have neither money nor trade goods. They do not have “businesses” in any sense of the word.

What you are talking about now with wolves is fitness which is a biological concept of being adapted to an environment. Inarguably, the family structure helps the wolves’ fitness, that’s why it evolved.

This is irrelevant to the discussion at hand first of all, and secondly, economy is a function of biology, which has long been recognized, even by Darwin.

Social structures evolve based on their utility. Do you accept that this is true or not?

In a modern human economy we have things like money and trade, yes, but this is ultimately about the same basic thing, producing and acquiring resources.

Our economic systems are just more complex expressions of the same social hierarchies that we can observe in social animals like wolves.

Wolves make dens, they acquire food, they produce and raise offspring.

There are very important social exchanges that take place to make all of this happen.

The “economy” of the wolf is essentially food and sex.

If you look at chimps, however, they have a much more expansive economy that involves more social services. They will “trade” certain things, such as grooming, for food, etc. They also make more overt exchanges of sex for food as well.

But this is all beside the point, the point is really about the utility, i.e. usefulness, of certain social structures, how well those social structures serve some end goal.

In the case of the wolf the end goal is the acquisition of food, protection from outside competition, and the raising of offspring.

In the case of people, the “end goal” includes these things, but it also includes the production of goods and services for use in economic exchange.

For all of human history, until the industrial revolution, this activity took place IN THE HOME. I’m not sure what is so hard to understand about this?

The home used to be a place of economic utility. Today it is not. Homes today are essentially unproductive, for the first time in human history. Children today are essentially unproductive, for the first time in human history.

This radically changes the social dynamic. Do you agree or disagree?

Take this explanation of the early “Family Economy”:

http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/econ/famec.html

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Early Albany families were large and all members were expected to work in support of the family’s subsistence and commercial activities. Since many families had large numbers of children, they performed many of the most basic tasks on an ongoing basis. Two decades into a marriage, the family economy typically would reach a high point with many children, adolescents, young adults, and even the elderly and infirm efficiently contributing to its production.

The family has enormous social utility in every human culture, and it always will. It is true that the family has a different economic role to play in our present-day society than it did in the past, but so what?

So what is that the role of the family in the economy IS THE BASIS of society.

The changes that we see in society over the past 100 years are largely a product of this changing role of the family.

Why are divorce rates higher today than they were 100 years ago?

Because of this changing role of the family.

Why did the “feminist movement” take place?

Because of this changing role of the family.

Why have family sized decreased?

Because of this changing role of the family.

Why do people commute an hour to work each day?

Because of this changing role of the family.

Why are people less in touch with their neighbors today than they were in the past?

Because of this changing role of the family.

Do individuals today have as much control over society and their community as they did in the past?

No, because of this changing role of the family.

This is a huge political issue. This is what the Republican so-called “values voters” focus on.

When you take a situation where people live and work together in neighborhoods and the things that people consume are produced by their friends and neighbors, the social dynamic is necessarily different from a situation where people who live together in a geographic region have no economic exchanges with each other, they travel to distant locations to work with other people, and consume products that are made in foreign countries by people that they have never seen and will never see.

The social relationships of the economy are radically altered in this case from the prior social relationships.

What I am saying is that these changes in social relationships are at the heart of the discontent felt by conservatives.

Families and communities no longer have the same economic and social ties that they used to have, BECAUSE OF industrialization and capitalism.

I’m not saying that industrialization or capitalism are “bad”, but these social changes are a products of industrialization and capitalism.

When you get to things like the role of sex, violence, and general desire in the marketplace, these changes in social structure have a lot to do with why we see increasing use of sex, violence, and general appeals to desire in our economy.

People have instinctive desires, which are behavior mechanisms that evolved in a completely different setting to drive individual behavior in ways that were competitively advantageous in those settings.

The social systems that evolved over the past 10,000 years incorporated many checks and balances on individual behavior in order to limit these instinctive desires and attempt to keep them in line with larger social interests.

This is, to a large extent, what religion is all about, this is why the focus of most major religions is on “limiting desires”, and doing things like “covering women”, etc. These are socially evolved systems that developed to limit individual desires to keep individual behavior subservient to larger social interests.

In a family based economy what people choose to produce and the objective of production are also subservient to these same social controls.

We are, in essence, what we produce.

In a capitalist system, however, these social concerns go by the wayside, the social pressures no longer have the degree of influence on production that did in a family based economy.

I’m no longer producing goods for my community and neighbors, and my role in the economy (while more dependant on society) is no longer social.

My “work” is no longer a PART OF, my “social life”, as had been the case for all human history prior to the rise of capitalism.

If the objective becomes “maximizing profit”, that greatly changes the social dynamic from “pleasing my friends and neighbors”, which was a large component of the “family based economy”.

I can maximize profits by maximizing my appeal to instinctive desires.

Not only can I maximize profits by appealing to instinctive desires, but I no longer have the social constraints to prevent me from doing so.

I live in Beverly Hills in a gated community of other millionaires who also do the same thing. We are all CEOs of corporations that use factories in China to produce our products, marketing teams in New York to develop our marketing campaigns, and branches in neighborhoods that I will never travel to to sell our products, to people that I will never meet and really have no desire to meet.

The fact that my products appeal to the sexual desires of 12 - 16 year old girls, which makes many parents unhappy, makes no difference to me, I don’t know those parents, I don’t care about their children, I am not exposed nor do I care about the social consequences of my products and marketing campaigns, I am simply maximizing profits for my company by appealing to the desires of a target market.

Furthermore, as a capitalist, I have every incentive to encourage a materialistic attitude and behavior:

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From Abercrombie Kids

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Posted: 28 July 2006 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Whew ... quite a manifesto there. Most of it (about the role of the family) is uncontroversial, and indeed, repeats what I have been saying. Of course the family’s role has changed. As for family businesses, there are plenty nowadays. Most people are employed by small businesses, and most small businesses are family owned and operated.

It is true that most families nowadays don’t run their own businesses, but this is neither here-nor-there. The subject that began this thread was about the so-called “culture war”, began by the religious right, which basically holds that the changes in the family are bad and must be fought. This, I think you and I will agree, is false.

As a matter of biological fact, families will never disappear, and they will always have a crucial social and psychological role to play in society. This is because there humans are animals that view the world as separated between kin and non-kin, where we are wired to act preferentially towards kin. We are also wired to act jealously under certain circumstances. We are wired to love and protect our partners, parents and children. This does not mean that we always do so, it means that on balance most humans will do so most of the time, no matter how the society changes.

So on the one hand the culture warriors are right that the family is changing, but they are wrong that these changes are bad. They are a natural outgrowth of cultural evolution in society.

On the other hand the culture warriors need not worry so much about the family’s ‘impending breakdown’, because the family as such will never break down entirely, so long as we remain human animals.

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