Saturday, November 10, 2007

Interesting Article on an Impending Demographic Change

Some of you may have noticed that I put "demography" as one of my interests in my profile. And I've been meaning to get around to posting about demography. Specifically, I was going to write about how societies evolve using a very similar mechanism to that of biological evolution.

I was going to say that some societies adopt traditions and mores that strengthen the society; these societies--being thus strengthened--go on to dominate on the world stage, and their successful traditions and mores often find cognates--and often blatant borrownings--in other cultures.

I was further going to mention that other societies adopt traditions, mores, and institutions that are self-destructive; and since these items are destructive to the host societies, these societies usually either drop them sooner or later, or the societies themselves fall apart. So while a student of history may see these things show up time and again throughout history, their appearances will usually be brief, and then they will vanish again, often accompanied by the collapse of the host society. And the student will note--on the principle that "history is written by the winners"--that the great historians of the past all came from societies that rejected these traditions, mores, and institutions, and bias against these things shows up in their writings.

I was going to write about this. But then someone beat me to it. With a hat tip to Mark Steyn, posting in National Review's blog the Corner, I came across this article by Phillip Longman in the magazine Foreign Policy.

The article is entitled "The Return of Patriarchy", and it explains at length how patriarchy--the eternal nemesis of feminism--appears set to make a big comeback in the western world.

The term patriarchy refers to a system of social custom that used to be much more common in the West, and which is still very common in much of the rest of the world. In short, imagine a society in which:
  • Men are the heads of families, and make the rules. Legitimate children "belong" to the fathers. And a big part of the social status of men derives from this role as head of family.
  • The actions of a family's children can either shame or honor the family in general, and the man at the head of the family in particular.
  • Sex and childbearing outside of marriage are strongly stigmatized by society. There are strong social disadvantages to being an illegitimate child.
  • Women don't have many options for employment outside the home. The best that most women can hope for is to marry well and raise children who will honor the family name.
  • Concepts like "heritage" and "legacy" aren't just buzzwords to be manipulated by politicians; they are one of the foremost concerns of any man in good social standing.
  • Marriage is not only done for love, and often isn't primarily done for love; it has the primary purpose of strengthening the family--partly through alliance, but primarily to bring the next generation into existence. To this end, it's important not just that a man marry, but that he marry a woman of proper social standing.

That's patriarchy. And one can see immediately why feminists don't like it.

But here's what Longman points out: this particular system causes men to do two things that have been happening less and less frequently starting about halfway through the 20th Century. First, it gives men--even wealthy, well-educated, well-established men--a strong social reason to father lots and lots of kids. Second, it gives these men a strong incentive to be heavily involved in the raising of those children. After all, if a father's children grow up to be rapscallions, it redounds to his discredit. On the other hand, if they grow up to be financially and professionally successful, the father is honored--and this honor carries social benefits.

Now it so happens that patriarchy has been out of fashion in the West for some time now, at least since the Sexual Revolution. But it hasn't been out of fashion among everyone in the West--there are always some hold-outs, some religious throwbacks (so they are seen), some social conservatives.

The trouble is this: patriarchy is a social structure that (among other things) causes people to have lots of children. If a society's dominant social structure doesn't cause people to have lots of children, then eventually these hold-outs, religious throwbacks, and social conservatives simply start out-breeding the rest of society. Within a few generations, a strong plurality of the population--possibly even a majority--is descended from the hold-outs.

And this doesn't take too long to happen. Take a look at some of Longman's reasoning:

The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one's own folk or nation.


Now, I don't mean to say this to say I cheer the return of patriarchy with all its trappings.* But if Longman is right, patriarchy may be on the way back, simply as a matter of Natural Law--societies that embrace it tend to thrive, and societies that reject it tend to wither until the patriarchal remnant becomes dominant again.

I think we're looking at some big societal changes coming our way--on at least as big a scale as the Sexual Revolution--within the next few decades. Hold on to your hats.

There's lots more to be said on this topic--especially regarding Natural Law and its effect on societies--but that's for another post sometime.

*While there is a some crossover between the Christian conception of family life and the description of patriarchy that I listed above, there are some big differences as well; in fact, patriarchy can be downright cruel and unjust at times. Considering how Jesus treated those who were at the absolute bottom of the society in his day--such as prostitutes, and women who had had multiple divorces and remarriages--I find it difficult as a Christian to cheer the potential return of stigma toward divorcees, single parents, illegitimate children, and the like.

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