Two interesting articles at Foreign Policy:
In the first, Phillip Longman contends that those who oppose patriarchy as a system of values are actually breeding themselves out of existence, allowing patriarchy to reassume its throne as prevailing worldview.
Many childless, middle-aged people may regret the life choices that are leading to the extinction of their family lines, and yet they have no sons or daughters with whom to share their newfound wisdom. The plurality of citizens who have only one child may be able to invest lavishly in that child’s education, but a single child will only replace one parent, not both. Meanwhile, the descendants of parents who have three or more children will be hugely overrepresented in subsequent generations, and so will the values and ideas that led their parents to have large families.
One could argue that history, and particularly Western history, is full of revolts of children against parents. Couldn’t tomorrow’s Europeans, even if they are disproportionately raised in patriarchal, religiously minded households, turn out to be another generation of ’68?
The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of modern societies married and had children. Some had more than others, but the disparity in family size between the religious and the secular was not so large, and childlessness was rare. Today, by contrast, childlessness is common, and even couples who have children typically have just one. Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents’ values, as always happens. But when they look around for fellow secularists and counterculturalists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.
Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating traditional religious values akin to the Bible’s injunction to honor thy mother and father.
Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and submit to father.
Longman’s article is heavy on claims, light on arguments, but my hunch is that it’s a teaser to get us all to buy the book. It occurred to me, however, that Longman’s optimism for what James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal has called the “Roe effect” doesn’t take into account the fact that many modern youth that come from traditional families gain much of their training away from the protective cover of parents. This is particularly true of the modern university system, a system that is oft credited for “debunking” the traditional values students parents impart to them. The mobility of modern culture makes it easier for young people to isolate themselves from communities and parents, often mitigating their influence. This makes comparisons between modern society and societies like Rome and Athens significantly more difficult, and probably less illuminating. It also seems to cast a longer shadow of doubt on Pullman’s thesis and on the possibility of a vibrant return to patriarchy without immense difficulty and loss of economic growth.
In the second article, Martin Walker highlights the gender imbalance in Asia. The article is inconclusive, as predictions about what the effects of having lots of men and no women are guesswork. But it does include this interesting tidbit:
Brigham Young University political scientist Valerie Hudson—the leading scholar on the phenomenon of male overpopulation in Asia—sees historical evidence for these concerns. In 19th-century northern China, drought, famine, and locust invasions apparently provoked a rash of female infanticide. According to Hudson, the region reached a ratio of 129 men to every 100 women. Roving young men organized themselves into bandit gangs, built forts, and eventually came to rule an area of some 6 million people in what was known as the Nien Rebellion. No modern-day rebellion appears to be on the horizon, but China watchers are already seeing signs of growing criminality.
All men, no women. Bad news.