This blog will tell you about the growing family crisis throughout the Western world. It will concentrate on the increasingly dangerous divorce machinery being operated by Western governments, as described in my recent book, Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family (Cumberland House, 2007).

I will continue publicizing these abuses in established, mainstream publications (see more than 80 published articles and studies on my internet site). But I also want to highlight here the increasingly totalitarian trajectory of the divorce regime, which I don't think is being emphasized adequately by others. What Frederick Douglass once observed of the slave power’s menacing expansion throughout the political system can now be seen in the cancerous spread of the divorce machinery: It is “advancing, poisoning, corrupting, and perverting the institutions of the country, growing more and more haughty, imperious, and exacting.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: Carle Zimmerman, Family and Civilization

My review of Carle Zimmerman's classic Family and Civilization, recently reissued by ISI Books, has just been published in Society, a very prestigious scholarly journal. Society is not esoteric or highly specialized, and so it is very influential. Unfortunately, it is not online, and Society is very scrupulous about guarding its copyright. Information on how to obtain a copy and the first page are on the links below.

Unlike today's advocates for the family, Zimmerman (writing in 1947) has a lot to say about divorce and its role in family deterioration. He also emphasized the direct role of government in destroying families, arguing in effect that the state and the family have been on a collision course throughout modern history. Occasionally, he even takes a dig at family court, which even in his day was engaging in abuses that have since become much more widespread. I highlight these aspects in the review.

Stephen Baskerville


Carle C. Zimmerman, Family and Civilization
Edited by James Kurth. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008. xiii + 337 pp. $18.00. ISBN-10: 1933859377; ISBN-13: 978–1933859378

Stephen Baskerville

A society grappling with a declining birthrate, proliferation
of single-parent homes, and government policies that
undermine parents and families will find it sobering to learn
that some were sounding the alarm decades ago, even in the
apparently family-friendly post-war years, and that the trends
were developing long before that. Even more disturbing is
that the same ills plagued ancient civilizations—shortly
before they collapsed.

A publishing event of major importance is the re-issue of
Family and Civilization by Harvard sociologist Carle Clark
Zimmerman (1897–1983). Originally published in 1947,
the book is a classic of family scholarship, though as Allan
Carlson explains in the introduction, it has largely been
ignored by the academic elite.

Zimmerman demonstrates how the fragmentation of the
family in Greece and Rome preceded the disintegration of
those civilizations and how similar trends now threaten our
own. Writing as the post-war baby boom (a temporary
aberration, it turns out) was just beginning and the family
appeared to be on a major upsurge, Zimmerman identified
long-term trends that are only now reaching general

Polybius noticed “a low birth-rate and a general decrease
of the population” in Greece during the second century BC.
In modern Europe birth rates have been falling since the late
nineteenth century and were below replacement level by
1930. This falloff reflected a larger renunciation of the
family as a social and personal institution, what Zimmerman
calls “familism.” “The extinction of faith in the familistic
system in Europe in the last two generations is identical with
the movements in Greece during the century following the
Peloponnesian Wars and in Rome from about 150 AD to 250
AD,” he wrote: “In each case the change in the faith and
belief in family systems was associated with rapid adoption
of negative reproductive rates, increased acceptance of
perverted forms of sex behavior, and with enormous crises
in the very civilizations themselves.”

One can come away from Zimmerman’s book very
pessimistic—from the realization that today’s trends have
been developing not for decades but for centuries, from
knowing that our Greek and Roman predecessors were
unable to prevent similar crises, and because the demographic
and cultural trends seem beyond the reach of public
policy. Readers witnessing continuing family deterioration
six decades later may conclude that the prognosis for
Western civilization is bleak indeed.

And yet while demography and culture are major
themes, they are not wholly determining. While he does
not state it explicitly, a striking feature of Zimmerman’s
analysis, and one that offers some hope, is that the decline
of the family—really, the attack on the family—is not a
matter simply of impersonal forces but the direct and
conscious work of the state. Over and over, Zimmerman
points out how the state views the family as a threat, how
the state eviscerates the family, the state sponsors antifamily
intellectuals, the state seeks supremacy over the
family and society in general.

Zimmerman writes of the “relation between the type of
family and strong central governments,” arguing that
historically it was in their absence that the family developed
most extensively. Later, “Strongly developed central governments
made the internal cohesion of family groups less
and less necessary.” Whenever the family shows signs of
dysfunction, “the state helps to break it up.” The state...


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