Part 2 of
Allan C. Carlson's
"The Natural Family
Where It Belongs"
(a book review)

Dateline: 14 February 2014

In My Previous Blog Post I wrote a review about the introductory chapter of Allan C. Carlson’s new book, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays. With agrarianism in mind, I thought the introductory chapter was excellent. But Chapter 1 (titled, Creative Destruction) was not what I expected. 

Chapter 1 is about market capitalism and socialism and it’s affect on the family. Carlson discusses several books that address the “conflict between work and family.” This conflict comes when fathers and mothers are working outside the home, and are, therefore, not able to properly care for their families. The conflict between work and family is a clearly recognized problem in our society, but solutions to the problem are not clearly seen.  Carlson shows that the mainstream solutions being offered serve to further strengthen the power of “state capitalism” and the welfare state, while further weakening the “natural” family. 

It is clear that Allan Carlson is no fan of capitalism and what capitalism has done to the family. Here is a pertinent quote:

“The new capitalist economic order and the welfare state grow together. Each picks up functions from the ever-diminishing family household. Business starts by taking over the  production of clothes and shoes; it ends by absorbing family meals (e.g., fast food) and home cleaning (e.g., Merry Maids). The government begins by acquiring education and claiming child protection; it ends by giving care to all who cannot work: the elderly, the sick, preschool children; and even newborns.”

In other words, the industrial order (which is the term I like to use, and it may be synonymous with Carlson’s “capitalist economic order”) has slowly but surely taken over a great many of the functions that were once performed by families and households living in close-knit communities. This has happened (and is continuing to happen) in order to liberate fathers and mothers so they can work outside the home for a wage and better serve the needs of the industrial order.

Mr. Carlson then focuses on what he terms “the quiet burial of the homemaker and full-time mother,” which he blames on “feminist-driven capitalism’s creative destruction of the home.”  That term, "feminist-driven capitalism" is sure to upset a lot of people. Carlson has more to say on this subject in an upcoming chapter.

As I noted above, this first chapter of the book was not what I expected. What I realized in reading this first chapter is that Allan Carlson is, primarily, a social scientist and historian with a keen interest in what he terms the “natural family.” In fact, the main title of this book is “The Natural Family.”  Agrarianism is addressed in the book’s subtitle. I suspect that agrarianism will be presented later in the book as the proper solution to the problems of the family in our modern culture, but Carlson’s main interest appears to be less on agrarianism and more on the family. 

Also, it is clear from reading this chapter (and Mr. Carlson’s other books) that he is an intellectual. As such, his insights and his writings reflect an interest in statistics, obscure data and historical minutia. He takes a methodical approach to making his points. Thus, his books are, for the most part, not what I would call “light reading.” It isn’t necessarily hard to read and follow his writing, but it does require more thought and analysis on the part of the reader than is required for most other books (like, for example, my own book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian).

All of which is to say that, based on the title and description of this book, I suspect a lot of people are going to expect it to be something it isn’t. They are going to expect it to be primarily and largely about agrarianism, and that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Nevertheless, the book does address the family, and families are a fundamental part of any agrarian revival. So I can say that, even though this book is not what I expected (maybe I was hoping too much), it still interests me. I have a lot of respect for Allan Carlson’s insights and the principled, countercultural stand he often takes. So I’m going to continue to read the book and glean what I can from it. And I will continue my report in the next installment of this blog.


Click Here to read Part 3 of this book review.

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