Dateline: 16 February 2014
I am reviewing Allan C. Carlson’s new book, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays (Click Here if you would like to begin with Part 1 of this series).
Chapter 8 of the book is titled Family-Centered Neighborhoods. The chapter begins with Allan Carlson making the point that "over the grand sweep of human history, in all parts of the world, the normal circumstance was that persons worked and lived in the same place."
Whether they lived on small farms or they were town dwellers, their homes were places of daily work and productivity, and children were an integral part of this family life. Carlson adds, "we might even say that human beings were created or conditioned for this way of living."
Then came the industrial revolution, and the industrial economy. Traditional economic functions of the home were replaced with new industrial institutions like factories, offices, and schools. "Homes became little more than shared sleeping quarters."
A host of problems followed, most involving questions of family and home: Who will care for the children? What should we do with the aged? How should we treat marriage, which no longer has a firm economic base? How should we accommodate the innate differences between women and men? Why even have children, who instead of being productive helpers have now become expensive luxuries? What sort of living arrangements are best suited to urban-industrial life?
Carlson then explains "the suburban experiment" which "grew out of the nineteenth century conflict between agrarian, village-oriented America and the emerging urban-industrial order."
It turns out that the original suburbs "display[ed] many positive qualities." Although fathers were at their industrial jobs each day, and suburban families were generally displaced from extended family, the mothers were home, the neighborhoods were full of children, and there was a strong sense of community. This was, to some degree, my own experience growing up in a suburban development in the late 1960s.
Then, "starting sometime in the 1960s, the suburbs ceased working well as communities." What happened? Well, families stopped having so many children, "divorces soared," and the number of mothers working outside the home dramatically increased.
The suburban home had been designed around the full-time homemaker. As she disappeared, an eerie silence spread over the daylight ghost towns of late twentieth century suburbia.
Allan Carlson then explains the "socialist model" of housing that emerged in Sweden during the 1930s. This model was translated into America when urban planners tore down old neighborhoods in the cities and built "public housing complexes."
Carlson introduces a couple of "new-urbanism" schemes that are being attempted in an effort "to reclaim at least some aspects of village life, within an urban setting." Then we get to another option… "The Function-Rich Home."
The problem with all the industrial-world planned communities is that they "look for ways to reassemble family homes shorn of productive functions. All accept and accommodate industrialism, rather than challenge it; all accept the weakened, non-productive family as a given."
The truly exciting prospect for the twenty-first century actually lies in the opportunity to undo the industrial revolution at least in certain ways, and to the benefit of the natural family. … As noted at the outset, the authentic village was also a place to work, to make things, and to provide services.
Allan Carlson then explains that this reuniting of home and work and family is "a counter-revolution… already well-advanced in America" as evidenced by the rise in homeschooling, telecommuting, and new home businesses. The internet is a tool that's being used by many to re-create family economies.
That's something I can sure relate to. I've been advocating this counter revolution here for the past nine years. I've seen this counter revolution grow. And many of you reading this blog are counter revolutionaries.
Click Here to read Part 8 of this book review.