Why the hell do I bother?

The obituary for this blog was written before I typed its first line:  “Here lies Throne and Altar.  It’s author was a sexually repressed, closed-minded, hypocrite who never had any reasons for his beliefs except a blind faith in tradition.”  Not one word I’ve ever written could be used as evidence for any of those assertions, but that hardly matters when the enemy has a louder speaker, and I can hardly complain, given that this has been the fate of so many men better than myself.

Here’s The Social Pathologist taking a first draft.  We traditionalist conservatives, you see, see no need to think because we assume that tradition is infallible and want to precisely replicate the past.  Now, it doesn’t matter that not one social conservative–not I, not Jim Kalb, not Allan Carlson, not Roger Scruton, not Laura Wood, not Gerry Neal, not Alte, not Jerry Sayler, not R. R. Reno, not Larry Auster, not Robert George, not Proph, not rkirk, not anyone he or I would call a traditionalist or social conservative–has ever espoused the absurd position he attributes to us.  (Our rather more nuanced attitude toward tradition is explained here.)  Why bother addressing–or even acknowledging the existence of–the reasons for our beliefs when SP can apparently just peer into our souls and know–without ever having met any of us or being able to adduce any evidence for it in our writings–that we’re really just motivated by a neutrotic refusal to acknowledge female sexual desire?  I really wouldn’t mind if SP just said that he was unconvinced by our reasons for refusing to share his enthusiasm for game and female careerism, but it’s really impossible to carry out a dialogue with someone who simply refuses to admit that we have reasons but just goes on to make up discreditable motives to impugn us with.  In fairness to SP, the temptation for one side (the “moderate” one) in an intraconservative dispute to use Leftist stereotypes to tar their opponents is always very strong.  The stereotypes are part of the general pseudoknowledge, so they can generally be flung about without evidence for them demanded, and it’s an easy way to gain the sympathy of Leftist onlookers.  What we’re seeing is a reoccuring feature in conservative history.

Paul Gottfried tells the story in Conservatism in America of how the neoconservatives took over the conservative movement, expelled their enemies, and then announced to the world that for the first time conservatism would now have intellectual substance and a strong grounding in reason.  As Gottfried points out–and it should be obvious from the intellectual output of the two eras–this was egregiously false.  The pre-takeover traditionalists maintained a level of culture and theoretical depth that the neoconservatives never matched, even before they descended into partisan hacks.  (Gottfried sees this, even though he has disagreements with both camps of conservatives.)  Note that the neocon victors didn’t say that their rivals’ reasoning was flawed or unclear; they simply denied its existence altogether and so didn’t have to bother responding to traditionalists’ criticisms.  They were able to do this by playing on the Leftist stereotype of the unthinking traditionalist; they knew if they played that card, the Leftist media would back them up.

Of course, the idea that the continental European conservatives were blind partisans of tradition with no defensible reasons for their beliefs–“immoderate and inferior copies of Burke” as I’ve put it–has been repeated so many times with such assurance that no one seems to care anymore that there is no truth to it whatsoever.  For example, Louis de Bonald’s most famous book, On Divorce, contains not one appeal to tradition.  Neither did Le Play, La Tour du Pin, or Maurras ever make the ridiculous claim that because we used to do it that way, that’s how we have to keep doing it.  They all grounded their positions in what they took to be the lessions of history, theology, and social science.  Some of them had scientific pretentions themselves, and Robert Nisbet argues in The Sociological Tradition that the French Right laid the groundwork for the science of sociology.  You may say that their reasons were wrong, or that circumstances have rendered them invalid, but you cannot say that they didn’t have them.

An example of this casual lying about the French Right, which I’ve already noted, is Philippe Beneton’s forward to Critics of the Enlightenment.  He makes the argument that the counter-revolutionaries based their argument entirely on national traditions, and now their nations have taken another track, so they’re entirely without a leg to stand on.  Beneton is apparently unembarrassed to make this argument even when none of the counterrevolutionaries in the book he is forwarding ever make the argument that he says was their only one.  Another case is Isaiah Berlin, who liked to say that he found anti-Englightenment thinkers’ alleged rejection of reason interesting, when what he really found it was comforting.  How nice if you can just pick a few quotes from de Maistre, Vico, and Herder that seem to confirm that you, the party of Enlightenment, hold a monopoly on rationality!

Carelessly denigrating the intelligence of social conservatives is particularly popular if said conservatives are evangelicals and the attacker is a Christian academic on the make.  Consider this book review in Books and Culture of Darryl Hart’s From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin:  Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism.  (The extremely positive review is also illustrates the bizarre fact that evangelicals like to be told that they’re stupid.)  It’s the standard attack–evangelicals are theocrats; they’re obsessed with abortion and gay marriage; they don’t present reasoned arguments, but just invoke the Bible–with the Jeffrey Hart/Sam Tanenhaus twist of saying that getting all bent out of shape over social issues is a betrayal of true conservatism (the latter consisting of perpetual graceful surrender to the advancing Left).  The evangelicals are utopians with no sense of prudence, no respect for custom or precedent.

… after thirty years of laboring with and supposedly listening to political conservatives, evangelicals have not expanded their intellectual repertoire significantly beyond the moral imperatives of the Bible….evangelicals are more likely to support political plans to improve society, grow the economy, and expand the United States’ global presence as long as doctors are not performing abortions and ministers are not presiding over the marriage of gay couples.

At least as the review presents it, the case is a hopelessly self-contradictory mess.  Abortion is nowhere discussed in the Bible, so in becoming pro-life evangelicals prove that they aren’t limited by explicit Biblical commands.  Pursuing economic growth and opposing seriously immoral acts is hardly utopian.  If conservatives base themselves off of inherited tradition, what would be wrong with invoking our civilization’s holy book anyway?  But one gets the impression that Hart’s personal holy book is the secularists’ separation of Church and State (i.e. State atheism), which he claims to have extracted from Luther’s Two Kingdom theology, and which is apparently the only bit of Christianity that it’s okay to invoke in the public square.  Hart says that “the source of American greatness…lies with its political order more than its religious identity.”  This is obviously false if Christianity is indeed the path of salvation and by what is “great” about America we mean what is most worth preserving.  (And what other definition matters?)

I can now see that there was an element of unhealthy pride in my motives for starting this blog.  I had spent quite a bit of time in isolation trying to explain to myself not just what was wrong with liberalism run amok, but what precisely was right about the things we’ve been taught to regard as self-evidently bad:  patriarchy, monoculturalism, censorship, etc.  As far as I knew, I was giving a more rigorous defense of these things than had yet been attempted.  After all, “everybody knew” that “sexists” and censors have no arguments, right?  While I knew that wasn’t really true, it did seem like the arguments existed but were scattered or not spelled out in previous works.  Well, now I had the full exposition.  Wait till I show the world!  They may not agree, but if they notice me at all, they’ll have to take it seriously.

That was obviously vanity.  In fact, I doubt there are any observations or arguments here that haven’t been written down by past generations of conservatives, many times before.  Given French legitimism, Jesuit natural law communitarianism, Dutch Calvinist sphere sovereignty, German Right Hegelianism, Russian mysticism, American Agrarianism, and the metahistorical masterpieces of Spengler and Voegelin, one sees that conservatism is poor neither in arguments nor in genius.  What it does lack is a tradition.  The irony here is exquisite, isn’t it?  Conservative thinkers do brilliant work, but it doesn’t get passed down.  A T. S. Eliot, say, will produce a powerful defense of some aspect of conservatism.  It will perhaps be noted, but then quickly forgotten, while the grand narrative–“conservatives are stupid; they have no ideas, just inherited prejudices”–remains untouched.  The next generation of conservatives begins intellectually from scratch.  We reproduce a small bit of what these earlier generations did, and we think ourselves very clever.  “Wait till I tell the world!”  And I do, and the world replies “conservatives are stupid; they have no ideas, just inherited prejudices”.  Then I finally start to understand.

70 Responses

  1. Billy Graham I can see definitely as a Christian role model but only deluded leftists and erroneous “conservatives” would even consider a narcissistic, embarrassing liberal lite like Sarah Palin a conservative and worth of reference. The very mentioning of her simply makes me ill.

  2. I’m being serious. Palin has this whole heretical act and exudes superficial Christianity. Reminds me of a snake oils man.

  3. Wait isn’t SP a fan of Roissy and the gamers?

  4. The name does sort of give it away, doesn’t it? A sympathetic observer would not have chosen Palin as the representative of contemporary evangelicalism.

  5. I think it would be fair to say that he acknowledges some validity to their observations but has moral objections to the libertinism of some of them.

  6. Then, isn’t the logical thing to do next to gather pointers to all this brilliant work in one place so the next generation of conservatives can find them before they turn 80?

  7. “Robert Nisbet argues in The Sociological Tradition that the French Right laid the groundwork for the science of sociology.”

    Well there you go. Maistre to Durkheim to contemporary sociology. Our rulers now have a good idea of how to control people scientifically.

    “His cradle should be surrounded by dogmas, and when his reason awakes, all his opinions should be given to him… nothing is more vital to him than prejudices.”

    Give progressive teachers a child of seven and they have him forever. The only argument is to marry, have a big family, not allow TV, and make absolutely certain that they’re classically educated, at home or otherwise. Without other people’s children, the Left has no demographic momentum.

  8. Nice post Bonald. Interesting points made.

  9. Don’t judge your work by the standards of the mass media and party politics.

    Everything in this world will come to an end except for immortal souls; and there are indications (although one can never be sure) that this blog may have helped induce a few immortal souls to begin to seek God – which (if they are sincere) means that they are saved (because he who seeks will find, albeit perhaps at the very last).

    If so, what more could you desire?

  10. This would be disturbing enough if SP actually was referring to tradition, in which case he’d merely be wrong.

    But it’s quite clear that he actually means principles — that we peevishly hold to our principles while the degenerate and unprincipled left steamrolls us. (Some of his comments in that post suggest as much). I mean, seriously, read that post again: he suggests we ought to move away from some of those principles in order to make people happy, as if that had ever been our primary concern! That’s utilitarianism of the rankest sort. So SP is just another sellout; to Hell with him.

    For yourself, you have a duty to speak the truth to the extent and in the way that you can. This blog is your discharging of that duty, and the best mode available to you given your employment and family situation. I’m fond of Dr. Charlton’s saying that the good is getting better and the bad is getting worse all the time. Everything is (very slowly) coming to a head. If our sole contribution to posterity is that we compel some people to take a stand (even if just stubbornly calcifying in their ignorance and unreason)… well, praise God for His letting you do such a good work.

  11. I like SP, and have gleaned many valuable insights from his blog. However, he remains under the illusion that we will somehow have modernity and conservative values, which I think is patently wrong. In a few ways, he very much reminds me of a neoconservative, fusing certain liberal positions with conservative ones. In his defense, however, he may just be trying to come across as realistic.

  12. I read his post, too, on the “feminist in every social conservative” and I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything so meritless. Society has been organized in such a way as to downplay the importance of sexual desire for millennia, so I have a hard time buying the idea that it only just became “intolerable.” In fact this strikes me as one of those absurd leftist legitimating myths that doesn’t hold up to even a second of critical scrutiny. His claim that social conservatives don’t care about masculinity is likewise such an absurd perversion of all available evidence that it practically requires no refutation.

  13. A basic meaning of the rather pretentious word “discourse” is that, in any particular “discursive community,” there are some propositions for which no argument is necessary and other propositions for which no argument is possible. We conservatives call such propositions prejudices. Since liberals are hegemonic, and so control discourse, their prejudices prevail. They can simply assert, without fear of challenge, what we think they ought to argue. We, meanwhile, must argue what seems to us self-evident, and then of course be told that we have made no argument. The best evidence for this is, of course, that the proper names of all of our doctrines have become the proper names of mental illnesses. Think patriarchy. Think moral absolutist. Think anti-democratic.

    All I can say, Bonald, is “get used to it.” To be a conservative of the sort who gather here is to suffer repeated defeat on steeply sloped playing fields, and then to be mocked as a fool and reviled as a wicked man.

    But don’t despair (as Lawrence Auster says you may have done); you’ve certainly saved a few souls and comforted many others.

    With respect to the Social Pathologist, I’d suggest you cut him a little slack. He’s still one of the good guys. As I read him, he’s trying to think through two problems: (1) Is traditionalism anything more than a call to set the clock back, in which case restoration of traditions would bring us back to the present situation after some interval, and (2) Do traditionalists have an answer to sexuality, especially female sexuality, other than repression. These are reasonable questions. I’m not convinced by the answers the SP has given, but I try to bear in mind that he is general practitioner who no doubt daily talks to people for whom these are practical rather than theoretical problems. Lofty notions like the Order of Being are not always helpful when trying to sort our an individual life.

  14. @JSmith – “Do traditionalists have an answer to sexuality, especially female sexuality, other than repression.”

    The most obvious ‘answer’ – which seems to suit *most* people in modern society, is the Mormon one: early marriage (early 20s), as many kids as you can afford, and organize things to make this possible (e.g the LDS Church has singles churches, online dating etc – and by the tithes will support families in financial trouble).

    I made a pretty extensive study of Mormons a few years ago because I think they do *by far* the best job of leading a traditional life while succeeding in the modern world (in terms of education, income, jobs); not least succeeding in reproducing themselves and evangelizing.

    “The fact is that if a Martian social scientist was to land on the earth and look at humans with an objective eye, there is no doubt that he would regard Mormons as the best adapted of all human communities.”

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2011/05/learning-from-mormons.html

  15. @BGC: I think you are correct. The goal of traditionalists should be to maximize stable, fecund marriages. This basically means happy marriages that get an early start. To promote this, I’d suggest the following:

    1) We must preach, in season and out, the importance of enlightened patriarchy. Everyone is happier when the male is clearly head of the household, but not a bruit. Men take ownership of families when they exercise authority, and women are sexually attracted to men who are at least to some degree dominant. We must teach our sons that women are attracted to strong men, and our daughters that equality will kill their libido.

    2) We must preach, in season and out, the facts about aging, female fertility, and male libido. Young women must be seriously looking for a husband by age twenty-five or so, if they hope to avoid the debacle of declining attractiveness, declining fertility, and declining male interest.

    3) We must accelerate education, particularly female education. Despite what I say in (1) and (2), I am not promoting the barefoot and pregnant model of femininity. Every woman has a mind that ought to be developed, be it for eventual employment or simply for civilized existence. But this should not be dragged on, year after year, until at the age of thirty she’s writing some wretched dissertation in the basement of Spinster Hall. This is less urgent for young men, since they can marry a younger woman, but their education should be expedited to. I am surrounded by bright, but aging, graduate students, and what I see is a genetic graveyard.

  16. I don’t comment on your site because I’m not nearly smart enough or well educated enough, but I benefit a great deal from what you write since I otherwise wouldn’t even know what questions to ask or where to get the answers. Surely I’m not your only reader who knows something is terribly wrong but lacks the insight to figure it out. I’m not smart or particularly well educated, but the general discourse on the sites you’ve mentioned recently is low and circular. It’s the constant restating of a problem with no solutions offered. You have a coherent worldview that you present gracefully and understandably. Maybe it isn’t worth your time, but I find it well worth mine whenever I read and think through something I’ve read here. Most of us really don’t know what the philosophical underpinnings of a civil society is, what the Enlightenment was and how it destroyed Christian culture, or basically any of the things you talk about. The first time I heard the idea that monarchy was the most stable form of government, my brain about broke – it was such a foreign concept. Your essay regarding the utterly ignorant attacks on social conservatives was brilliant. I think you’re doing necessary work and should try to disregard the echo chamber of the “manosphere.” I don’t see much good coming from their efforts because there’s no attention to transcendence, mystery, or beauty. Talking endlessly about how badly women behave when all higher purpose is removed from their lives is pointless.

  17. Hi JMsmith,

    SP is really good at irritating me. I’ll try to be more understanding. Actually, I think I get it now. It’s like how everybody hates talking to elementary school teachers, because they always treat you like a naughty kindergartener. SP treats everybody like a patient. He can’t help it. I probably treat everybody like a graduate student, always giving subtle hints that they need to work harder because, hey, those papers aren’t going to write themselves.

  18. Hi bgc and Proph,

    Thank you for the encouragement. Of course, you’re right that there are more important things than what gets pushed as common wisdom on the blogosphere. I did feel that these attacks on social and traditionalist conservatives deserved some response. The “manosphere” is an insignificant thing in the grand scheme of things, but, then again, so is “Throne and Altar”.

  19. Hello Joycalyn,

    Thank you for appreciating my site. Please don’t feel so self-conscious about what you do and don’t know; almost everybody here is self-taught. You’re right that I’m making a fuss over the writings of a pretty small number of people. Reactionaries like me are also a small group of people, and when someone goes after us, it’s easy for us to lose perspective. I will take your advice and move on to more interesting topics now. I think SP and I are just making each other angry, and it’s not accomplishing anything.

  20. I should clarify that I’m not implying you shouldn’t respond to these attacks. Your comments about game were insightful and quite helpful for me in putting my finger on exactly what bothers me about it. Just because some (most?) people completely misunderstood what you were saying isn’t a reason to be quiet. I’m an extreme conflict avoider, which I guess means I shouldn’t goad other people into it, but because of that I admire all the more the men who stand, often alone, and refuse to bow. That ability to stand is one of the lovely things about gentlemen.

  21. By all means, respond to it (worthless crap deserves to be refuted). Just don’t let it get you down. You’re doing good work here, and even if you were to die without ever having touched a single mind, you would at least be able to present your works to God and say: “This much I did for you.”

  22. @JMS – The US Mormons seem to have cracked this one too.

    (From memory, I can’t find the reference) Mormon women have above average levels of undergraduate degrees, but below average levels of graduate school qualifications.

    Mormon male fertility (number of children) goes up with increasing years of education – the most highly educated men have the most children.

    Mormon women’s fertility is highest among those with bachelor’s degrees and drops among those with graduate degrees (but not many Mormon women do these).

  23. Be encouraged!

    Actually, neither Throne and Altar nor ‘manosphere’ are insignificant. As CS Lewis and Charles Williams make clear, every choice either moves the soul somewhat towards heaven or hell.

  24. ‘I can now see that there was an element of unhealthy pride in my motives for starting this blog. I had spent quite a bit of time in isolation trying to explain to myself not just what was wrong with liberalism run amok, but what precisely was right about the things we’ve been taught to regard as self-evidently bad: patriarchy, monoculturalism, censorship, etc. As far as I knew, I was giving a more rigorous defense of these things than had yet been attempted. ‘

    Arrogance is a necessary evil. Without arrogance, nothing creative gets started. So if you are guilty of arrogance, that just means you’ve managed to start something significant. Sin boldly, as Martin Luther once said.

    Your blog is not as rigorous as a professional academic product, but it’s a lot more accessible.

    Keep writing.

  25. You will never know what changes you can make in a person’s life. My own “journey” towards traditionalism was started by a brief line of a silly TV show I caught while channel-surfing. My high-school days were full of me arguing with my ‘religious studies’ professors on the atheist side; I’m sure I seemed like a hopeless case at the time, but their words incubated for years and came back to me. The majority of readers don’t leave comments; many of them probably won’t be affected until months or years later. That’s the nature of things. But you will have an impact. Individuals count.

    Very few people are converted to anything by one book or person, but one book or person can start cogs moving and lead them to seek more. Guys like SP are a dime a dozen. Blogs such as yours – that offer a calm, non-misogynistic, traditional view put forward by an emotionally healthy person – are extremely rare and extremely valuable. Ending it would be a great loss.

  26. Write “pro Deo” – for God. It is the best reason, and the one that will sustain you when all the other reasons seem tired, hopeless and threadbare.

  27. “My own “journey” towards traditionalism was started by a brief line of a silly TV show I caught while channel-surfing.”

    OK, I’m too curious not to ask… what was the line, and what was the TV show?

  28. This, completely.

  29. I recently read D.G. Hart’s book referred to in Bonald’s post, and I mainly found plausible the author’s (of the book) thesis, which I took to be that evangelicals, from the beginning of the movement, have at best been teetering over the precipice of the pit of liberalism if not, in fact, swimming in it. He set for himself a difficult task in making clear some very nuanced distinctions (for example, the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical, or the difference between the author and an evangelical), and I don’t think he entirely succeeded in this task, making for some confusion as to what he was trying to say at times.

    But overall, the book seemed a fair critique of the shallowness (theological, cultural) I have observed in the evangelical movement, both in it and outside it (I am a Baptist to Catholic convert), and the danger that such shallowness has wreaked among the fold in that movement.

    On a similar note, Lydia McGrew at WWWW has done an interesting fisk of an article by Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She demonstrates how Moore, to whom I accustomed to thinking of as a staunch theologically conservative evangelical, is subject to the same problem I see demonstrated by Hart of evangelicals in general.

  30. It’s funny. I read that excerpt Lydia gives, and I didn’t see anything objectionable about it. She seems to be more irritated by things she thinks he’s implying than what he actually said.

  31. When you look at some of the specific claims that the Social Pathologist makes, they don’t seem unreasonable:

    1. Most women are in fact not suited to full time childrearing. Most are happiest with a part time career and part time childrearing. A substantial percentage are not suited for childrearing at all. Only some are suited for full time childrearing. He suggests a breakdown of 60/20/20.

    2. Most women are in fact highly sexual beings and badly want to have sex with more attractive men. They often genuinely prefer casual sex and short term affairs with such men to long term relationships with less attractive men. In the past, this was counteracted by the fear of being abandoned after pregnancy, but no more.

    One answer to the above is wholesale suppression of such things, but one has to wonder how whether such medicine would cause as much suffering as the disease. One also has to wonder how stable such a situation would ultimately be.

    That doesn’t mean that one has to just give up or endorse the feminist program. I suspect the Social Pathologist would suggest something like the following in response to #2:

    1. Make divorce much less easy to obtain and impose real penalties on those who break their marriage vows.
    2. Make welfare much less easy to obtain, especially for unmarried mothers.
    3. Help young men learn how to become more attractive.

  32. I don’t care what SP calls it; this is complete capitulation to the feminist program: capitalism devours the family. People find meaning and satisfaction primarily through paid work rather than personal connections. Children are raised by paid strangers. Men and women become functionally interchangeable. Parental authority becomes obsolete.

    It is absurd to think that women are made miserable by a task that millions of years of evolution has designed them for. Women taking care of their children is normal and natural. It is SP’s true god–the evil, inhuman system of capitalism–that is causing women to be dissatisfied with this challenging, fullfilling, and all-important task. It does this

    1) By creating a society that values nothing but money making, and denigrates all the more important tasks.
    2) By elevating “experts” even in such areas of universal human experience, like family raising, where such a thing is inappropriate.
    3) By creating widespread mobility, so that young couples are separated from their extended families and the help and company those families provide.
    4) By making housewives isolated. Traditionally, housewives had plenty of adult interactions, both with the other housewives on the block and in the numerous community and volunteer organizations that were largely staffed by nonworking women. Now most of the women are “at work” stapling papers or swiping groceries, while community has basically disappeared, residential areas are just places to sleep, and the few remaining housewives are isolated and feel like there must be something wrong with them.
    5) By discouraging and suppressing the home economy. As Allan Carlson has written about, homes used to produce many of the items the family used. Sewing, gardening, and cooking was only the tip of it. Now all of this has been destroyed, as people are encouraged to buy all their stuff from the stores. It’s good for the economy, you know.

    Are there women with special callings to the professions? Sure, but career callings are rare for any sex: most men just work so that their families can eat. All this stupid adulation of paid work is just the capitalist propaganda machine trying to keep wages down. Hell, if work is so “fulfilling”, maybe we should be paying our employers! SP must imagine that women (80% of them!) have been miserable through the long millennia before capitalism empowered them to become office drudges. But this takes the perverse incentive and ideological structures of capitalism as universal and normative. For most of human history, the home was a center of human interaction and intelligent production. There would have been no reason for anyone to imagine that they were missing out by not being a drone in a factory. In a sensibly restructured world, the family would have its central place restored. But that will never happen if we clear out its remaining inhabitants.

    What this really comes down to is how much of human life should revolve around the market. SP is working to smash the last holdouts against complete commercialization.

  33. “That doesn’t mean that one has to just give up or endorse the feminist program.”

    You mean, like you have done?

  34. You’ve put your finger on the basic problem with opinion polls and asking people what they want. They want what they’ve been conditioned to want. After forty years of propaganda representing homemaking and motherhood as degrading drudgery, its actually remarkable that any women find this work satisfying. After forty years of propaganda glorifying sexual spontaneity and sexual experience, is it any wonder that virginity is experienced as a stigma, chastity as a curse?

    Feminism has not restored females to the State of Nature. The women the S.P. talks with are ideological constructs, their desire for a career being no more (or less) authentic than their grandmother’s desire for a respectable husband. Follow the evil to its lair and you’ll always end up in the eighteenth century.

  35. It is absurd to think that women are made miserable by a task that millions of years of evolution has designed them for.

    Actually, all women in hunter-gatherer societies are involved in food gathering and many higher status hunter gatherer women farm off childrearing altogether to lower status women and go in for acquiring food full time. This strategy tends to allow those women to have more rather than less children. The “career woman” goes deep into our evolutionary history.

    All this stupid adulation of paid work is just the capitalist propaganda machine trying to keep wages down.

    At best this is hyperbole. In general, I don’t buy these it’s the media/intellectual’s fault type explanations. I know lots of people who go crazy when their not working. And the desire for wealth, comfort and prosperity go back well before capitalism.

    ——————————————–

    I suspect your ultimate quarrel is with technology and prosperity, which aren’t going anywhere.

  36. JMSmith:

    Again, I find it weird that conservatives would posit such radical social constructivism, as if women’s nature were almost completely malleable by the media etc.

  37. Human nature is not “almost completely malleable by the media etc.”, but human desires are.

  38. Human nature is not “almost completely malleable by the media etc.”, but human desires are.

    You’re quibbling.

  39. Human desires are a major part of human nature and cannot be manipulated wholesale by media/intellectuals etc.

  40. There’s just no reason to believe that’s true. In fact the entire field of psychology has proving for decades just how malleable most human desires are. Conditioning and all that.

  41. In fact the entire field of psychology has proving for decades just how malleable most human desires are.

    No, psychology has been pretty much moving in the exact opposite direction to what you say.

  42. Fundamental human desires like the desire for respect and status are probably a universal given, but what one regards as the natural medium for satisfying these desires–an office or an extended family, for example–certainly is determined by one’s upbringing and the surrounding propaganda.

    I say again: the Enlightenment isn’t discovering basic unmet human desires; it is creating new desires by mentally attaching some universal desire (e.g. respect) to some newfangled construct (e.g. paycheck) that they’re trying to sell us. It’s advertising.

  43. Man Who Was@– A conservative doesn’t deny conditioning, and his belief in nature or essence does not imply immutability. The whole thrust of conservative criticism is to complain about distortions and perversions from how things ought to be. What you say about psychology is misleading at best. The discovery of basic instincts or innate drives (assuming it has occurred) does not show that those drives cannot be redirected toward a new object. Even hard core EP types recognize secondary processes that are open to cultural conditioning.

  44. it is creating new desires by mentally attaching some universal desire (e.g. respect) to some newfangled construct (e.g. paycheck) that they’re trying to sell us. It’s advertising.

    1. Money brings real power. That isn’t post-Enlightenment propaganda.

    2. Many, many people get an enormous amount of satisfaction from their work. That isn’t post-Enlightenment propaganda either.

    5) By discouraging and suppressing the home economy. As Allan Carlson has written about, homes used to produce many of the items the family used. Sewing, gardening, and cooking was only the tip of it. Now all of this has been destroyed, as people are encouraged to buy all their stuff from the stores. It’s good for the economy, you know.

    Minus the conspiratorial overtones, this would seem to be the main driver behind women entering the workforce. Technological innovations meant that the need for traditional female in-home work was greatly reduced, leaving only the rearing of small children, something that most women don’t want to do all the time, as the only other reason for remaining home. I don’t see the banning of canned beans, the microwave, the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner though as being a practical solution to our problems.

  45. In more traditional societies, I suspect that women who weren’t as well suited for childrearing would do more of the other kinds of women’s work and let those more suited to childrearing do that in exchange. Now that technology has reduced the demand for that other kind of work, all that is really left is childrearing.

  46. Thirded.

  47. Hello The Man Who Was…

    But why couldn’t technological innovations also have assisted home production instead of snuffing it out? Technology will serve any master. We have chosen a model where people spend all day working and then get everything via purchasing it on the market. No doubt there are some advantages to this model, the payoffs of specialization, division of labor, and economies of scale. But there are also costs, in terms of familial independence, well-roundedness, time with kin, and gender confusion. Regardless of which way economic factors have pushed us, there is a strong ideological movement pushing us toward this model and away from the older one. This is basically what feminism is.

    Also, I think the fraction of people who get “enormous satisfaction from their job” is not high. Most jobs are not fun. The main satisfactions they get come not from work but from comradery with their coworkers, and they would have been able to get this type of satisfaction from other pursuits if those same people didn’t have to work.

  48. Technology will serve any master.

    Absolutely false. Technology is not neutral.

  49. Robin Hanson over at Overcoming Bias has a much more convincing narrative as to why women, particularly elite women, tend to prefer career over children:

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/12/fertility-looks-bad.html

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/08/billandme.html

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/01/extreme-parenting.html

    I’d also note that before contraception women often had to choose between having sex and pursuing status.

  50. Fine discussion so far.

    When you look at some of the specific claims that the Social Pathologist makes, they don’t seem unreasonable:

    1. Most women are in fact not suited to full time childrearing. Most are happiest with a part time career and part time childrearing

    This is what I was taught in medical school, by a female lecturer: that mothers of young children should work part-time to help stave off depression. One might view this as a glass half-empty: great, yet another institution teaching young women to abandon their duties. At the time, I was thrilled – wow, a career woman teaching us that career ain’t everything in life!

    I want to add my voice to the view that there is not necessarily an incompatibility between being a traditionalist mother and working outside the home at least a little bit. My mostly-SAHM wife works very, very part-time (as in, a couple of days per month) because she does have a psychological need for it once in a while, but not too often. The particular point that I want to make is that she always comes back from work refreshed, with a greater appreciation and joy for staying home with the kids the rest of the time.

  51. Hello The Man Who Was…

    Thank you for sharing these links. Overcoming Bias’ speculations are actually very compatible with my own, in that he sees the choice of career over fertility as driven by the desire for higher status, and of course the fact that having a career gives a woman higher status (and the mistaken belief that trading youth for income will help her attract a higher-status man) is entirely a social phenomenon.

  52. is entirely a social phenomenon

    If you mean an entirely socially constructed phenomenon, then no.

    If you’ll read closer, you’ll see that Hanson’s speculations are posited on the fact that women have an innate drive to show off things like their intelligence, creativity etc. and that this drive often is stronger than their desire to raise children. Therefore, in a wealthy society with contraception they will often put off having children until their 30s or forgo it altogether.

    I’d add that the pure desire to have (childfree) fun in your 20s and to have money to pay for all that fun is also a factor.

  53. If you’ll read closer, you’ll see that Hanson’s speculations are posited on the fact that women have an innate drive to show off things like their intelligence, creativity etc. and that this drive often is stronger than their desire to raise children.

    Which only underscores the fact that in a stable society women, like men, can’t be allowed to do what they want all the time.

  54. Which only underscores the fact that in a stable society women, like men, can’t be allowed to do what they want all the time.

    True, but any social arrangement going up against strong innate human tendencies probably isn’t going to last very long either. Sometimes you just gotta work with what you’ve got.

  55. True, but any social arrangement going up against strong innate human tendencies probably isn’t going to last very long either

    Really? I was under the impression that the most stable societies were ones that had efficient mechanisms to rein in basic human urges! Maybe we’re talking past each other here.

    Sometimes you just gotta work with what you’ve got.

    A lesson I think we sometimes don’t want to hear.

  56. the most stable societies were ones that had efficient mechanisms to rein in basic human urges!

    The most stable ones were those who channeled strong human urges in the most constructive direction possible, not those that went head to head with them. It may sometimes be necessary to crack the whip hard, but that isn’t usually the best long term strategy.

  57. Dawson’s Creek, believe it or not.

    The exchange I don’t remember exactly. Two characters were having an argument. Roughly paraphrased:

    A: I don’t understand why you have to be so blindly intolerant!
    B: I don’t understand why you have to be so blindly open-minded!

    So indoctrinated was I that had I lived for a thousand years, I don’t think it would have occurred to me of my own power that being open minded was anything other than the utter height and pinnacle of human goodness. I had not rejected arguments against excessive open-mindedness; I was completely unaware that they existed, or *could* exist.

    Little things do make a difference!

  58. They want what they’ve been conditioned to want. After forty years of propaganda representing homemaking and motherhood as degrading drudgery, its actually remarkable that any women find this work satisfying.

    I don’t think it’s that simple. Women look at the difficulties of homemaking today and assume those difficulties are eternal. If they think of the past at all, they tend to imagine it as “today’s difficulties + the additional difficulties of the past when women were more oppressed.” If nothing has been passed down, it’s very difficult to imagine a situation in which homemaking was radically different.

    How many young women (or men!) consider stuff like:

    – It is almost unheard of in human history for women to be stuck alone in an isolated house with young children, without either servants or extended family
    – A couple of generations ago in America, you didn’t have to drag your screaming kids to a grocery store and pray they wouldn’t throw a tantrum. Essentials were peddled door to door. So were laundry services!
    – ONE generation ago you could transport your children without strapping them into carefully regulated seats that won’t fit in anything smaller than a minivan
    – Not long ago you could let your older kids loose outside and take a nap or nurse a baby in peace. Kids could basically run wild. Now it’s not safe, and you’ll get a call from CPS if one of those kids falls down outside and bruises himself.
    – Technology might have reduced housework labor greatly, but standards and expectations for the home have risen accordingly.

    Is any of this in the public awareness? No. Instead, today’s isolated, money-obsessed, paranoid, unsafe, overregulated, uncohesive America is implicitly presented as the eternal standard. Because God forbid that anything might have been better in the past! And on the other side, you’ve got socons that *won’t admit* that it’s unusually difficult to raise children in America today compared to other eras or other Western countries – after all, women have vacuum cleaners now, so they should quit complaining! It’s as if all women have to do is reject the leftist propaganda, get pregnant and stay home, and then everything will be okay. Young women have eyes; they can see how messed up things are.

  59. bonald, you bother because you were never writing for The Social Pathologist.

    Eyes on the prize, don’t be dismayed. You’re doing what you can, and that is all you need to do.

  60. Robin H is – of course – an explicitly atheist transhumanist, and is arguing from utterly different premises and with an utterly different ideal goal.

    (Or rather, not so much a goal as the transcendental primacy of open-ended evolutionary process, and whatever that might lead to. Robin is personal a decent – albeit abrasive – chap, and a stimulating gadfly; but the implications of his stance are pretty much identical with those of The N.I.C.E. in CS Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.)

  61. As one of the negroes and women SP mentioned in his post about the backwardness of tradionalism, I guess I’ll weigh in here.

    An embrace of conservative values does not mean that one believes that bad ideas are to be held onto at whatever costs. It is an embracing of those values that have proven to be those that hold up and stand the test of time.

    One of the reasons I jumped at the chance to participate on the blog Traditional Christianity (which has contributors of numerous ethnic traditions) is because we believe that orthodox Christian faith and traditional family structure are things that transcend cultural shifting.

    The lack on nuance and accounting for intelligence on the part of SP and those like him actually reveals that they themselves are not interested in ideas that work: just imposing their prejudices onto those with whom they disagree.

    So no, I don’t want to return to the days when I would have been a beast of burden. That tradition flies in the face of Biblical truth on the inherent dignity of man. As such it should be discarded. But I have no problem saying the culture would be markedly improved had women remained in the home and off the pill.

  62. Man Who Was@

    Re: “women have an innate drive to show off things like their intelligence, creativity”

    This statement of yours may be useful as a starting point if we are to clarify our differences. First of all, a “drive” is different than a desire, although we might agree that desire is the way that a drive presents itself to our consciousness. I may be driven to spread my seed, but this does nothing to explain why I desire a particular woman. The cultural construction occurs in the translation of drive into desire.

    If we’re arguing on Darwinian presuppositions, the drive to show off intelligence and creativity has to serve the deeper drive of mate attraction. This has to be a sort of display of genetic assets, like males fighting. Now it is true (on Darwinism) that we are driven to display our genetic assets, but as the example of male fighting suggests, the manner of display is highly malleable. Sure, I did some “showing off” when courting my wife, but there were no fist fights. Fighting may be the primitive way for males to display genetic assets, but this does not mean that it is the natural way.

    People who comments on blogs such as this one very often have jobs that permit them to display intelligence and creativity, but most work isn’t like that. There are intelligent ways to raise children, and there are stupid ways to raise children. There are creative ways to run a household, and there are uninspired ways to run a household. A homemaker has extraordinary freedom to exhibit her intelligence and creativity. Of course it would help if more people noticed when she did.

  63. this does nothing to explain why I desire a particular woman.

    Really? Nothing?

    the manner of display is highly malleable.

    By clear material incentives often yes. By propaganda and ideology usually no.

  64. Also note that while the result of something may be to attract a better mates or make oneself higher status, this does not mean that an individual person does it primarily to attract better mates or become higher status. They may do it because it provides innate satisfaction.

  65. Elspeth…

    … You can reliably, reliably, expect the elite left to call everyone else stupid.

    Fools. (Liberals are just, if not more stupid than conseratives. Besides… Liberals are the more conservative , if by conservative you mean repeating the mistakes of previous generations.)

    It is a non argument. Almost every ethical position known (including contraception, abortion, and elective, instituitionalised homosexualiy) was known to the ancients. The scholars of the church were not fools. They refuted these arguments… because they were caring for congregations, in the world, (and even those, like Aquinas, who would have preferred to be in seclusion were dragged into the world by the rulers of that time).

    We use the analysis of the mainstream media as useful straw men, requiring refutation, in my house.

    Me? I do follow a tradtion of analysis — staying close to scripture and commenting on the lectionary for the day. My model here is a Frenchman who was exiled to Geneva…

    And his models included a bunch of church fathers.

  66. I think I was the one who quoted Catherine Hakim’s data at SP’s site. Most women want part-time work. They want to manage their homes and bring in some money in support of the chief breadwinner.

    People are arguing in relation to extreme positions here. The reason I debated with SP is that I felt he was “selling the pass”. I remember Australia in the 1960s and it was not a Hellhole for women. That is just silly. Values were simply different. I think it was better and freer for children too.

    Like me, SP is a Catholic. Simply comparing abortion rates then and now would give me pause. Sometimes things do get worse. I dislike seeing conservatives simply blessing change.

  67. I agree. I can agree to a large extent with historical inevitability, but to believe in continuous social progress is absurd.

  68. […] discussion all of us editors have been following concerning the critiques of conservatism. An especially interesting comment has caught our eye: “They want what they’ve been conditioned to want. After forty years of […]

  69. Pro Deo indeed.

    Supposedly old Bach inked the letters ‘SDG’ for Soli Deo gloria at the bottom of every sheet of composition.

    Reminds me of Al Worship Be To God Only, motto of The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, my favorite medieval guild & livery company. I want my boy to grow up to be a fishmonger, maybe even a fishmeter

  70. […] keeps being done because the Right has failed to establish an intellectual tradition.  I’ve lamented this irony before, that the schools of progressivism transmit their doctrine in the manner of […]

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