This is something that is not immediately obvious to many conservative commentators, including far right ones, because the acceptable fringe subcultures who are anti-college but still married with kids are very loud and are in fact massively overrepresented in conservative media. There’s also demographic lag, since the true culmination of college as guaranteed path to motherhood in the married class didn’t really hit until the internet era and there’s a lot of women who had babies in the 80s and 90s whose experiences 20+ years ago as non-college married mothers are also overrepresented.
Conservatives are in a real bind by relying on college as the baby factory, though. The number of first births is declining year after year and is not in fact being offset by increases in third and higher births by women who are already mothers. The conversion of middle class parenting and childrearing into a college-microcosm, where all interactions are mediated by a credentialed array of third parties (you don’t teach your kid domestic skills informally, they go to cooking and sweeping and mopping classes) and there is, simply, no organic social interaction (you have to join groups that meet at specific times for specific kinds of “play-based movement”) has been fertility inhibiting and it’s getting more and more so each year.
Even meal preparation has taken on college norms, consisting of carefully measured meal kits to be prepared according to precise and “scientific” instructions, or literal cafeteria-style eating in a upscale grocery store’s deli section. Same chairs and tables and general set up as a college campus, only the food’s a little more expensive.
Obviously a lot of college moms love this brave new world where they never have to give up the mentality and practices of their college years once they graduate. But it’s driving women who don’t want to live such a tightly structured life just to be moms away from motherhood entirely.
Liberals are in a bind, too, but progressive views don’t include a substantial pro-family ideological component, so the fertility shredding effects of motherhood turning more and more into the world’s longest advanced college degree don’t affect their group norms the same way. Conservatives, though, do have that pro-family ideological aspect and if they don’t figure out how to baby factory some other way, then in the long run there will be a small, extremely rigid hard core having the same 2-4 kids, and this raises wider social questions about how we can ever hope to have normal sex roles when those people are completely pushed out of the reproductive race.
In the first chapter, Shires begins to lay out the groundwork for his exploration of how the counterculture spun off Christianized hippies. He does this by pointing to the rise of modernism, with its whispers of neophilia and materialism that carried a clinical yet intense passion for material gain and economic security. He doesn’t get quite as blunt as what the Third Child study researchers found, that the Boomers’ parents were people who thought hiding your Christian faith was fine if it meant getting a raise. But he does point out that the Boomers’ parents were very invested in Getting Paid and that they accepted the idea that church is just for Sundays easily.
When I started hanging around in evangelical circles, there was a free-floating idea that “Church is just for Sundays” was a recent thing and that in the 1950s, say, it wasn’t like that. This is completely wrong. “Church is just for Sundays” is roughly a century old at this point in terms of American religious practice. By the 1950s it was even codified that there was no particular immorality or degenerancy attached to not attending.
One very interesting thing Shires does in the first chapter is explain that the liberal-material Christian view was an accommodation with the advances of technology and scientific thinking. He briefly mentions something I’ve encountered in some of the early 20th century American writers I’ve read, the pushback against early-stage Affluenza which predated the counterculture by a couple of generations. It is beyond the scope of his book, but the post-frontier Nature-love types like Gene Stratton-Porter were forerunners to the counterculture Christian-hippies.
Part of the fallout of the high highs and low lows of technology-driven rapid prosperity was liberal Christianity and wider social mores adopting conformism as a tool against unchecked greed and lust for profits and as a way to preserve economic prosperity and social stability. They were anti-technocrats, but ones who integrated a technocratic perspective into their faith, secularizing the story of the loaves and fishes as merely a model of sharing. That watered-down, materialist approach was already a dominant force in American Christianity prior to the counterculture.
The modernist, liberal Christians whose perspective dominated much of the middle classes that Christian-hippies came from were essentially Pelagian individualist materialists. There was nothing supernatural about God and faith, it was just about love, and further, love that could be expressed by just living a good life and not being too greedy. There was no Again to be Born.
The “Chrippies” rejected this idea of worship being a Sunday thing and optional at that as too private and self-contained a way to be Christian. They wanted a more muscular, open, light blazing kind of faith. Which leads to Chapter Two, a discussion of the counterculture.
This is a book about how the counterculture spun off the Religious Right. It’s by a guy who thinks that was totally awesome and wrote this book laying out the timeline. This book was written over a decade ago, in 2007, so it will not be covering the Obama era or the impacts of social media on his thesis. I may attempt that when I am done reading it, though.
Anyway, as I finish a chapter, the link will be added to this post.
I read the preface, which is just a quick summary of my first two sentences using the example of Billy Graham’s son.
Hopefully this will get me back on the reading books silently saddle.
The frontier, the leading edge of private retreat, was not possible without a massive international and global infrastructure and use of cutting-edge technology and instant communication.
A common modern variation, telecommuting while “farming” ten acres in a rural community, is also obviously impossible without technological scale. Scale refers to the idea that human societies grow in complexity and, er, scale with advancements in technology and the resulting productivity gains creating a reinforcing cycle of more and more scaling and consolidation and globalization.
As to more typical forms of conservative private retreat, they are also scale-dependent. Homeschooling was originated by people using cutting-edge communication technology and benefiting from the postwar explosion in mechanical advancement producing farm equipment that could be used to work otherwise marginal parcels of land in either size or quality. Even though ultimately most didn’t do much agrarian stuff and still don’t, the online and DIY ethos was carried forward and is still a substantial part of homeschooling as lifestyle.
There’s also the dependence of conservatives on industries that can’t exist without an overscaled society. Like IT, or government administration. Many small-government conservatives are employed in government jobs at government departments that didn’t even exist thirty years or even twenty and see no contradiction between their dependence on a larger and larger government and their belief that government should be smaller. IT in its tech-company form is obviously full of deviance and general anti-family social aspects, yet it is if anything promoted the absolute most by conservatives as a family-supporting career path.
Conservatives tend to rely for frugality tips on mass production of cheap goods and also see nothing wrong with this dependence on cheap global labor in textiles and food. A common example where Costcos are located is telling mothers to take the kids to Costco to fill up on samples before dinner as a “frugality hack”.
There is much truth to the idea that progressives want everyone to progress towards a state of total and perfectly individual consumption, but the flipside of that is that conservatives want the same thing, except one level up, at the level of the nuclear family rather than the single individual.
But the problem with relying on more and more scaling up is that extreme complexity collapses, and brutally so. There is no graceful failure mode in a world of just in time grocery shelf stocking. Yet without an outlet for private retreat, there isn’t anything like the American conservative at all.
That people doing it don’t feel that way doesn’t matter, the practical effects are nearly the same as if they did (and plenty do feel there’s a political aspect.)
The problem with this being the way right wing people respond to mass social changes that are detrimental is that it’s expensive on a collective level and a personal level. The costs are so high that right wing people engaging in this type of activism are almost entirely cut off from any other kind of activism.
In contrast, the left wing just sprinkles political dust on their lifestyle and keeps on moving. The left doesn’t promote marriage as the optimal vehicle for private retreat. It doesn’t promote private retreat at all. The right overwhelmingly does. It’s not that the right does no explicit activism, it’s that the default setting is to hide away privately and replicate lost social goods within the nuclear family regardless of whether it’s desirable, feasible or possible within the limitations of a nuclear family.
This breaks women. Women are yelled at for not being able to replicate the social goods of an entire city, town or village, and also yelled at for desiring those goods and also yelled at for not taking on additional community-wide functions as more and more of society breaks down into atomization and isolated individuality.
It also breaks men, but in a more subtle way in which they are told there’s no serious obstacles to their masculine expression or nature except their own will, which is an immensely damaging falsehood. This is as true of the mainstream right wing media as it is of numerous far right blogs.
I’d expand on this more, like perhaps delving into the trades myth that many in the right cling to but make sure to never put their kids into, or how the conservative stack for women doesn’t (that is, the pieces don’t work with each other and reinforce each other; homeschooling comes at the expense of a clean house, as a very typical example). But our private retreat means I don’t have another woman or young girl around to keep my youngest from melting down about getting a small spot of soup on one sleeve. So I have to go deal with that.
This provided a glue that held the otherwise insane circumstances of frontier life together, but it was a brittle, fragile glue.
McGuffey readers, civic nationalism and the proposition nation are just a few of the synthetic components of this glue. The original McGuffey readers were meant to educate young children in Scottish Presbyterian Christian faith, but this was rapidly subverted to promote a more generic and secular “civic nationalism” that remains the backbone of the eternal minority party, the Republicans. Those readers, with their essentially national, limited but accessibly standardized curriculum also presaged the beginnings of credentialism and what progressives eventually snagged and remolded into “meritocracy”.
There’s also the fact that no matter how primitive the living conditions, frontier people were always reliant on what was sometimes very cutting edge and what was also pretty expensive technology to live out there at all. The money-sink rail system, the agricultural machines, even the coal burnt out on the prairie.
Traditions formed, such as they were, were consumerist with a gloss of patriotism.
These two posts are actually interesting because they’re close, but their own ideological blinders make them miss that the cognitive sort has led to *most kids being the children of smart people*. As well as *the elites totally care about marriage, because now simply being married is a marker of economic separation*.
Class in America has changed and has different division lines. Married people are the new upper middle class. That wasn’t true before the 1960s, but it has become true since wages stagnated in the 1970s.
A substantial minority of people dealt with the wage stagnation by partnership marriages where mom got more and more higher education and could be a much bigger backup/co-earner than in the past. This allowed that group to capture, over time, some of the productivity gains in real income and married people began to break away as a distinct class by the 1980s. Once you adjust for what was available to buy in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s clear that the upper middle class rapidly became the married class within less than a generation.
Technological advances also allowed a cognitively unusual slice of the population to have significantly more economic success and consequently marital and reproductive success.
This is just something the right has to deal with. Marriage is not by default the province of hardworking poorish people. This is a common right-wing trope/meme/narrative, but it hasn’t been true for a long time, including when many of the people spreading it were newly married. And it leads conservatives and generically right wing married people into weird and not-useful places by denying that there’s been a big shift upwards for the “average” married couple, particularly those with children under 18.
As I already posted, there are 21-22 million married couples out of 57 million who have six-figure household incomes. This is not an “elite”. At the 75k level that is effectively six-figure in many parts of the country, that’s another 9 million households. 30/57 is more than half of married households making 6500 dollars a month or more.
There’s only 125 million households in America.
Also, while the numbers are sadly still high, unwed childbearing is decreasing steadily. Married childbearing is on the increase at the higher birth orders, astonishingly.
All the “stuff” that goes into raising kids today is not frivolous once you look at the actual conditions we’ve all let happen for various reasons. And wrapping oneself up in an illusion that nothing’s really changed in terms of what’s needed to be a functional married family is part of why the list of stuff is so long.