“The early 20th century was the summit of civilization and human accomplishment.”
I think there is a good argument to be made for that statement. However, that is not quite what this post is about.
It’s about the worldview I’ve adopted as I’ve come to appreciate and learn more about that era of human history, a mere century or so ago. I discussed the idea that this blog was a way to work out an alternative to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and now I think I’ve got a grasp on what that alternative is.
This post is just an introduction to the phrase as concept. Civic natalism was what a surprising number of Americans had a century ago, but it was an effect. We can look at what they had access to that we don’t have now and the goal is to find out how we can have those things in a modern society. Theirs was atomized and global, too, they were the vanguard of globalism. Natalism also is about more than just maxing your pregnancy numbers, it’s about making it possible for motherhood to be something fully human, so women don’t want to reject the natural outcome of marital intimacy.
They had the following:
- Large casual labor pool, particularly of women. This means that there were maids and nannies and cooks, but it means so much more than that. It means that you could pay people to do a lot of normal things and lend occasional assistance.
- No commuting. The commuting was, mostly, the long-distance travel type, which human societies have developed a lot of tools to deal with. It typically wasn’t the hurry up and wait tension that daily commuting tends to put onto people. It is very possible to reduce commuting, but a deeper analysis of commuting patterns with an eye towards family improvement and cohesion is needed.
- Rational autonomy for children. This means society is structured so that children take as much responsibility for themselves as possible, appropriate to their age.
- Advocacy for feminine leisure.
Starts are always rocky, so I’ll just conclude with this. I’ve finally secured enough readable copies of Gene Stratton-Porter’s non-fiction nature books and essays that I will resume a publishing order review of her work in the coming weeks. She was a fascinating example of civic natalism, even though she herself had only one child. Her entire career as a housewife who wrote bestsellers and spent hours in nature studies that are a direct line to the Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan strain of environmentalism and farming is an Ur-example of what civic natalism can provide when “just” a side effect of wider social norms. She was also an influential advocate for other women to have better homemaking conditions and society-wide support.
And yes, there will be some commentary about the politics of civic natalism. They intersect with how the right wing in America used to have a pretty good deal for bright women to be housewives and how they threw it away. But those same politics also intersect with radical feminist policy ideas about how to support motherhood. To summarize those future posts, let’s just say Phyllis Schlafly was a radical feminist when it came to motherhood.
Blew my mind, too.