Tuesday, January 03, 2006

National Greatness and the Ecology of Families 2 - The Ecology of Families

The nation’s families don’t all follow one model, but follow different patterns in different subcultures. The subcultures are made, in large part, by their family pattern.

Groups of families which live in similar ways form what Max Weber called status groups. He was distinguishing status groups from economic classes in the strict sense -- layers in society which have nothing in common except their income. The distinction between status group and class is an important one in sociology. In normal American talk, though, when we say “class” we mean both a way of living and an income level, and probably put more emphasis on the status or way of life element. So “social class” will do for me.

A social ecology has a number of social classes, which are themselves composed of a huge variety of families and individuals. Some look at an ecology and are impressed with the diversity, with the multiple cultures found there. They are likely to use a static image, such as “mosaic” or “tapestry” to describe the whole society. Others look at an ecology and are impressed with the relentless competition of the classes, as well as of the families and even of the individuals, with one another. They are more likely to use a dynamic image, such “market” or “war” to describe the whole society. A social ecology is both of those things. It does contain a rich variety. It is in constant competition.

Social competition favors classes with strong families.

Families are the best institution for making the next generation, for raising them to be productive individuals, and forming children who will form effective families of their own. Families that break up, or people who have children without ever really forming families, tend to get poorer. They waste and lose and break the assets that had been accumulated by previous generations, and don’t create a structure capable of keeping anything whole for long.

A generation with lots of divorces and unwed mothers tends to fall out of the rising classes and into the falling ones. Families which stay together and build up find they have less and less in common with their relatives and old friends who are going the other way.

When entire classes or subcultures can successfully make strong families over time, they tend to rise. They rise not just in wealth and status, but also in power. They tend to produce the predominant groups in society, and may even form a ruling class.

Whatever virtues, wealth, status, or power, an individual might have, it can’t simply be kept, because no one lives forever. And virtues, or even assets, can’t simply be given away, because virtues need to be developed slowly, and assets without commensurate character to preserve them quickly get dissipated. Over time, the strongest and best need to make and leave strong families, or they are without posterity.

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