Monday, July 16, 2012

The paradox of cultural Marxism

One of the commenters here often connects changes in modern Western societies, and in the churches of those societies (but maybe, especially, Anglican/Episcopalian churches) with 'cultural Marxism.' In this phenomenon, Marxist theory identifies the importance of changing cultures as part of fermenting revolution which overturns capitalism. One such theorist, Gramsci, introduced the concept of 'cultural hegemony' to describe the means by which the state maintains control in a capitalist society. The flip side of cultural hegemony is that it can be undermined by an attack on culture, particularly, in Gramscian thought, by undermining the institutions which support culture. By tackling these institutions one by one, bit by bit, revolution is introduced. Although the phrase was apparently coined by another thinker, Dutcshke, Gramsci's proposal for Marxist action against capitalism via culture can be described as "the long march through the institutions." Get the Maoist allusion?

One of those institutions is marriage. It has been under particular attack since the 1960s. Aided and abetted, of course, by ordinary human failure and frailty, the breakdown of marriage as a bedrock institution of society, ironically, has been hastened by various economic moves made by both socialist and capitalist governments in the West.

But when we read this article by Jason deParle (published in one of the 'useful idiots' of cultural Marxism), our eyes are opened to the paradox of cultural Marxism in Western democracies (i.e. countries which have never quite abolished capitalism): those who marry and stay marry are generally materially better off. Except this article makes a further point about the amalgam of education, marriage and money: the gap between the 'marrieds' and the 'not/no longer marrieds' is getting bigger, not smaller, in America. Anecdotally, I would say the same is happening in NZ. (Nice Marxist touch, by the way, to use the word 'classes' in the title of the article!)

A further irony abounds here. Within Anglican and other churches, notions of 'traditional marriage' are under attack (for a variety of reasons, including the reason of seeking a new theology of marriage). One criticism of 'traditional marriage' is that it is associated with the exchange of livestock. That misses the point. Marriage has always been about property, including the just manner in which property may be exchanged through the generations. All the 20th and 21st century romanticism in the world about marriage does not change brute facts about inheritance (when the marriage stays together, together the couple receive whatever is passed on from one generation to another) and property (when the marriage falls apart, property is divided between parties). Jason deParle's article is a timely reminder that the relationship between marriage and property is a blessing: children benefit from the accumulation of the material benefits of traditional marriage.

Although I am not a Marxist, one thing I appreciate about Marxism is that it presses us to "follow the money" in understanding society. Marriage's benefits are not just about romance and eros. They are about property and money. The ultimate benefits of traditional marriage, to society in general, and to children in particular, are worth fostering. The Gramscian march through the institutions should be resisted. It will be interesting to see over the next two years what shape the debate in our church about marriage takes. I for one will be combining a Marxist alert to the material aspects of marriage with a Popperian resistance to Gramsci!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Peter, thanks for this piece, which I hope Perry of Canterbury will read, as he doesn't seem to have heard of the topic (which he would know about if he read Melanie Phillips!).
The observation that marriage is a route out of poverty was made long before the house journal of intellectually superior liberalism, the New York Times, had its eyes opened to it, very much against its metropolitan snobbery. Actually it was Michael Novak, former LBJ era 'Great Society' advocate and author of 'The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism' who pointed out three consistent features in the road out of poverty:
1. finishing high school (thus having minimally useful skils for employment)
2. getting married & staying married (thus creating the emotional and economic stability essential for rearing children)
3. sticking at a job (even a low-paid entry level type job), which leads eventually to promotion
Not exactly rocket science, but beyond the wit of the chatterati.
But if you apply these facts to the situation of blacks in the US and UK (and to Maori in NZ) you will see the following features:
1. the majority of children are born out of wedlock (c. 70% of blacks)
2. high rates of school dropout
3. lack of employment for the unskilled, allied to high drug use and glorification of criminality ('gangsta') and celebrity culture

As for 'the long march through the institutions' in the UK this means chiefly the BBC, state schools, the principal conduits of popular culture, and other government employees. The left-liberal biases of these three are well known, and something comparable can be said about the MSM and schools in the US. The biases of the BBC are obvious to anyone who thinks about seriously - which usually excludes most official spokespersons of the C of E.
Martin the Antitroll

Father Ron Smith said...

"Jason deParle's article is a timely reminder that the relationship between marriage and property is a blessing: children benefit from the accumulation of the material benefits of traditional marriage." - P.C. -

I would submit, Peter, from actual pastoral experience, that the hope of descendants for an inheritance from their married parents is not always 'a blessing'. In fact, it can be a curse. Expectation of getting rich on the perspicacity of one's parents' ability to accrue wealth and property can be a real blight on competing family members'
relationships.

A 'Good Marriage' does not necessarily equate with material blessing for the offspring.

"Store not up for your selves treasures on earth, where moth and rust do corrupt. Rather, store up for your selves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal." - Jesus -

Material gain for offspring is not one of the highest benefits of giving and being given in marriage. and, in any case, the failure of heterosexual marriage is not confined to the un-churched of society.

Bryden Black said...

I'd just ask both Peter and Ron to try to digest this brilliant and very helpful text: Jana Marguerite Bennett’s Water Is Thicker than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness (OUP, 2008). We could and would all save ourselves a bit of unnecessary angst ...!

Tolle; lege!!

Shawn said...

Peter,

Good post, very interesting. A small point of clarification. I don't think the Anglican Communion in the West is anymore corrupted by cultural Marxism than any other mainline Protestant denomination. In fact others may be worse, such as the Methodist church in NZ. Just read any edition of the NZ Methodist paper Touchstone, which promotes a disturbing mix of "Atheist/Secular Christianity, Socialism, cultural Marxism and New Age Gaia worship!

Anonymous said...

A few more points for understanding CM.
1. CM is different from Economic Marxism. EM means old-style State Socialism: the State owning and *making things (ZILs, tractors, AK-47s etc). Cultural Marxists don't make anything - they may reluctantly agree the State isn't much good at that.
2. Instead, they are interested in controlling speech and ideas. This is the origin of Political Correctness: proscribing certain ideas and language, fixing the terms of the debate. CMs are wordsmiths rather than blacksmiths: they proliferate in the world of broadcasting and media and often mistake their opinions for news. They may not know much about the sociology of knowledge (their own echo chamber).
3. CMs don't seriously debate their (conservative and Christian) opponents: they just label them as bigots, haters etc unworthy of being heard and they use legislation to silence them. This is the origin of victimology, 'Hate Speech' BS etc. CMs are themselves full of hatred, as anyone reading The Guardian' 'Comment is free' site knows.
4. Cultural Marxism has grown as the state (local and national) has expanded enormously in the west. If 50% of the population get their livelihood through state spending (in some parts of the UK - Scotland, NE England - it's over 70%), they have a vested interest in keeping things that way.
Martin the Antitroll

Shawn said...

Martin

Excellent points, especially the last.

Some conservatives ask me why I am a libertarian, especially when I hold socially conservative views.

The answer is on your last post.

THE STATE IS THE PROBLEM!!!

Radically reduce the size and power of the state, restrict it solely to mational defense, and the power and influence of cultural Marxists is broken.

Seriously, read Sean Gabb's 'The Enemy Class and How To Defeat It'.

Father Ron Smith said...

I am a wee bit concerned that some of our contributors on this blog seem to put more faith in the writings of present-day popular authors than they ever do in the New Testament - that they claim is paramount in their understanding of God's world.

Perhaps a little more Lectio Divina and a lot less 'seeking after new wisdom' might be more profitable, both to us and to them - especially so in the wake of 'Bible Sunday'.

(Or do they think that the likes of
Sean Gabb might be more profitable than 'Bible in schools'?)

Shawn said...

Ron,

I put the Bible first in all things, unlike liberals who ignore the New Testaments clear teaching on marriage and promote authors who do the same.

Claiming that writers on the Radical Right are "popular authors" is silly and inaccurate, Brave people like Sean Gabb are voices in the wilderness, standing well outside the poltical mainstream.

And while I put the Bible first this does not mean I cannot listen to those whose speciality is politics and economics.