When I was in grade school, our social studes texts taught us that Dwight Eisenhower invented the nuclear family to encourage suburban sprawl, so that when the bomb got dropped on our cities, our population wouldn’t be destroyed as a result of critical concentration.
Of course, family units had been growing smaller for a long time – a long, long time. Take a look at this brief paper by the American Economic Association. (Luckily, the important bit is before the Keynesian economic drivel really starts dripping onto the page). It discusses the history in Europe of the sharpest double-edged sword in human history: the corporation.
Most of us now think of corporations in general economic terms – for-profit, non-profit, limited liability, et cetera; or, in history, guilds, expeditionary charters, trading companies, and the like. But the history of the corporation is the story of people coming together in the face of widespread social disorder with the hope of establishing an insulating bubble of order around themselves. Communes, regional defense cordons, extragovernmental guilds and farm shares: these were the first corporations, the foundations for restabilization of national governments, replaced by chartered corporations owned by and managed by those governments.
The problem, of course, is that the entrants into a corporation are rarely on equal footing from the start, and corporations have a very dry, dispassionate, anti-holistic view of their membership.
Now let’s take the original purpose of a corporation – a group of people securing themselves in the midst of a hostile environment – and see what we can do about that squidgy problem with dry and dispassionate governance.
In order to be recognized by the world as a whole, an incorporation takes place in the legal context of society at large. This means that connections between corporate members which are under the aegis of the corporation as a whole have a contractual basis. In modern Western society, that means that relationships between corporate members are defined by the rights and obligations between them.
Eve’s Daughter writes an excellent analysis, the first of its kind I’ve ever seen, on goal-oriented (contractual) relationships, from corporate contracts to the nuclear family. Her post is essential reading. She explores how the rights-and-obligations view of relationships does not reflect the reality of interpersonal (and inter/intracorporate) relations.
ED chooses pregnant women as her example:
A pregnant female does not need goal-specific relationships; she needs indefinite, long-term relationships which are based up on a mutually recognized bond. […] But this form of bond has no real place in our current legal structure.
ED’s solution is “a method for recognizing bonds which are not based upon set obligations or specific, achievable goals”; in other words, our legal system must be restructured to accommodate voluntary, non-goal-oriented relationships.
Doesn’t that sound like the most radical feminist thing ever? People declaring a bond to each other, without being coerced by an externally imposed obligation, without expectation of gain or reward, without putting a set of conditions or an artificial time limit on the bond?
We are tribal people. We have evolved to live in close groups, moving across the land as a unit. We must rely on each other for survival. Some of us hunt, some of us gather, some of us take up other essential skills, and some of us must simply be cared for by others; the categories frequently overlap. We are tied by obligation.
At our best, though, our tribal groups become families, clans, societies giving rise to spiritual pursuits: art, song, play, dance, story. When we laugh or mourn or marry, it is not out of obligation, but instead the declaration of voluntary reliance.
In the paleolithic era, voluntary relationships grew out of a substructure of obligate relationships. In the developed world of the modern era, we are still interrelated, but we of the rich nations have displaced the responsibilities of those interrelationships onto poor nations. Every time we complain about the price of fifteen dollar tee-shirts, we’re demonstrating that displacement.
So what would it say if we voluntarily took on each others’ burdens, if we formed tribes and broad families and inobligate relationships, when we have already shifted the consequences of our interrelatedness out of our sight? It would be a conscious and declarative act, not a natural outgrowth of our evolution, to recreate the matricentralized tribe – the very thing Valerie Solanas wrote in the quote of my last post: “There’s no reason why a society consisting of rational beings capable of empathizing with each other, complete and having no natural reason to compete, should have a government, laws or leaders.” Voluntary obligations would replace externally enforced obligations, which is the opposite of how we live today.
This goes back to the examination of the early European concept of incorporation: banding together as a declaration against the chaos surrounding us. And with women at the fore, it can be done right, with room for improvements and adjustment, seeking to be inclusive and egalitarian, vigilant against consumption from within by power-seeking (male) behavior.