Phi Beta Cons

Academic Theories Affect the Real World

Stanley Kurtz’s article at the Weekly Standard, “Polygamy versus Democracy,” concerning the movement aimed at legalizing polygamy and other forms of sexual connection, is stunning in more ways than one. It is most instructive to see how 19th-century America fought Mormon polygamy and took a firm and principled stand for monogamous marriage as an essential aspect of constitutional democracy, as the proper form for male-female bonding and for the rearing of children in a society built on the sanctity of the individual. 19th-century Americans realized that American ideals, though universal, require specific underlying social and cultural forms in order to be preserved.

The authors of “The Future of Family Law: Law and the Marriage Crisis in North America,” published by the Institute for American Values in 2005, and available at their website, also tell of trouble in family matters. Family law is changing focus altogether, they write. Marriage is no longer being seen as the pre-eminent social institution for bonding between the sexes and rearing children, but as only one of many types of “close personal relationships” that adults can form.

The authors marvel at how quickly these developments took place: “A particular school of thought openly aimed at re-conceptualizing marriage first took root in the academy in the 1980s. By the late 1990s it had come to dominate fashionable academic theorizing on sexual intimacy” and is now transforming “family law from its historic role as the protector of marriage into something very close to its antagonist.”

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