Phi Beta Cons

The End of the Culture Wars?

I heard a talk on C-Span a couple of weekends ago by Irene Taviss Thomson, emeritus professor of sociology at Fairleigh Dickinson, whose new book is Culture Wars and Enduring American Dilemmas. The idea behind the book is something we’ve heard from people on the Left and the Right many times, that the culture wars are over, if they ever really existed; that there are more important things to deal with, such as national security; and that there are no major differences among the American people on a lot of cultural issues anyway, or at least on the values underlying them. Thomson argues that what differences there are will never be resolved, but will remain ongoing “dilemmas.”

During the Q&A, she was asked about growing income inequality, and she said that the attention given to the culture wars takes attention away from that issue, which is something we should be addressing. With this the picture became clear. People who declare the end of the culture wars have their own agendas, in this case, income redistribution, and are shortsighted as well. Perhaps the major factor behind poverty, unemployment, underemployment, crime, imprisonment, and so on, is the fatherless household. The liberal view for many years was to diminish the importance of the intact two-parent family and to promote single motherhood as equal if not superior, with the effect of greatly enlarging the underclass and multi-generational poverty and dysfunction. Is it rocket science to see this connection and others like it, between cultural choices, economic well-being, and expanding the middle class?

Perhaps Thomson would prefer simple redistribution, reducing the incomes of well-off people and directing the funds toward poorer people, and so she resents the conservative emphasis on individual responsibility, but if she really cared about the poor, she would be encouraging committed fatherhood as a supreme good and stop wasting time pretending that the culture wars and the issues that are at stake in them don’t matter.


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