What is a family, and what distinguishes it from other kinds of associations? Is the traditional role of the family merely grounded in custom and habit, or is there a deeper philosophical justifi
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A couple of weeks ago, I started an open blog entry on pornography, so I thought I'd do the same for the Post-Modern Family. Our guest today will be sociologist, Michael Rosenfeld, author of a The Age of Independence: Interracial Unions, Same-Sex Unions and the Changing American Family. I've only read a bit of it, but what I have read is fascinating. He argues that increase in same sex and interracial unions in America is due largely to the occurrence of a relatively new "life-stage" -- the age of independence, he calls it -- during which young adults are single, co-mingled with one another in colleges, universities, and the work-force, and, most importantly, mostly free of their parents. That's because more and more people go off to college in young adulthood, and go into the workforce at an age when earlier generations of their age cohort were living with or near their parents. That gave earlier generations of parents more influence over their offsprings mate choices. But that's been lost with the gradual rise of the age of independence as a distinctive life stage.
As a sociological, demographic thesis this strikes me as extremely plausible and I doubt either John or I will challenge Michael on that score. But my question is what does this mean about the role of the family in society. One used to think of a family as one of the primary means of transmitting values from generation to generation. One might have thought, in fact, that that is one of the primary things that family is for. Of course, it has other functions -- providing for its members daily material and psychological needs prime among them. It also inculcates a system of binding ties between the old and the young such that the old care for the young in their age of dependency in such a way that the young feel permanently bound to the old and out of love and affection, more than mere "duty" return the favor when the old are very old. Families also traditionally provided central ingredients of our self-narratives -- the narratives in the telling of which we constitute ourselves thick identities, as particular people, with particular life stories.
But can a family structure which so radically weakens the normative ties between generations really do that identity constituting, value transmitting, generation binding work?
That's one of the questions I'd like to discuss with MIchael on the air.
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