The main idea of this book is that sexual revolution, by changing sex roles and behavior and destroying the family, pushed people into unnatural state of loneliness, isolation, and loss of identity. Without the natural identity as a member of family defined by sex, age, and status, people became vulnerable and unprotected, causing them to seek protection in grouping by sexual, racial, and ethnic identities, which are poor substitute for family. The final result is society’s falling apart because people compete for resources, recognition, and privileges based on these artificial identities, which combine multitude of people with contradictory interests. Consequently, the identity politics is an authentic primal scream of people deprived of natural habitat within the family.
Introduction: The Myth of the Lone Wolf
This starts with biology: the lone wolf does not exist – in reality wolfs in wild live in families and so are many other animals, humans included. Author than makes point that contemporary American society went by the way of family destruction and it led in turn to individuals’ losing family identity, disparately looking for another, and finding it in some ideology. Author believes that this is the cause of identity politics and dramatic left-right division of the country. Here is how she characterizes situation:” For many Americans and other citizens, political desires and political agendas have become indistinguishable from the desires and agendas of the particular aggrieved faction with which they most “identify”—and the human beings outside those chosen factions are treated more and more not as fellow citizens, but as enemies to be eliminated by shame, intimidation, and, where possible, legal punishment. That is something new.” She also states:” In short, the argument of this book is that today’s clamor over identity—the authentic scream by so many for answers to questions about where they belong in the world—did not spring from nowhere. It is a squalling creature unique to our time, born of familial liquidation.” At the end of chapter author also refer to multiple other problems: economic, political, and ideological that led to divisions, but claims that the core of the problem is anthropological result of sexual revolution and change of environment from natural for individual belonging to human family to unnatural existence as the lone individual.
PART ONE: PRIMAL SCREAMS
1. The Conversation So Far and Its Limitations
Author begins this chapter with reference to classical “Closing of American mind” which back in 1987 identified growing ideological division with unusual for America refusal to argue one’s ideas, but rather attempt to force them on others. Author then goes through somewhat similar books raising alarm about direction of development of intellectual life. She also provides some statistical data about growing psychological distress:” cohorts. “Millennials Are the Therapy Generation,” as one 2019 report put it. Among other findings, this one relayed that “[according to] data from 147 colleges and universities, the number of students seeking mental-health help increased from 2011 to 2016 at five times the rate of new students starting college”; and a 2018 report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association found a 47 percent increase in those seeking mental health assistance between 2013 and 2016.” Author summarizes this as consequence of identity crises, but rejects typical approach to political division as competing political “tribes”, stating that tribes have familiar foundations, while current left-right division is more of individuals clinging together looking for substitute for family in racial, sexual, and/or other identities.
2. A New Theory: The Great Scattering
Here author presents theory of causes for current identity politics and strive to be a victim:” Maybe many people today are claiming to be victims because they and their societies are victims—not so much of the “isms” they point to as oppressors, but because the human animal has been selected for familial forms of socialization that for many people no longer exist.”
Author then retells story of sexual revolution that attacked family on psychological front by removing family formation as prerequisite for satisfaction of sexual drive and welfare state that attacked family on economic side by removing it as necessary condition of economic viability. Author systematically goes through different subsystems of the family as a system and discusses how they were destructed in appropriately called parts of this chapter: “GONE DADDY; GONE CHILD; GONE PARENT; GONE SIBLINGS; GOEN FAMILY; GONE GOD;”
3. Supporting Evidence, I: Understanding the “Mine!” in Identity Politics
In this chapter author states her believe that distraction of family denies people opportunity to be recognized by others according to the place in the family appropriated for age, sex, and type of relations. The consequence:” One thing that seems to happen is some people, deprived of recognition in the traditional ways, will regress to a state in which their demand for recognition becomes ever more insistent and childlike. This brings us to one of the most revealing features of identity politics: its infantilized expression and vernacular.” Author then goes through examples of such infantilism in various areas of American life when individuals seek recognition by creating tantrum for all kinds of weird reasons: politically incorrect speech or speakers, BLM, old statues, and what not. Rather that oppose it as something abnormal, author sees it as logical and necessary behavior for “those who can no longer find their selves through the usual means, it is also a survival strategy for a postrevolutionary world”
4. Supporting Evidence II: Feminism as Survival Strategy
This chapter is about feminism. Author makes point that feminism is reaction to destruction of family when women left alone without protection and support are trying compensate the loss by joining feminist groups and promoting demands for sex-based privileges.
5. Supporting Evidence III: Androgyny as Survival Strategy
This chapter discusses similar issue to feminism, only identity this time relates to mixed or confused sex identities – androgyny. The basic idea is that men should not be men and women should not be women, while everybody should be some sexually fluid part of collective.
6 Supporting Evidence, IV: How #MeToo Reveals the Breakdown of Social Learning
The main point of this chapter is that sexual revolution and follow up societal changes cause severe disruption of cultural transfers between generations. Author discusses the process of such transfer in both animals and then humans, stressing failure to transfer patters of behavior as family member with specific role, religious believes and correspondent behavior, and such. She makes important point that this failure led to decrease in quality of life. She specifically analyses in details #MeToo movement, which resulted in riskier behavior of women and correspondingly higher levels of victimization.
Conclusion: Thoughts on the Rediscovery of Self
Author begins the conclusion by reference to research on elephants and their societies, which were subjected to huge changes. Due to human hunting, lots of older bulls were eliminated, structure of society become changed, and, as result, young bull’s behavior in relation to females also changed, causing more violence and degradation. Similarly, elimination of older females led to difficulty for younger females who are not sufficiently trained in mothership causing problem in raising the next generation. She then looks at humans and finds the same destructive patters that eventually led to elimination of family as foundation of society and its substitute with naked power of elite. She makes an interesting point about who is going to be this elite:” It may someday turn out the “elites” and “nonelites” of the future, for example, are not defined as socioeconomically as they are today. Perhaps the real divide of postrevolutionary humanity lies between those who have figured out how to navigate the Great Scattering successfully and those who have not. Such might seem to be the nascent meaning, for example, of a phenomenon that sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Wendy Wang have documented in detail: the “class divide” over marriage, meaning that people in better-off classes are more likely to be married than are others.” Author also rejects conservative ideas that it is all just aberration and it could be fixed by some authoritarian measures. She states that:” conservatives and other nonprogressives have missed something major about identity politics: its authenticity. But the liberal-progressive side has missed something bigger. Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream. It’s the result of the Great Scattering—our species’ unprecedented collective retreat from our very selves.”
PART TWO: COMMENTARY
Rod Dreher; Mark Lilla; Peter Thiel; Afterword;
Here author provides comments on her ideas by some luminaries and her reply to their notes.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This is a very interesting approach that I am not completely agree with. I think that the sexual liberation, disconnect between sex and reproduction, both physical and cultural, was necessary consequence of human development when illnesses and early death of children become eliminated, causing unsustainable growth in population. The traditional family oriented to multiplication and subordination of the lives of current generation to supporting needs of the next generation became ineffective. Even militarily, when bigger family and correspondingly bigger population cease to provide society with more power and ability to conquer neighbors, the traditional family’s objectives of quantitative growth became outdated. The power now comes from a few individuals with high level of technological knowledge and skills who can easily win any battle regardless of number of warriors on each side. The shift from quantity to quality as defining factor of prosperity for both individual and any group forced dissolution of old family and old process of cultural transfer that was evolutionally developed for effective maintenance of norms, which also means technological stagnation. However, I fully agree with author that family is natural human habitat and human individual cannot be happy without stable and supportive emotional and psychological conditions that only family could provide. I just think that we are in process of change in the nature of family from reproductive unit, optimized for population increase, to quality of life supporting unit, optimized to support individual pursuit of happiness. Therefore, even if this is complex and painful process, it will eventually bring humanity to much better and happier place than were it was before.