Thursday, June 12, 2008

The breakdown of a society

Sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman, in his 1947 book Family and Civilization, recorded his keen observations as he compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures.

Eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture Zimmerman studied.

*Marriage loses its sacredness...is frequently broken by divorce.
*Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
*Feminist movements abound.
*Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
*Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.
*Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.
*Growing desire for and acceptance of adultery.
*Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.


What are your thoughts on his observations?

6 comments:

jesse curtis said...

I tend to think that the decline of families and of a society in general is the same thing looked at from two different angles. When you look close up you see families declining and when you broaden the lense you see the society as a whole declining. I don't know that one causes the other so much as they both interact with and are influenced by each other.
Of those 8 specific points mentioned, the one that surprised me was feminist movements. A feminist movement is a sign of a society's decline?
And that raises other questions in my mind. It seems extraordinarily difficult to speak definitively about a society's downfall. One person's decline is another's advance. Conservative Christians often lament the state of our society, but what are the proper variables by which we should measure it? 100 years ago we didn't have to deal with widespread homosexuality, pornography, etc, but we violently subjugated racial minorities. So are we better or worse? It depends what you're looking at.
Anyway, that's rather far afield from your post. But that's what it made me think about:)

kimorelock said...

Well, while I don't necessarily disagree with Mr. Zimmerman, I often wonder (because I hear this notion of the disintegration of society a lot on Christian radio) if they can point to a society that isn't broken, or a time when our culture was more "whole"? Because it just seems to me that as a mass of humans trying to piece together a society, we continue to screw things up.

It's interesting that he wrote these things in 1947. Was he referring to American culture or just the cultures he had studied?

kimorelock said...

Jesse, I thought the same things you did (I didn't see your post until after I posted). I can understand how women's rights movements can screw up society (i.e., fighting for abortion rights, which is really the fight for sex without consequences) -- but I don't know that things were better in all respects before the women's rights movement either. The feminist movement has done *some* things right (and I'm a pretty ardent critic of the feminist movement).

KG said...

Jesse,
I think that you have some good thoughts.

In terms of the feminist movement, he may be referring to the radical redefining of traditional roles. This plays out in some weird ways. I don't think that it is referring to equality in the workforce and things of that nature.

The question of "how do we know if a society is breaking down or advancing?" is an excellent question.

What do you think should be our measuring stick?

KG said...

Kindra,
I would agree with you that as long as their are humans involved there will be a breakdown at some point. For me, this goes back to the fact that all of us our sinful. If you have a bunch of flawed people making up society, then there will be some things that will be disfunctional.

KG said...

I guess my general feeling is that if the family is not valued, supported, and strengthened than the society around it will break down. As marraige and the family is not taken seriously in terms of commitment and development, then we should expect to see all kinds of mess in culture.

Just some of my thoughts on the issue.