Articles From the October 1995 Unification News
The Sixth International Congress of Professors World Peace Academy The Future of the Family
by Gordon L. Anderson, Ph.D.-Saint Paul, MN
Two hundred participants from 100 nations attended The Sixth International Congress of Professors World Peace Academy in Seoul, Korea, August 21-25, 1995. The theme of the congress was "The Future of the Family."
The family, which is the fundamental building block of society, has exhibited a variety of forms throughout the world. Despite this wide variety which socialize human beings into the world's many cultures and ethnic groups, several global factors have begun to impact families everywhere. These factors include industrialization, urbanization, rapid transportation, and global communication.
Throughout much of human history the family has not only been the fundamental unit of socialization, but it has been the basic economic unit also. On family farms, in cottage industries, business, or among hunter-gathers, all generations lived together and supported one another. Families were often extended families or joint families. Children were socialized not only into the moral norms of their parents, but their economic activities as well. Grandmothers helped take care of the children. "Social security" was provided by the family as a unit.
While there have been many cities and empires in history, the backbone of the human economic life has been family farms and enterprises. That has changed with modern industrialization and postindustrial life. Individuals move from traditional homelands to work in industries for a salary. They no longer depend on their families for economic support and they are often separated from traditional kinship systems and find themselves trying to raise their children in a culturally diverse and sometimes hostile urban environment. The advent of global communications facilitates the "invasion" of foreign thoughts and cultural patterns into the home, where impressionable children are exposed to a mirage of sound bites, a barrage of advertising, adult themes, social problems, and violence.
Throughout the world, from the Eskimo in Alaska to the Maasai tribes in Kenya and the Hindu family in India, these global phenomena are making their impact. The global pluralism present in modern life has led numerous traditional national or ethnic groups to take extraordinary measures to protect a "pure culture." The genocide in Cambodia, the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge, was an example of a reaction to modern urban life by a people who wanted to retain an agrarian economy. The wars being fought in Bosnia- Hercegovina, Somalia, Laos, and elsewhere are signs that human beings everywhere are still attempting to impose their particular ethnic culture upon defined geographical boundaries. These attempts, notably in the former USSR and Yugoslavia, reflect a desire for identity and cultural security in a very uncertain and changing world. Even Nazism, Stalinism, and Maoism can be seen as attempts to create a climate of cultural uniformity, albeit a "modern" culture secured by force against pluralism of the human world.
However, the attempts to return to traditional families or the simple agrarian life of the past are doomed from the start. One reason is that the world is too populated today for each family to have sufficient arable land to feed itself by traditional methods. Modern industrial farming enables only two percent of the population to raise food for everyone. Secondly, people throughout the world desire the conveniences of modern life. They are not willing to give up televisions, cars, refrigerators, and washing machines to return to a life of constant manual labor. Thirdly, global radio and satellite television continually provide awareness of the possibilities of modern technology and the styles of life led by other people throughout the world. Not even Albania, one of the world's most isolated countries, could hold such forces at bay. Fourthly, war and famine and economic conditions have led to great migrations and growing pluralism in all parts of the world. Finally, many of the benefits of modern life require free trade and the liberalizing of movement across state boundaries.
Families throughout the world are being forced to adapt to modern life and globalization. Religious traditions seem relativized, social security for the elderly is uncertain, children of modernity become an economic liability, rather than an asset, divorce rates have increased, many children of the "urban jungles" join gangs and engage in crime. The family and society is forced to change to function in the conditions of modern life. Family life is being affected profoundly and globally.
The PWPA conference was composed of a number of experts on specific areas; the history of the family, the family in a cross-cultural perspective; solving problems of dysfunctional families; addressing social conditions that create family breakdown; and the future of the family.
The keynote session included a paper by Jean Elshtain of the University of Chicago who argued that the most tragic aspect is that it is the children, and thus the future, that suffers the most when families break down. The family crisis in America has been exacerbated by destructive beliefs that have persisted since the 1960's and some of those beliefs have been fostered by academics. She explained how the "functional view" of the family, which basically says that the family performs basic socialization tasks that could otherwise be performed by government, schools, day care providers, and significant others, supported those who argued for alternative family forms. However, the data is in, and there is no doubt that children are best served by traditional two parent families.
Another keynote presentation was made by Eugene Rolfe, who worked for the Secretariat of the UN Year of the Family (1994). He spoke about the prominence of the family in global concerns and the development of our global discourse on family life and action that supports families. The third keynote presentation was given by Jerry Pournelle, a science fiction writer and computer columnist with a great interest in the future of society. He spoke about a "war on the family" being waged today; no-fault divorce, government policies that tax marriage and subsidize illegitimacy, sex "education" and teen pregnancy. In order to reverse these trends, we must reverse the thrust of a whole century. He was hopeful that the computer and information revolutions would allow the decentralization of society and the chance for people to work more at home and spend more time with their families.
"The Family as a Complex Institution" was the theme of Panel One, Chaired by Geoffrey Ainsworth Harrison, of Oxford University. It examined the forms and function of the family in many societies in the past, from the "pre-state" family forms that existed before the development of empires and states, through the ancient civilizations and empires, feudal societies, and the present day. Jon Davies, of the University of Newcastle in the UK, ended up this historical survey with the statement that "if present trends continue, the known forms of the family will, in the modern societies of the West, be replaced by patterns of associative (rather than intimate) relationships between adults, and of contractual relationships between -and all of this within a pattern of fertility rates which, in some of the most `modern' parts of the world, on present trends, imply radically reduced populations by the middle of the next century." Societies based on immediate gratification have little use for children.
Panel Two, Chaired by Bina Gupta of the University of Missouri, looked at "The Changing Role of the Family" in the various cultural spheres; Islamic, Chinese, Hindu, African, Latin American, Western, and Post- Soviet societies. The presenters examined modernizing and global trends affecting the family in their respective cultural spheres and how their cultures could adapt to meet the challenges of the present world. This panel, on the whole, was somewhat optimistic about the ability of their societies to adapt. The key would be the revitalization of some of the values of the traditional institutions.
"Family Crises and Community Intervention" was the title of Panel Three, chaired by sociologist Ralph Segalman of California State University, Northridge. the first presentation, by David Marsland, was a trenchant criticism of the present welfare state and government social services. He stated that the family was "The key buffer and bulwark of freedom between the individual and the power of large-scale bureaucratic organizations, in particular the state." Social workers are damaging the family in the following ways; advocating rights of unmarried mothers and delinquent fathers at the cost of their responsibilities, encouraging state dependency rather than self- reliance, subverting the authority of parents under speciously-defined children's rights, and by over-emphasizing the normalcy of divorce and cohabitation, contributing to the notion that marriage is passe and unnecessary. David Genders, a social work professional, while not denying Marsland's claims, made a presentation on programs he is involved with that make self-reliance and release from the system a goal of the programs.
Geoffrey Partington, a senior lecturer in education, explained why the public schools must be able to teach basic norms and values that place the family at the center of socialization. Roberta Pournelle spoke about computer software that can assist the development of reading skills in young people whom the schools had given up on. Robert Woodson, President of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, described how top-down government programs designed to alleviate family and community crises have often aggravated them. He spoke about the need to reinvigorate grass-roots community organizing for self- reliance and citizenship and gave examples of people who had been transformed.
Ralph Segalman summarized the sources of family decline in Western culture and the serious implications that it has for continuing democracy and economic prosperity. He suggested interventions that could help make people good parents, encourage marriage stability, and provide for adoption for children born into "at -risk families."
"Family Change, Alternative Families, and Public Policy," co-chaired by Nicholas Kittrie and Norge Jerome, was the most controversial panel, with strongly opposed opinions. The first speaker explained why he believes that fatherlessness is the most serious social problem in America today, and how it is leading to serious debilitation of American young people. The second speaker, a "equity-feminist," strongly criticized the more radical "gender-feminists" which demonize men and contribute to the destruction of the family. Dennis O'Keeffe explained a general "dialectic of moronization" in Western culture in which the "lowest common moral denominator" develops in the interaction of family, society and school. Under the name of "progress," it leads to irresponsibility, welfare dependence and ignorance. Other speakers on the panel represented some of these "progressive" forces which want to further liberalize definitions of the family, and why they feel such liberalization is warranted: abuse, oppression, and lack of personal development in some traditional families. In the heat of the debate, the speakers often spoke past one another, defending their own positions without answering some of the concerns of the others.
The conference was attended by PWPA representatives of more than 100 countries, who were asked in advance to provide a report on the state of the family in their own country. Those reports were published in a book "The Worldwide State of the Family" (available for $19.95 from PWPA Books, 2700 University Avenue West, Suite 47, Saint Paul, MN 55114, Phone: (612) 644-2809).
Dr. Anderson, is the Secretary General of PWPA-International
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