traditional family

Debate | ‘The traditional’ family was a relatively late invention’

Is the traditional family the foundation of democracy? It depends what kind of traditional family you’re talking about. Throughout most of European and American history, the family was organized around a patriarch with power over slaves, servants, poorer neighbors and his sons and daughters. Those families were the foundation of inequality. Our founding fathers didn’t idealize “family values.” They believed married men were better than bachelors because they exercised control over their families, but the “better” sort of man was one who put public passions before private ones. The essence of Republican virtue was to put the public welfare above private commitments. Only in the mid-19th century did people develop the idea that the family itself was the cornerstone. Conservative evangelicals turned their backs on the social reform efforts of their antebellum counterparts and began to say...

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