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The abstract “family”

The abstract “family” October 14, 2003

On a related note to the post below, another pet peeve of mine is references to "the family" as an abstract — as in "we must strengthen the family."

This is a recipe for bad thinking and worse policy. There is no "the family." There are only families. Policy, like love, cannot have an abstract as its object.

Whenever you hear a politician or pundit talking about "the family," substitute "American families" and see whether the statement makes any sense in the real world.

Quite often it doesn't. That's because these proponents of "defending the family" aren't worried about the real world, only about some weird Neoplatonist abstraction in which actual families — like everything else on this earthy earth — are unwieldy and vaguely repellant.

These people may be "pro-family," but they are not "pro-families."


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One response to “The abstract “family””

  1. Fred,
    Families, in the abstract, are like marriages in the abstract, or love in the abstract. It’s a neo-platonic idea which doesn’t really help thosee of us which have to live with these constructions in their awful particularity. In these kinds of rhetorics, what ever the next sentence is doesn’t have much to do with any of us. There is a difference between rhetoric and policy, a distinction which is increasingly lost.