Exploding the Nuclear Family

I think Greif’s paper, discussed in the previous post, inadvertently revealed the big flaw in nuclear families: they cannot provide security. Once upon a time, possibly in the postwar period (or is this too a myth?) it was possible for middle class white men to have a high income, dependable job. They would stay at the same company their whole career, support a wife and two kids, and then retire and live off their savings.

But for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of times, work is unreliable. You get injured, your company downsizes, the factory relocates, the mine closes, your whole profession is outsourced, parasites kill the crops. Worse, expenses are unreliable. The house gets termites, your car is totalled, Susie needs braces, gas prices rise, food prices rise, apartment prices rise, medicine prices rise.

There is no economic security for one or two people working to support their kids on moderate income. They are always one major accident away from being in an entirely different economic situation. What makes this work is that kinship groups never actually died.

People have parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and friends that they go to when their lives go to shit and they need help. This network of support also are drawn from to provide babysitters, borrow ingredients, cosign a lease, watch a pet, help move, etc. Which bring us to the somewhat trite, but still important point: no man eats by his own hand alone. We live our lives in communities of blood and affinity.

The nuclear family is bunk.

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