Sunday, March 15, 2020

conspiracies or just the march of history?

When you look at the state of society today it’s tempting to look for a sinister explanation. This is an especial temptation for political dissidents who are all too prone to see it all as the result of some kind of conspiracy. It’s an especial temptation to blame mass immigration and our demographic collapse on a conspiracy. Some blame the demographic collapse on feminism, some see it as a Jewish plot, or a communist plot, or a CIA plot or blame it on “cultural marxism” but the truth is that you don’t need a conspiracy theory to explain it (and in my view if a conspiracy theory is not needed to explain something then the conspiracy theory becomes very dubious).

In fact much of this is simply the result of impersonal social, cultural, political, economic and technological changes which began towards the end of the 18th century. The Industrial Revolution and the urbanisation that accompanied it destroyed traditional community ties. The gradual decline of Christianity had the same effect. The growth of capitalism encouraged a view of society in which the success of both society and the individual are measured in purely monetary terms. This led to a fall in birth rates which was already becoming apparent in places like France before the end of the 19th century.

The growth of mass media (mass-circulation newspapers in the 19th century, movies in the early 20th century, television in the mid-20th century) encouraged consumerism and hedonism and added further impetus to the tendency to measure success in dollars. This was always going to have the effect of making people even less interested in having large families.

The explosion of higher education in the post-WW2 period added more fuel to the fire. Both men and women were encouraged to put career success ahead of family.

And then there was contraception. Contraception certainly was possible before the 1960s. It was inconvenient and not entirely reliable but it was enough to allow people to drastically reduce the number of children they were going to have. The contraceptive pill appeared in the early 60s and that was the icing on the cake. Eventual demographic collapse became inevitable.

None of these things can be blamed on conspiracies. And most of these things were seen by most people at the time as being essentially positive. In retrospect they contained within them the deeds of disaster but the long-term consequences were simply not foreseen.

Much the same can be said of the collapse of the social fabric. All of the factors listed above, but especially the contraceptive pill, made the Sexual Revolution of the 60s possible (and probably inevitable). Without the Sexual Revolution and the contraceptive pill Second Wave feminism would hardly have been possible. And once the Sexual Revolution and the contraceptive pill had irreversibly transformed sex into a recreational activity the Gay Liberation movement of the 70s became more or less inevitable. The gradual relaxation of censorship was arguably another inevitable result.

What we see today is what happens when a culture is transformed from one based on a traditional model of society into a society based on modernity. It’s not pretty, it’s unsustainable and it’s likely to end in catastrophe but it’s not easy to see how any of it could have been avoided. It’s certainly difficult to see how a society that embraces modernity, democracy and capitalism can avoid such a fate.

Perhaps we will eventually adapt to modernity and learn to mitigate its worst features. And perhaps we won't.

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