Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"The traditional forms of the family"

“The peoples who allow the natural bases of society to be destroyed by the artificial conditions of the new urban civilisation will gradually disappear and their place will be taken by those populations which live under simpler conditions and preserve the traditional forms of the family.”

~Christopher H. Dawson: Enquiries into Religion and Culture.

The goal of civilization

THE end of civilisation is no longer found in intellectual culture, but in material well-being, and it is no longer limited to a single class, but is the common aim of every member of the society. The economic functions are no longer despised; in fact, it is the non-economic functions that are in danger of being neglected, since they offer no material rewards and are no longer surrounded by a halo of social prestige. It is true that for the ordinary man life has become more enjoyable and richer in opportunities that it ever was before. He owns his wireless set and his motor-bicycle, palatial cinemas and dancing halls are built for his amusement, and he has much the same standard of education and intellectual culture as his employer. But against this we must set a loss of spiritual independence, of which the average man himself is probably unconscious. However harsh and narrow was the existence of the European peasant, he still possessed the liberty to be himself—a liberty which flowered in a rich diversity and an intense vitality of character and personality. But to-day, if a man is to enjoy the material benefits of the new mass-civilisation, he must put off his individuality and conform himself to standardized types of thought and conduct. And this extends also to the details of taste and personal habits. As M. Romier writes: “Such and such a way of dressing, furnishing the home, feeding, amusing oneself, once advertised to the public and successfully ‘launched,’ becomes entrenched and defended through the solidarity of manufacturers, workers, wholesalers, shopkeepers, salesmen, all banded together in quest of profits they will share in common.”

For an individual to escape the pressure of this mass-movement is almost impossible. For “he who would escape from the fixed morals or modes set by standardisation must pay a fearful price; he must undergo a kind of penance.” And, consequently, the springs of creative originality are stopped at the source. The artist and the thinker are no longer the leaders of culture; they have become exiles and outlaws from the general body of society, which is governed more and more by purely external forces. Humanity has become the servant of the economic mass.

It is in the United States that this new type of civilisation has reached its fullest development. For the conditions of American life allowed full play to the new forces, which were here unfettered by social traditions and political complications. In M. Romier’s words: “This enormous social organism, in which under an iron-handed police the most novel as well as the most traditional forms of human activity are carried on at amazing speed and on a colossal scale, has been built up as of at one stroke and without any serious attention to either political ideals or theories of civil administration.”

~Christopher Dawson: "The New Leviathan." (in Enquiries into Religion and Culture

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