Families of the Twenty-First Century: For Better, or Worse
an article by Florence Karlstrom and Dick Sheen
(our site's article review)
Like the Tofflers, they see family diversity and pluralism as increasing in the 21st century. New social forms should be celebrated, not bewailed, say the authors. “For example, one creative change initiated in several locations in California is a cooperative designed as a new type of extended family. Nuclear families of various sizes combine to buy a large property that they subdivide into shared areas and privately owned units. Often single persons, couples, and larger families are incorporated into the same enterprise. Some meals, recreational activities and aspects of child-rearing are collective endeavors, yet many normal living routines are privately conducted. This . . . is an attempt to blend the advantages of single family living with cooperative arrangements, in patterns reminiscent of traditional communities of past generations.” Co-housing operates in a similar, but not identical, manner.
Co-housing operates in ways friendly to many European countries' philosophies, but antithetical to United States philosophies (except for non-mainstream groups like Quakers, etc.)
As part of the trend toward community enhancement, it can be observed that the attempts of such people and families are well-intentioned and on the right track. Unfortunately, they are also on the wrong track, for the following reasons:
- Pooled economic resources is not very American, and it often results in conflicts and litigation, as well as rejection by other neighbors who understand the implications of the ugly failures of socialism in the 20th century. Ventures and organizations that require cooperation are quite American, but pooled economic resources is usually a mistake. It’s also totally unnecessary. (Sharing hub costs in MCs is about all the pooling that should be attempted. See MCs and view a hub here.)
- The chances of the members of the “cooperative” finding other families with whom they are truly compatible are somewhere between slim and nil, unless they use more sophisticated networking techniques than those reported in the article. So the cooperative wouldn’t last, and the members would feel more annoyed than inspired by the other members in short order. This is not a guess; it’s a fact: The history of cooperative ventures in the context of superficially connected, mostly incompatible people is quite bleak.
- No mention was made of common values and goals, and a common base of knowledge regarding communication, relationship and parenting/childcare standards, and common agreements regarding same. This commonality is important to establish ahead of time, since most people are dedicated—whether they’re aware of it or not—to parenting and providing childcare that mimics what happened to them in their childhoods. Such conditioned programming does not get violated without consequences, such as anger, fear, confusion and intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict.
- Sharing some meals in common per se isn’t problematic, but this needs to be done in an acceptably American, noncommune-like context which preserves individuality and privacy.
USA does not now, nor will it ever need a socialistic, collectivist revamping of its social arrangements by social engineering
- In general, the more commune-like the collective becomes, the less it will function successfully, and the more it will alienate some of the members and many of the families in the surrounding community. America does not now, nor will it ever need a socialistic, collectivist revamping of its social arrangements, whether done by political salvationism and social engineering or local initiative. What it needs is for individuals and families to learn the most effective ways to live and relate and parent, and then for said individuals and families to choose to take the responsibility in their lives to act on their knowledge in true Third Wave fashion, applying it to reverse the partial dysfunctionality in most American lifestyles, to make democracy work again like the Founders intended, to make communities a fact rather than a fantasy, to unify the country even though diversity and pluralism will increase, and to enhance the quality of human life on this earth via personal decisions.
The collectivist, welfare-state mindset