The Breakdown of Family

“There are many reasons for the extraordinary breakdown of the family that has occurred throughout the West since the 1960s. One, though, surely is intrusion of market values into areas that had previously been immune. A consumer-driven, advertising-dominated culture militates daily against ongoing attachments. It is constantly inviting us to switch to a different brand, try something new, go for a better deal elsewhere. It should not come as a surprise if that begins to affect human relationships as well. A society saturated by market values would be one in which relationships were temporary, loyalties provisional, and commitments easily discarded. It would, in short, be one in which marriage made little sense – and that, by and large, is what has happened.”

“Time itself, in the new economy, works against the institutions of civil society. When people are forced, as they are now, to work harder and be constantly on call by fax, cell phone, voice mail and e-mail, time that used to be spent on family, friends and voluntary work is no longer there. It is not just that work has become more demanding, and involves more travel and more frequent relocation. Its very insecurity forces people to work harder in case, next month or next year, they no longer have a job, at least one that pays as well. The result is that people, at least during their working lives, have less free time to spend on non-economic activity. Work that used to be done within the family, from child-care to preparing food, is increasingly being done by someone else for pay. The family is becoming downsized and outsourced. Parents spend less time with their children, who in turn spend more time watching television or glued to the computer screen.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 134