THE WAR OVER THE FAMILY: Capturing the Middle Ground by Brigitte & Peter L. Berger Berger

THE WAR OVER THE FAMILY: Capturing the Middle Ground

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Bergers are neoconservative sociologists in good standing who, as ex-liberals and adepts of intellectual politics, know just what ""the war over the family"" is all about; their defense of the ""father-mother-child"" bourgeois family may not win any converts, but it's ideologically assured and (as always with the Bergers) fiercely, often scathingly argued. They discern--and explore--""three major alignments on family issues in America: the radical-to-reformist coalition rooted in the movements of the 1960s, moderated somewhat by middle age and by the compromises of political horse trading but still marching under the old banners of liberation; the new 'pro family' camp, more brash and uncompromising by its very youth, marching in step with the general veering toward conservatism in the national mood; and thirdly, the combines of professionals, academics, and bureaucrats who make the family their field of expertise, advocacy, and management, more sympathetic on the whole with the first, rather than the second movement, but inevitably more pragmatic. . . ."" A case in point is language: to the Bergers, Moral Majoritarians want to impose ""Goshtalk,"" while feminists want to impose ""Femspeak."" (Knowing their audience, they focus their animus on the latter.) Abortion, however, they see solely as a moral issue. If either side triumphs, it will be a class triumph; and they hope--without much optimism--for a consensus to develop through ""a revival of awe,"" on the part of pro-choicers, and ""a recognition of ignorance,"" on the part of pro-lifers. In the academic sphere proper, they extrapolate from the studies of Philippe Aries, and others, a view of the bourgeois family as the maker of modem society (not vice versa) and of bourgeois women as ""prime builders"" (not prisoners) of bourgeois civilization. (Consider women's role in building cultural institutions like museums; consider their role in political reform as members of the League of Women Voters.) Thereafter, some will question their idealized conception of the bourgeois family, others will find ""the old ideal of the bourgeois family"" itself wanting. In the context of current disputation, however, the Bergers do firmly occupy a segment of the middle ground.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday