Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Father's Day Was Every Day

I have long been interested in the ways that the Industrial Revolution affected family life and how our society might facilitate the return of the patriarchal family.   To my way of thinking, if you really want to do this, you not only have to bring mothers home, you have to bring fathers home as well, because home loses its importance when its head spends the best part of his day elsewhere.

About six months ago I discovered an article titled "Industrialization and Marriage" by Robin Phillips, that I have read several times since because it explains this so well.

Its main premise is that industrialization fundamentally changed marriage, and this paved the way for our modern de-functionalized homes and even the feminist movement.

Phillips writes that "prior to 1800, the vast majority of people lived and worked in the same place.  Whatever else a couple's relationship may have involved, they were quite literally in business together.  The home, in turn, was not a place where people 'lived' as a passive activity when they were not doing other things.  Rather the home was a small factory, a bustling hub of productivity."  See, this is how the wife felt part of something important, and she could truly fulfill her role as helpmeet.  I know that I feel  peaceful and am much more focused on what I need to do when my husband is home the whole day.

This idea of the husband and wife being in business together prior to the Industrial Revolution made me think of how we now have "bedroom communities", "media rooms", and colloquial expressions such as "Where do you stay at?"  Keeping rooms were a mainstay of Colonial houses because inhabitants lived and worked in them.  Keeping implies activity, as in keeping house.  This is not the case with "stay at".  To me, "stay at" implies not working inside or outside the home.  It implies a fundamental passivity, a dog-like obedience and dependency.

Here's the part of the article that really stopped me and made me think:  "The geographical proximity of home and work had an impact on how couples thought of their relationship to each other.  A man and wife did not think of their relationship as something that could be abstracted from their mundane life together in the world. . .Sexual activity and economic activity were closely bound together, and both were situated within an ecosystem of obligations, responsibilities, priorities and expectations that were bigger than the couple's relationship.  Because marriage was understood to be bigger than the relationship itself, this helped to anchor marriage in a narrative external to the two participates (sic)."

Of course this "in business together" relationship extended to the children as well.  I am listening to an audio book on rhetoric by Professor Michael Drout.  He says that in Sanskrit, the word for daughter means "one who milks the cow".  He says that it is believed that Sanskrit and Greek and Latin sprung from a common language, so you can see how deeply-embedded these home-supporting roles were in our culture before Capitalism came along.

 I was stunned to learn about the role government played in promoting modern housing.  Silly me, I thought people just got tired of farm life and wanted to move to the suburbs, but no, the author reveals that "the concept of the family room originated from guidelines that the government issued in the middle of the 20th century when specifying how homes could qualify for insurance.  A new model of the home emerged which deliberately detached it from labor and functionality.  Government planners urged architects and home-owners to get rid of walls and doors, to eliminate various work rooms like the sewing room and the pantry and to focus the house instead around the type of domestic bonding that was supposed to occur in rooms like the family room."

Gee, this sounds like what happened to architecture in the Catholic Church after Vatican II.  The functionality of divine worship that was expressed by things like altar rails was destroyed in order to promote "community".

In the case of housing, this change was necessary to convert independent producers into dependent consumers of industrial goods.  It has taken a long time to accomplish, but we are there.  State governments implemented compulsory schooling to speed this along.  I imagine that once dad was gone from home, taking the children was a lot easier, especially as classical education was swept aside and replaced with the memorize-and-regurgitate-textbooks method.

Clearly we have been duped into destroying God's plan for the family.  If only we could see it.

Happy Father's Day.

P.S.  I have just read a new post by Catholic essayist Thomas Storck on this same topic!  It's called, "Capitalism, Families, and Fathers." Please read and share.


Joe post script said...

A man who is out plowing or hunting is not really at home. Likewise lawyers would be at court, doctors would visit homes, and clergy were often itinerant.

Fotofule said...

I would disagree with Joe, in that doctoring and lawyering were community endeavors in the past. The man of the house may not have been "in the house", but he was not far away, either mentally or physically, as compared to today's lifestyle. Distance and cultural influences have not been kind to the family.