There is nothing conservative about atomisation, writes Yoram Hazony.
When people talk about the structure of the family, they often find themselves arguing for or against the “nuclear family”, which consists, on most tellings, of a father and mother, with perhaps two or three children in their care for the first 18 years of their lives. These children are then supposed to leave the house, move somewhere far away, and make nuclear families of their own.
Contemporary conservatives are especially inclined to embrace this image of the family, although it is not entirely clear why. The “nuclear family” is not the same as the traditional Christian or Jewish family that existed before the two World Wars. On the contrary, the nuclear family is closer to being an invention of industrialisation and the 20th century.
And there are good reasons to think that this form of family is, in fact, a failed experiment, one that has done immeasurable harm to almost everyone: to women and men, children and grandparents. The time has come for us to consider retiring the ideal of the nuclear family, and replacing it with something that looks more like the family of Christian and Jewish tradition.