The Liberal attitude to the family has changed over time. Classical Liberalism was supportive of the family, in practice if hostile in theory. But modern Liberalism is hostile in both practice and theory. Why did this change?
Classical Liberalism was hostile to the family in theory, it believed in liberty over tradition, it believed that Priests, Kings and Fathers had too much power and they did much to reduce the power of all three. They believed in equality, they liberalised divorce laws, gave women property rights and extended the electoral franchise, first the Middle class, then the Working class and then Women. They sort to destroy the old world of certainty and to create one of opportunity. But at the same time they were very Socially Conservative. Religion played a big part, both for those who were devout and for those who saw religion as a tradition. They saw marriage as the logical and as the moral place for men and women to congregate. They rejected such Radical ideas as Free Love, Polygamy or Group Marriage. They believed in marriage being between one man and one women for life, except in extreme circumstances.
Furthermore they were big supporters of privacy, in the doctrine that a mans home was his castle. That the law had to have a valid reason to enter the home. And Liberal law was very strict in this regard. It was proof of their strong commitment to property law and to personal liberty.
But what should be obvious is that much of these ideas were at cross purposes, in Lawrence Austers phrase, they were Unprincipled Exceptions. An Unprincipled Exception is where Liberalism proclaims a grand idea, usually a Universal idea and then decides that their are exceptions to their universal idea, exceptions that are entirely unprincipled. So they simultaneously support the institution of marriage and reducing the power of Fathers, the granting of divorce and giving women property rights, which came at the expense of these womens Fathers and Husbands.
Around 1900, Liberalism moved into a new phase, Socialism, which ironically came into being as a reaction and as a rejection of Liberalism, came to be very influential within Liberalism. In fact it worked both ways. Liberalism came to influence Socialism, just as Socialism came to influence Liberalism. But this Socialist Liberalism was still Socially Conservative. It was primarily in economic matters that things changed and while society was slowly becoming less religious the older standards still stood. Marriage was regarded as an institution, one that didn't need any reforming.
That all changed with the death of Classical Liberalism in the 1950's. Once the idea of Class Warfare entered Liberalism from Communism then everything started to change. Within Communism, Class Warfare says that there are two kinds of classes, the Oppressor Class and the Oppressed Class. You are either in one class or the other class, there are no neutral people, everyone is either oppressed or the oppressor. And Class Warfare is perpetual, it never ends until true Communism arrives. Class Warfare destroys both the Oppressor Class and the Oppressed Class and results, according to Communist theory at least, in a Classless Society.
Once this idea entered Liberalism, Liberalism split and the part we are interested in here is Left or Social Liberalism. Because it is upon this part that this idea fell. Within Liberalism, Class Warfare came to be known under many different names, but behind each one is this core idea. It was known as Civil Rights, Womens Rights, Indigenous Rights, Gay Rights. What has come to be called Identity Politics. In each case a coherent argument could and was made that these were not Radical causes they were simply a plea to give Liberal freedoms to people who had unfairly been denied that freedom. But Liberalism believes something that Communism doesn't. Communism believes that there is only so much power to go round, something Conservatives agree with. However Liberalism believes that power is unlimited. So a Communist understands that if one man has power that power has to come from somewhere, it came at someone elses expense, and because their belief in Class Warfare they approve of that. Liberalism believes that if one man has power then he has joined everyone else who has power. Power has a magical ability to be unlimited.
With that in mind, giving power to groups who believe they have been denied power is expanding the amount of people who are free and have power. Liberalism see's this as a great advance, as all positive and no negative. But sadly as a Conservative I think the Communists are right (I bet that sentence has never been written before!). That power is limited and that if you give it to one group you must take it from another. That is most obvious when you look at what Women as a Class have obtained, it has come at the expense of Men as a Class. It has never been portrayed that way, it is always portrayed as all good, but taking away a man's ability to gain employment and promotion has serious consequences, for men, for women and for society. But Liberalism ignores all of these things, because it believes in the Individual and not in Society.
Left Liberalism is no longer Socially Conservative and Right Liberalism even denies that there is such a thing as Society. The Family is something they do not respect or believe to be important. The idea of preparing for the future has left them as they can see their perfect society coming into form. It is an illusion, they think that the destruction of Society, of the Family will lead to a Classless Society. A World without Racism or Discrimination, they believe that such a world is close. But without the Family there can be no future.
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