Make Jobs Manly Again!

 

Reihan Salam has a great take on the future of the traditional family:

the changing shape of family pluralism in the U.S. is cause for concern. Family forms have always been diverse, Ozzie-and-Harriet was always an imperfect portrait of family life for many if not most Americans. Yet the fact that the balance is shifting even further away from two-parent households is going to stretch public resources to the limit.

Reihan explains that even “neo-traditionalist” or “hedonic” families — that is, families in which breadwinning and nurturing are increasingly shared so as to maximize the number of things spouses enjoy experiencing together — will prove superior to families without husbands and fathers in them. Unfortunately, households headed by men are on a powerful decline, especially in the lower class. Reihan warns rightly that

increasing transfers to increase financial stability and thus promote hedonic marriage among the less affluent isn’t a terribly effective strategy. Robust economic growth and job growth would be vastly preferable, though that prospect has arguably dimmed — not just because of the downturn, but because of structural shifts that could lead to further reductions in overall labor force participation among prime age males, a phenomenon that long predates the downturn.

Scary, right? Men without jobs find it especially hard to summon the power — and, more importantly, the authority — to lead households. Nowadays, the problem is compounded. Increasingly, we look down on menial jobs in both the labor economy and the ‘knowledge’ economy — both outside the cubicle and within it — as “jobs American’s won’t do” in the first case and as simply emasculating in the second. In poor enough economic times, that view will change. But as Reihan recognizes, the downturn isn’t the decisive issue.

I’d argue the decisive issue is cultural. If our culture or its elites instruct us that there’s nothing particularly honorable about being a father and a husband, many men will take an attitude toward work profoundly different from the one they’d take in a culture where families led by fathers and husbands are singled out for particular honors. Indeed, even in culture indifferent or hostile to bestowing that kind of special honor, men often take it upon themselves to view work differently when they work as a father and a husband, and not just as a guy.

But when theirs is a work environment hostile to the idea that the work of fathers and husbands has a special, privileged character, the cultural problem deepens. Today, many Human Resources departments — in theory and practice — strive to eliminate any rank order of honor among employees. If anything, the honored employee is the working mother. The identity of the working father and husband, by contrast, becomes something of an obstacle to the whole Human Resources program — which, by now, with its corporate retreats and group confessionals and team-building trust exercises, the whole toolkit of therapeutic maternalism, is the subject of resentful but sadly resigned ridicule.

The key to keeping families intact and keeping men at work is simple: make jobs manly again. The irony is that the key to making jobs manly again is simple, too: restore fatherhood and husbandhood to the place of cultural privilege it needs.

There are 5 comments.

  1. George Savage Contributor
    James Poulos, Ed.: The key to keeping families intact and keeping men at work is simple: make jobs manly again. The irony is that the key to making jobs manly again is simple, too: restore fatherhood and husbandhood to the place of cultural privilege it needs. ·

    Sadly James, we can expect extraordinary political resistance to any such restoration. Two-parent families tend towards conservatism, forming a bulwark against state-as-father governance. Extended family ties create a locus of authority and provision completely outside the statist apparatus. It is not coincidental that the Left supports any definition of “family” that furthers centrifugal tendencies known to increase dependence on and support for the entire socialist project.

    • #1
    • July 3, 2010, at 3:19 AM PDT
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  2. Scott R Member

    Ah yes,but the rub is how to “restore fatherhood and husbandhood to the place of cultural privelege it needs.” I would argue that the key there–as with so much else–is to roll back the government’s annexation of responsibilities, especially those which previously had been the domain of fathers and husbands. Men need burdens. They get “deep satisfaction” (see Charles Murray) from shouldering those burdens.

    All men, deep down, want to be heroes. If heroism is demanded of them, most will come through, and the manly jobs, the self-esteem, the culture of fatherhood and husbandhood, etc., will all follow soon enough. Expect more of men; you’ll get more. That’s how we roll.

    • #2
    • July 3, 2010, at 3:36 AM PDT
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  3. Scott R Member

    George: Love that expression “state-as-father governance–exactly what I was trying to get at. (I posted simultaneous to you) As Dennis Prager says, “The bigger the gov’t; the smaller the citizen.”

    • #3
    • July 3, 2010, at 3:59 AM PDT
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  4. Jim Barker Inactive

    Hello, Mr. Poulos.

    “. . . restore fatherhood and husbandhood to the place of cultural privilege it needs.”

    It is comforting to know that such an utterance has not (yet) been legally established as a hate crime. Then again, for how long will that remain the case?

    It is to be hoped that, on a broader scale than is presently the case, men will step up to the plate with respect to fatherhood and husbandhood; but when what is on that plate is nothing but the thin gruel of political correctness gone mad, mingled with the gristle of ultrafeminist objections to male leadership in any of its forms, many men will simply go sit in the corner (or continue to).

    • #4
    • July 3, 2010, at 5:40 AM PDT
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  5. Profile Photo Member
    James Poulos, Ed.: I’d argue the decisive issue is cultural. If our culture or its elites instruct us that there’s nothing particularly honorable about being a father and a husband…

    James, you stopped short. We live in a culture where the elites instruct us that there is nothing honorable about being a man…regardless of the particular ‘hat’ we’re wearing. Given the way that it was implemented, the unintended consequence of the expansion of the women’s world was the contraction of men’s. Sadly, both men and women are losers as a result.

    • #5
    • July 4, 2010, at 6:44 AM PDT
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