In this unjustly forgotten work Zimmerman demonstrates the close and causal connections between the rise and fall of different types of families and the rise and fall of civilizations, particularly ancient Greece and Rome, medieval and modern Europe, and the United States. Zimmerman traces the evolution of family structure from tribes and clans to extended and large nuclear families to the small nuclear families and broken families of today. And he shows the consequences of each structure for the bearing and rearing of children; for religion, law, and everyday life; and for the fate of civilization itself. Zimmerman purports to present a comprehensive understanding of European history. Professor Hsu held degrees in Sociology, Economics LSE , and Anthropology, specializing in kinship patterns and cultural comparisons between large, literate societies, namely, the United States, China, India, and Japan. He received a B.
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His only rival for this label would be his friend, occasional coauthor, and colleague Pitirim Sorokin. Sorokin grew up in Russia, became a peasant revolutionary and a young minister in the brief Kerensky government, and barely survived the Bosheviks, choosing banishment in over a death sentence.
They were teamed up at the University of Minnesota in to teach a seminar on rural sociology. Five years later, this collaboration resulted in the volume Principles of Rural-Urban Sociology, and a few years thereafter in the multivolume A Systematic Source Book in Rural Sociology. In all this activity, Zimmerman focused on the family virtues of farm people. Ogburn and Joseph K. But the Chicago School went on to argue that such changes were inevitable and that the state should help complete the process.
He drew heavily on the insights of the mid-nineteenth-century French social investigator Frederic Le Play. More importantly, Le Play had held to an unapologetically normative view of the family as the necessary center of critical human experiences, an orientation readily embraced by Zimmerman. This mooring explains his frequent denunciations of American sociology in the pages of Family and Civilization.
It sweeps across the millennia and burrows into the nature of otherwise disparate civilizations to reveal deeper and universal social traits. Of the total amount of control of action in [a] society, how much is left for the family? He traces the dynamics as civilizations, or nations, move from one type to another.
All the same, this mass of data has done little to undermine his basic argument. Zimmerman focuses on hard, albeit enduring truths. He rejects the common argument that the widespread use of contraceptives would have the beneficial effect of eliminating human abortion. Societies that have numerous children have to have familism. Other societies those with few children do not have it. A familistic society, he says, would average at least four children born per household.
Given current American debates, we should note that Zimmerman was also pro-immigration. In his era Anglo-Saxon populations around the globe had turned against familism, rejecting children. When trade increased or migration occurred, the domestic family could in fact grow stronger. Instead, decay came from external factors such as changes in religious or moral sentiments.
The domestic family was also vulnerable to intellectual challenges by advocates for the atomistic family. In the motion pictures, the family seems to be motivated by little more than self-love. Dining rooms are reduced in size. The whole system is unfamilistic. As early as , two of his students reported that, for the first time in U. By , Zimmerman concluded in his book Successful American Families that nothing short of a social miracle had occurred in the suburbs: This Twentieth Century.
They live in the country but have nothing to do with agriculture. Never before in history have a free urban and sophisticated people made a positive change in the birth rate as have our American people this generation. By , near the end of his career, Zimmerman even abandoned his agrarian ideals. In the long run, however, the pessimism of Family and Civilization over the family in America in the second half of the twentieth century was fully justified. By the s, a massive retreat from marriage was in full swing, the marital birthrate was in free fall, illegitimacy was soaring, and nonmarital cohabitation was spreading among young adults.
While some of these trends moderated during the late s, the statistics have all worsened again since Allan C.
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Family and Civilization
He was off in his prediction of the collapse of the West he thought end of 20th century but his analysis that the West can not rejuvenate itself until and unless the family unit is delivered from its current hyper atomism was spot on. Zimmerman comments that healthy families will prioritize proles children , fidelity faithfulness and Sacramentum indivisibility of family ties as a consequence of faith in God. This suggests that the restoration of the family can not happen without restoration of Biblical Christianity and the restoration of Biblical Christianity will be identified, in part, by a return to Christian marriages having many children. The role of the family is too-often neglected, and Zimmerman makes a compelling case that as the family goes, so goes civilization.
How Families Contribute to the Rise and Fall of Civilizations