Some limits find their origins in human society—we can call them “positive law”, or perhaps, “social convention”, but whatever we call them, we can change them because we made them up. But there are other limits—limits that are simply in the nature of things. And those are the limits that we can’t change. While that may seem like common sense to the likes of you or me, many modern ideologues believe that the reason we think so is merely because we’ve been raised to think so.
Nearly everyone says that progress is a good thing. But one of its ironies is that it makes revolutions possible. A revolution is a turning, or perhaps better, an overturning. But for a turning to be progress, it has to get you closer to your goal. Without that, things just revolve in place: it’s the same old thing, over and over again. Things seem to change, but not really.
We’ve been going through a sexual revolution for a while now, and things have certainly changed—standards have been overturned—but is this progress? Or is this just the same old thing we’ve seen before? (History-a-plenty indicates that it is.)
Which brings me back to where I started: where are we supposed to be going anyway?
Scott Yenor is not squeamish about asking delicate questions. His latest book, The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies raises questions about progress, among other things.
From the title you can see that Yenor’s book is about limits. Modern ideologies are dedicated to removing these. In particular, feminism, liberalism, and sexual liberation contend that the family, traditionally understood, has harmed women and sexual minorities by imposing oppressive limits on them. Feminism has worked to liberate women from the limitations of gender; liberalism has worked to liberate people from moral norms that have the force of law behind them, and sexual liberation has worked to cast off whatever those ideologies have left unchanged that might hinder the pursuit of sexual pleasure.
But why all the fuss about limits? Is there something intrinsically bad about them? Can we truly live without them? True, some limits find their origins in human society—we can call them “positive law”, or perhaps, “social convention”, but whatever we call them, we can change them because we made them up. But there are other limits—limits that are simply in the nature of things. And those are the limits that we can’t change. While that may seem like common sense to the likes of you or me, many modern ideologues believe that the reason we think so is merely because we’ve been raised to think so. If they could just cleanse our minds with some sort of mind-swipe all things would be possible. (No limits!)
The Rolling Revolution
If there truly are limits, then the universe is tilted against modern ideologues. This doesn’t mean that they, like Sisyphus, won’t try to keep their revolutions rolling along.
Yenor calls this phenomenon, “The Rolling Revolution”. But unlike Sisyphus, the futility of their labors doesn’t affect them alone; they insist on making the rest of us push things along, too. Failure is never proof that their ideologies are defective or against Nature–it only means that efforts to root out resistance aren’t radical enough. (The origin of the name ‘radical” means ‘to the root’.)
Dr. Yenor’s book can be said to consist of three interrelated parts. First, he describes the ways in which feminism, liberalism, and the sexual revolution have rolled like a juggernaut over our institutions. (Although they are in many ways mutually reinforcing, nevertheless in some ways they are incompatible; for instance, sadomasochism by definition is not liberal—oppression is how sadomasochism works—sadomasochists like it that way.) Feeling-out the Natural limits of these ideologies constitutes the second part of the book (and it is the basis for the book’s subtitle). And finally, the last part of the book attempts to point a way forward, (and is the basis for the main title of the book—“The Recovery of Family Life”).
Just What is Ideology?
Defining your terms often helps your readers, and a definition of ‘ideology’ would have been helpful. (The subtitle is about the limits of modern ideologies, after all.) I don’t recall coming across one (and a glance at the index indicates that I didn’t miss anything). The closest thing to a definition that I did come across was this: