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Can the NatCon revolution escape the past? Stigma won't win the next election

What would Castro say? (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

What would Castro say? (Leon Neal/Getty Images)


May 19, 2023   6 mins

It’s always interesting when the fiendish plans of undercover socialists are dragged into the light. This week, just such an occasion was unexpectedly provided at the National Conservatism conference. Alongside standard Thatcherite fare about free markets, small states, and level playing fields, a dedicated band of what are sometimes called “Tory socialists” — in other words, communitarian and post-liberal thinkers highly critical of liberal individualism — made the case for their own distinctive vision of the glorious future.

The good news is they want us to have lots and lots of sex. The bad news is they also want us to be heterosexual, married to the person we’re having sex with and avoiding contraception while we do it. Working motherhood, free childcare, and quickie divorces are out. Babies and the “normative family held together by marriage” are in.

For some liberal conservatives, it apparently all came as a bit of a shock. Meanwhile, for those looking for any excuse to call the Conservative Party “fascist”, it was a field day. Once the stuff on reproduction was judiciously combined with material from migrant-averse Tory speakers such as Suella Braverman and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the whole package started to look to many like a cover version of Viktor Orbán’s greatest hits — including to Orbán’s own political director. Not that this would have necessarily dismayed the speakers in question.

As I watched the conference unfold, I started to think that having a name that starts with “National” and ends with “ism” might be the least of National Conservatism’s image problems. When I first read about the event, I vaguely imagined that it would be a mostly cerebral affair, conducted behind closed doors — a thrashing out of disputed intellectual territory, with the aim of forming a shared, reinvigorated vision for the direction of conservatism, currently languishing in near-terminal decline. I didn’t realise it would be done in the full glare of the media and the voting public.

I didn’t anticipate there would be a film of MP Danny Kruger coming across like a slightly sinister vicar, lecturing the British public about what many naively assume are private romantic relationships (“Marriage is not all about you … It’s not just a private arrangement, it’s a public act by which you undertake to live for someone else, for their sake, and the sake of your children, and the sake of wider society!”). I didn’t think they would let Miriam Cates say, out loud and in full view of The Guardian’s deputy political editor, that “cultural Marxism… is systematically destroying our children’s souls”. In short, I didn’t expect them to go full Back to Basics, having barely arrived on the scene. I thought they might take a bit of a run-up first.

Some of the consequent hostile reaction is just opportunist histrionics from enemies seeking political advantage. There’s nothing fascist, or even particularly Right-wing, about policies attempting to stabilise families for the good of children’s welfare, or to redress declining birth rates with an eye to protecting future pensions and the welfare state. It’s perfectly fine to consider how present socioeconomic models, often focused upon treating the sexes equally, badly serve some distinctive needs of mothers and their children. And it’s appropriate to worry about the way in which personal development curricula in schools have been outsourced to companies thronging with sexual libertarians, self-identifying as moral saints. Indeed, if Keir Starmer doesn’t also think critically about these things, he will be missing a vote-winning trick.

Still, like many a gimlet-eyed revolutionary before them, there is a sense that these ideologues are skipping to the end too fast. Immersed in a bubble of like-minded think tanks, podcasts, and blogposts, it is easy to think that certain background assumptions go without saying. But strategically at least, there’s a need to take those you want to persuade on a journey — to meet them where they are, as opposed to where you think they should be.

And though Cates, Kruger and friends prosecute their arguments in the name of “ordinary British people”, many OBPs are much more liberal than they are. After all, Britain has been a highly liberalised society for decades. Unlike those neoliberal thinkers who conceptualise the individual as metaphysically unencumbered and entirely self-made, post-liberals are supposed to understand the powerful effects of socialisation on personality and preference. Cumulative exposure to the policies of Thatcher, Blair, and Cameron has left its formative mark. We’re intensely relaxed about most things, often to the point of inertia. Equally, whereas Cates and Kruger are both devout Christians, most OBPs lack any religious faith to help underpin the communitarian values being argued for.

This means that, in order to win people over to their cause, post-liberals are going to have to be extra savvy. It would help if, along the way, they didn’t provide soundbites that are easily trolled. For instance, it is very unlikely that Cates expected her use of the phrase “cultural Marxism” would be construed as antisemitic — but even so, it sounded conspiratorial, reminiscent of a caricatural McCarthyite talking about reds under the bed. In fact, there’s nothing Marxist about the identity politics embedded in so many of our national institutions and organisations. Some of its principal disseminators are HR professionals, for god’s sake.

The nearest thing to a justification for the claim would involve a reference to the neo-Marxist idea of a “long march through the institutions”, and the goal of infiltrating existing organisations to build alternative anti-capitalist cultures, or “counterinstitutions”, as Herbert Marcuse put it. But if this is what counts as culturally Marxist then, ironically, the National Conservative conference itself qualifies as such — set up by its founder Yoram Hazony to counter the dominant neoliberal, free-marketeer culture within Conservatism.

There’s another thing post-liberals have in common with Marxists, too. Each wants to fundamentally restructure society in far-reaching ways. Post-liberals will likely frame this as going “back” to a better time; Marxists would present it as moving “forward”. Temporal metaphors aside, however, each holds that existing social arrangements are ripe for dismantling. And like Marxists, some post-liberals seem blithe to the potential costs of their revolutionary policies for those whose lives don’t fit their preferred vision of the future.

Most obviously, this issue affects those who are not in so-called “normative families”. There are 3 million lone parent families in the UK currently, while millions more are the offspring of single mothers. And 1.5 million people in England and Wales are not heterosexual, while some lesbians and gay men are also parents. In valorising the traditional nuclear family, post-liberals need to avoid stigmatising those who aren’t in one — particularly if they want to avoid social division, as most say that they do.

It is not that wielding social stigma as a weapon is never useful. When a newly destructive social trend first heaves into view, stigmatising it by means of ridicule or outrage can be an effective defence. But there’s a difference between stigmatising what has yet to take hold, and what is already here. In the second case, there’s an increased responsibility to tread carefully. There’s also a difference between stigmatising a discrete activity unattached to any particular identity group, and stigmatising a behaviour which tends to define an entire group in the public mind. There’s a difference between criticising smartphones for kids and criticising single motherhood, for instance.

Perhaps it will be objected that the post-liberals are not stigmatising anyone at all — they are merely describing existing social patterns, documenting harms, and arguing for better alternatives, with evidence. I agree that they are doing that; but I still think this response would be naïve. For most, it is a short walk from “marriage is a public act for the sake of your children and wider society” to “society should think less of you for being an unmarried parent”. Anyone trying to motivate the masses into a comfortingly principled Fifties mindset also needs to remember what used to happen to single mothers and gay people in the Fifties.

This doesn’t mean that the solution is to helplessly accede to existing progressive cultural forces, which at times looks like they are unconsciously focused on converting everybody in the UK to lesbian single motherhood, including the blokes. Rather, it means reconciling the desire to radically reshape the social fabric with recognising the value and dignity of those groups caught in cultural crossfire. It also involves noticing that in any free society, there will always be such people; and that the further towards the margins they are placed, culturally speaking, the more they will become vulnerable and isolated.

In short, post-liberals need to find a sincerely sympathetic narrative that stops those nearer the edges of their preferred social fabric from becoming outcasts. Fidel Castro once observed that a revolution is a struggle between the future and the past. If they really have to go back in time in order to stabilise a world flying apart under liberalism, then let the new revolutionaries take some liberal tolerance with them as they go.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago

I admire the writer for her resistance to Wokery. But she is wrong about glossing over Cultural Marxism. Coined essentially by Antonio Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks it espouses exactly what the Left has achieved today. Destroying the institutions which were the bedrock of classical Liberal societies- the heterosexual family, religious faith, communities based on charity and service etc
What is wrong with espousing these values?
It is Cultural Marxism which arose from American campuses in the 1960s as a mass movement within academia which destroyed the social cohesion of Western societies in particular.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

At best you are demonstrating some ignorance on the origins of Cultural Marxism as a phrase and label. It comes from far right antisemitic conspiracy theory as far back as the 1930s particularly used by Far Right propagandists in the lead up to WW2 and beyond. Anyone with an ounce of awareness would be aware of that history and thus find more appropriate descriptor.
In line with the Author’s theme, there is nothing wrong in voicing differences of opinion and potential policy responses on how society has or may develop. There is much we need to debate. When you spill over into racial memes though you pull back the veil on your own ignorance or worse.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The term as used today obviously comes from Gramsci with concrete references, not wild accusations of anti-Semitism.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

The ‘poisoned dwarf’ of Sardinia no less.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

The ‘poisoned dwarf’ of Sardinia no less.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

You disappoint me by chucking in that antisemitic barb!
It was beneath you, as you well know.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Come on Charles, if you give your new grouping a name like ‘Nat C’ wtf do you expect? Clowns did they not think about it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

NC is bonkers I agree!
But you cannot afford to be mired as an A-S can you?

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

NC is bonkers I agree!
But you cannot afford to be mired as an A-S can you?

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Come on Charles, if you give your new grouping a name like ‘Nat C’ wtf do you expect? Clowns did they not think about it.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

“Anyone with an ounce of awareness would be aware of that history”

I’m sure the overwhelming majority of the population have either never heard of the term or don’t understand it.

A sizeable minority do know the term as it is currently used ie short hand for the transposition of Marx’s oppressed/oppressor world view from a class (economic) base to an identity (culture) base.

A tiny minority insist on dissecting the history of the term to display their smarts and deflect from the substance of the discussion.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

This post was sponsored by the ADL.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

What is ADL?

Philip Perkins
Philip Perkins
1 year ago

Anti-defamation League?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Perkins

Thank you

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Perkins

Thank you

Philip Perkins
Philip Perkins
1 year ago

Anti-defamation League?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

What is ADL?

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

This is unfair. The term “cultural Marxism“ is in widespread use in the sense intended by its users at the conference, as used by Gramsci; nothing whatsoever to do with any anti-semitic trope.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Who in their right mind can keep up with all these phrases and changing terms? What is a “liberal conservative” anyway? It is quite interesting that over 50 years, my political thoughts have not changed, yet by today’s standards, I went from being a liberal, to a conservative, part of the vast right-wing conspiracy and eventually being termed a fascist! The only thing missing was a neo-something or other.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I’m a liberal conservative. We used to be known as liberals, until (roughly) World War I. John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jean-Baptiste Say, John Stuart Mill, you know the rest.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I’m a liberal conservative. We used to be known as liberals, until (roughly) World War I. John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jean-Baptiste Say, John Stuart Mill, you know the rest.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Who in their right mind can keep up with all these phrases and changing terms? What is a “liberal conservative” anyway? It is quite interesting that over 50 years, my political thoughts have not changed, yet by today’s standards, I went from being a liberal, to a conservative, part of the vast right-wing conspiracy and eventually being termed a fascist! The only thing missing was a neo-something or other.

Belinda Shaw
Belinda Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Agreed. No one using “cultural Marxism” should pretend that they don’t know it’s a dog-whistle to anti-semites. I wonder if those commenting here realise that they are aligning themselves with Corbyn and others on the far-left who see the hidden hand of “Zionism” behind everything. This would be funny if it wasn’t so unpleasant

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Belinda Shaw

You people need to give up trying to control our language.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Belinda Shaw

You people need to give up trying to control our language.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Jafa and Watson are both wrong. Jaffa, like all who claim Gramsci invented Wokery, gives no sources. Watson raises “antisemitism” as a way of dismissing any debate about the relevance of the fact that the Frankfurt School was all self-identified Jews.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

Read any standard analysis of Antonio Gramsci and see the parallels. You could also see Roger Scuton to understand where 1960s radicalism came from.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

Read any standard analysis of Antonio Gramsci and see the parallels. You could also see Roger Scuton to understand where 1960s radicalism came from.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

To live in denial of the extreme nature of Cultural Marxism by taking recourse to tautological hair splitting is showing you up as the dogmatic illiberal you are. By the way there was a certain Socialism of the 1930s in Germany which was as race based in its approach as today’s Woke warriors and Cultural Marxists.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

I think the only people who make this connection today are people who want to discredit the people who use the term. Very cunning.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

You people are simply trying to prevent the rest of us from describing your disgusting woke fascism. That you people claim to be offended by the usage of terminology such as “cultural Marxism” will rightly inspire the rest of us to double down on its usage.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The term as used today obviously comes from Gramsci with concrete references, not wild accusations of anti-Semitism.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

You disappoint me by chucking in that antisemitic barb!
It was beneath you, as you well know.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

“Anyone with an ounce of awareness would be aware of that history”

I’m sure the overwhelming majority of the population have either never heard of the term or don’t understand it.

A sizeable minority do know the term as it is currently used ie short hand for the transposition of Marx’s oppressed/oppressor world view from a class (economic) base to an identity (culture) base.

A tiny minority insist on dissecting the history of the term to display their smarts and deflect from the substance of the discussion.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

This post was sponsored by the ADL.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

This is unfair. The term “cultural Marxism“ is in widespread use in the sense intended by its users at the conference, as used by Gramsci; nothing whatsoever to do with any anti-semitic trope.

Belinda Shaw
Belinda Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Agreed. No one using “cultural Marxism” should pretend that they don’t know it’s a dog-whistle to anti-semites. I wonder if those commenting here realise that they are aligning themselves with Corbyn and others on the far-left who see the hidden hand of “Zionism” behind everything. This would be funny if it wasn’t so unpleasant

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Jafa and Watson are both wrong. Jaffa, like all who claim Gramsci invented Wokery, gives no sources. Watson raises “antisemitism” as a way of dismissing any debate about the relevance of the fact that the Frankfurt School was all self-identified Jews.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

To live in denial of the extreme nature of Cultural Marxism by taking recourse to tautological hair splitting is showing you up as the dogmatic illiberal you are. By the way there was a certain Socialism of the 1930s in Germany which was as race based in its approach as today’s Woke warriors and Cultural Marxists.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

I think the only people who make this connection today are people who want to discredit the people who use the term. Very cunning.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

You people are simply trying to prevent the rest of us from describing your disgusting woke fascism. That you people claim to be offended by the usage of terminology such as “cultural Marxism” will rightly inspire the rest of us to double down on its usage.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

I agree. I don’t believe that suggesting that those heterosexual couples who wish to have children should probably be married and stay together unless experiencing abuse says anything about other families.

People end up single parents for many reasons and I don’t believe they should be looked down on. Gay couples too who adopt or otherwise have children should be perfectly capable of bringing up children.

There was a story in the UK recently about a single forty something woman, wealthy, who thought it was reasonable for her to have a child on her own with a father being around. She was fed up with men. I found her attitude incredibly arrogant and find it impossible to believe that such a person could bring up a well balanced child.

I think we can be comfortable with nontraditional families and still encourage people to get married before having children and to stay married.

George Venning
George Venning
1 year ago

“I don’t believe that suggesting … says anything about other families.”
And perhaps it doesn’t but, how to put this gently… but, apparently, you do because just two paras later, there you are saying that a forty-something woman opting to have a child on her own is so arrogant that she couldn’t possibly bring up “a well-balanced child.”

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  George Venning

good old 2 Para

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Soldier F of 1 PARA has been on trial now for five months, thanks to legal contortions that would have astonished Hammurabi, Draco and even Solomon himself.

It is a national disgrace.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Operation Slapstick

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Soldier F of 1 PARA has been on trial now for five months, thanks to legal contortions that would have astonished Hammurabi, Draco and even Solomon himself.

It is a national disgrace.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Operation Slapstick

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  George Venning

“Couldn’t possibly“ is indeed, too extreme. However, it is perfectly reasonable to have the view that it would be far less likely than would be the case in a well balanced family.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Might that be one where both parents have a chip on their shoulder, bringing up their children in the familial equivalent of a deep fat fryer?

Philip Larkin wasn’t wrong with his:

They f**k you up, your.mum and dad

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Written by a man who had no kids.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Edited. Misread as “has no kids”.
Apologies.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago

For good reason. He didn’t want to f**k up any more people.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Edited. Misread as “has no kids”.
Apologies.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago

For good reason. He didn’t want to f**k up any more people.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Written by a man who had no kids.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

“Couldn’t possibly” if the woman is conducting a private war against men, especially if the child is a boy. (If she’s a girl, she will still live in a world that is half men, and will probably marry one, so the private war won’t be good for her either.)
Otherwise, could possibly. It happens all the time. But the odds are against it.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Might that be one where both parents have a chip on their shoulder, bringing up their children in the familial equivalent of a deep fat fryer?

Philip Larkin wasn’t wrong with his:

They f**k you up, your.mum and dad

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

“Couldn’t possibly” if the woman is conducting a private war against men, especially if the child is a boy. (If she’s a girl, she will still live in a world that is half men, and will probably marry one, so the private war won’t be good for her either.)
Otherwise, could possibly. It happens all the time. But the odds are against it.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  George Venning

good old 2 Para

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  George Venning

“Couldn’t possibly“ is indeed, too extreme. However, it is perfectly reasonable to have the view that it would be far less likely than would be the case in a well balanced family.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

“People end up single parents for many reasons and I don’t believe they should be looked down on.”
I disagree, Jonathan. Among those who end up as single parents, after all, are those who do so by choice. Some are upper-middle-class women who believe that they have some “right” to children. Single mothers by choice, in fact, is their movement (see https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org/). Others are lower-class women who can get more financial help from the government than they can from unemployed husbands or boyfriends. Still others are teenage girls, who want someone (a child) to love them unconditionally but are not ready for marriage.
Along with single mothers by choice, of course, are single mothers by default (due to being separated, divorced, abandoned or widowed). These women do deserve respect and help–but not to the point of trivializing or relativizing marriage as a result. There’s a huge difference between a social norm (which is why every society must actively promote marriage in the interest of children by conferring status or even special benefits on married couples) and exceptions to the norm (which are acceptable in some circumstances, and deserving of compassion but not of normative status).
Support for single parenthood, straight or gay, has taken on a political life of its own in the context of ideologies that place the highest value on the rights of adults, not children. It might make no difference if children did not actually need at least one parent of each sex (as distinct from no mother or no father but also from two mothers or two fathers). But children do need both mothers and fathers, because mothers and fathers (like women and men in general) are not interchangeable. Mothers and fathers have distinctive functions within the family. I can’t explain all of that here and now, but my point of view has support from studies and is at least worth taking seriously.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Enthusiastic agreement.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

It certainly can and should be taken seriously, but i’d question the premise that the distinctive roles you cite are more than constructs arising from socio-economic conditions which required them, and which may no longer apply.

In terms of role models, i’d argue that just as many poor role models exist as positive ones. The number of people i’ve met who found one, other or both parents insufferable at least equals those who didn’t.

One of the commandments: Honour thy father and thy mother, brings commandments into disrepute if, for instance, parents are abusive, belittling, indolent, addicted, etc.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“I’d question the premise that the distinctive roles you cite are more than constructs arising from socio-economic conditions which required them, and which may no longer apply.”
I’d never say that all parents are effective, let alone that all people are moral paragons. We watch the news every day in horror, wondering how people can act as they do but realizing that we can expect more of this horror as society fragments and collapses around us. Of interest to me here is the cultural ideal that every healthy society tries to implement and that parents strive to realize.
Also, there’s nothing trivial (which is what you imply) about the ways in which culture interacts with nature to generate the matrix in which we live. It’s true, though, that, as humans, we live in a state of flux and must adapt to changing circumstances. I just don’t think that some current adaptations, such as “alternative families,” are actually as successful as some earlier ones.
But no, Steve, “role modeling” is not at all what I had in mind. Even if I were to argue that children must all learn some assigned “gender role” and perform it correctly—and I don’t argue that—I still wouldn’t argue that only fathers could teach that script to their sons and only mothers to their daughters. It’s probably easier for fathers to “perform” a standard version of masculinity and mothers to “perform” a standard version of femininity, instead of the reverse, but I wasn’t referring to that theatrical paradigm in my earlier comment. Rather, I was referring to the distinctive relational messages that fathers and mothers offer their children.
In the case of mothers, their most basic psychological function within family life has always boiled down, ultimately, to providing children with unconditional love. Not all mothers are equally effective in communicating and evoking that bond, it’s true, but all mothers are equipped by nature with the ability to feed infants and, at least to some extent (assuming cultural encouragement), with the willingness to interact emotionally with them. In effect, mothers tell their young children (both sons and daughters), “I’ll always love you, no matter what becomes of you.” This is one of two sources of self-confidence, which is necessary for children to become mature adults.
In the case of fathers, their most basic function within family life has always boiled down to providing their children with earned respect, the other source of self-confidence. This function does not begin immediately for fathers, when their children are newborns or toddlers. It begins gradually and later, when they prepare to leave home and enter the larger community. In effect, fathers tell their somewhat older children (both sons and daughters),”I’ll respect you if you learn to live honorably and effectively in our community.” This has nothing to do with emotion, although it doesn’t preclude emotional attachment. Fathers can, and usually do, love their children. But love, per se, is not their most important contribution. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily produce emotional gratification for fathers, at least not until their children are mature. In this way, fathers and mothers do not have the same function and are therefore not interchangeable.
It’s true, in theory, that mothers and fathers could switch functions, with mothers providing earned respect and fathers providing unconditional love. But that could present at least two serious problems that few experts or activists are willing to consider. I doubt that many mothers are ready even now to distance themselves enough from their children to command earned respect—not even if they are the ones, not the fathers, who work beyond the home. Maybe cultural intervention or training would eventually prepare them to do so, maybe not. The results of current experiments in social engineering, such as abandoning any gender system at all, are not yet in. Second, especially for single parents, I doubt that either mothers or fathers would help children in this fundamental way by giving them double messages. Coming from the same parent, after all, unconditional love conflicts with earned respect. 

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

A thorough and insightful response. However, i can’t agree that i’m trivialising the interaction of culture with nature; rather the opposite. We have just a few thousand years of recorded history by which to weigh the roles of human fathers and mothers, against a backdrop not only of many hundreds of thousands of years when circumstances may well have been different but also the examples provided by other species where there is no fixed element of those qualities that you attribute to respective parents. The seminal insight would be that each species varies in its parental roles according to the circumstances that would provide for the greater chance of offspring thriving to reproduce the genes of the parents in succeeding generations.
The question that faces us now, therefore, is whether the succession of genes is being enhanced or hindered by prevailing cultural mores. It’s far from settled, and this discussion is (in my opinion) primarily about whether there are settled features, which you seem to imply, or not.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’m not sure, Steve, that other species of either the past or the present are really useful in this discussion. We’re not chimps, after all, or bonobos. Nor, for that matter, are we now what our early hominid ancestors were.
As you say, though, nothing is forever. So far, humans have often overruled or bypassed natural inclinations in many ways. Obvious examples include cultural interference with such basic natural functions as eating (foods that are either prescribed or proscribed for symbolic reasons, say, or periods of fasting) and sexual behavior (hedonism at one extreme or monastic asceticism at the other). I can hardly predict the future. Who knows how people will use culture to work either with nature or against it? History is littered with human experiments, some of which were relatively effective for a while and others less effective due at least partly to the law of unforeseen consequences. The transhumanists are very ambitious as utopians, but so are the feminists, wokers and transgenderists in their own ways. Nothing about those movements, so far, leaves me with any reason for optimism.
My comment, however, was about how human families have, to our knowledge, functioned in the knowable past–knowable, that is, to the extent that historians do their jobs instead of promoting their favorite ideologies. And the same applies to anthropologists and psychologists. We do have information at our disposal, more than ever before. I’d say that we ignore it at our peril.
P.S. I foolishly omitted one word in my earlier comment. I referred to the “most basic function of fathers.” I should have referred more specifically to their psychological functions. I mention this here, because the state has already replaced fathers when it comes to practical functions such as providing resources and protection. This situation, too, gives me no reason for optimism. Apart from anything else, it has led to the increasing independence of women but also to the increasing obsolescence of men. The experiment will not, I think, end well. Judging from historical and cross-cultural evidence, once again, I’d say that humans, as a social species, are far more likely to flourish by fostering inter-dependence than by fostering sexual (or any other kind of) polarization.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

The state has not replaced competent fathers, you know, the ones who earn a middle-class living, set an example for their children by taking care of them, etc.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

That’s true, Laurence, in one way. But the state has largely replaced men per se, including inadequate fathers.
Psychologically, the modern state is everyone’s ultimate provider and protector, which are two of the central functions, both historically and cross-culturally, of fathers). This is partly because women can now do both, if not by themselves then with help from countless agencies of the state. In theory, it’s true that women cannot be fathers (although some feminists would trivialize that fact and most transgenderists would deny it). In fact, though, the state routinely intrudes on family life through the courts and other bureaucracies to protect women from men and children from fathers. Given the prospect of losing their children, the wonder is not that so many men marry and become fathers but that any still do.
Moreover, both elite (or academic) culture and popular culture have long insisted that fathers and mothers are interchangeable for all purposes except gestation and lactation (and often gone further by insisting that fathers are luxuries or walking wallets at best and potential molesters at worst). And the state has fostered these illusions by establishing the legitimacy of both single-parenting-by-choice (which usually involves single-mothers-by-choice, thus denying that children need fathers) and same-sex marriage (which provides children with either two mothers or two fathers but not one of each).
I agree that we need to celebrate and encourage “competent” fathers (instead of denouncing incompetent ones as President Obama did on his first Fathers’ Day in office). And I do think that fathering is the one remaining source of healthy masculine identity (being able to make at least one contribution to society that is distinctive, necessary and publicly valued). But we’ll need a cultural revolution to undo the damage of public indifference to both men and fatherless children.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

That’s true, Laurence, in one way. But the state has largely replaced men per se, including inadequate fathers.
Psychologically, the modern state is everyone’s ultimate provider and protector, which are two of the central functions, both historically and cross-culturally, of fathers). This is partly because women can now do both, if not by themselves then with help from countless agencies of the state. In theory, it’s true that women cannot be fathers (although some feminists would trivialize that fact and most transgenderists would deny it). In fact, though, the state routinely intrudes on family life through the courts and other bureaucracies to protect women from men and children from fathers. Given the prospect of losing their children, the wonder is not that so many men marry and become fathers but that any still do.
Moreover, both elite (or academic) culture and popular culture have long insisted that fathers and mothers are interchangeable for all purposes except gestation and lactation (and often gone further by insisting that fathers are luxuries or walking wallets at best and potential molesters at worst). And the state has fostered these illusions by establishing the legitimacy of both single-parenting-by-choice (which usually involves single-mothers-by-choice, thus denying that children need fathers) and same-sex marriage (which provides children with either two mothers or two fathers but not one of each).
I agree that we need to celebrate and encourage “competent” fathers (instead of denouncing incompetent ones as President Obama did on his first Fathers’ Day in office). And I do think that fathering is the one remaining source of healthy masculine identity (being able to make at least one contribution to society that is distinctive, necessary and publicly valued). But we’ll need a cultural revolution to undo the damage of public indifference to both men and fatherless children.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

The state has not replaced competent fathers, you know, the ones who earn a middle-class living, set an example for their children by taking care of them, etc.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’m not sure, Steve, that other species of either the past or the present are really useful in this discussion. We’re not chimps, after all, or bonobos. Nor, for that matter, are we now what our early hominid ancestors were.
As you say, though, nothing is forever. So far, humans have often overruled or bypassed natural inclinations in many ways. Obvious examples include cultural interference with such basic natural functions as eating (foods that are either prescribed or proscribed for symbolic reasons, say, or periods of fasting) and sexual behavior (hedonism at one extreme or monastic asceticism at the other). I can hardly predict the future. Who knows how people will use culture to work either with nature or against it? History is littered with human experiments, some of which were relatively effective for a while and others less effective due at least partly to the law of unforeseen consequences. The transhumanists are very ambitious as utopians, but so are the feminists, wokers and transgenderists in their own ways. Nothing about those movements, so far, leaves me with any reason for optimism.
My comment, however, was about how human families have, to our knowledge, functioned in the knowable past–knowable, that is, to the extent that historians do their jobs instead of promoting their favorite ideologies. And the same applies to anthropologists and psychologists. We do have information at our disposal, more than ever before. I’d say that we ignore it at our peril.
P.S. I foolishly omitted one word in my earlier comment. I referred to the “most basic function of fathers.” I should have referred more specifically to their psychological functions. I mention this here, because the state has already replaced fathers when it comes to practical functions such as providing resources and protection. This situation, too, gives me no reason for optimism. Apart from anything else, it has led to the increasing independence of women but also to the increasing obsolescence of men. The experiment will not, I think, end well. Judging from historical and cross-cultural evidence, once again, I’d say that humans, as a social species, are far more likely to flourish by fostering inter-dependence than by fostering sexual (or any other kind of) polarization.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

A thorough and insightful response. However, i can’t agree that i’m trivialising the interaction of culture with nature; rather the opposite. We have just a few thousand years of recorded history by which to weigh the roles of human fathers and mothers, against a backdrop not only of many hundreds of thousands of years when circumstances may well have been different but also the examples provided by other species where there is no fixed element of those qualities that you attribute to respective parents. The seminal insight would be that each species varies in its parental roles according to the circumstances that would provide for the greater chance of offspring thriving to reproduce the genes of the parents in succeeding generations.
The question that faces us now, therefore, is whether the succession of genes is being enhanced or hindered by prevailing cultural mores. It’s far from settled, and this discussion is (in my opinion) primarily about whether there are settled features, which you seem to imply, or not.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“. . .brings Commandments into disrepute if. . .”

No, it is clear that God’s Fifth Commandment is to honor one’s parents, even if they are abusive, etc. (Though I understand many people would view this as “difficult,” as if Christianity had anything to do with evading difficulties.)

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“I’d question the premise that the distinctive roles you cite are more than constructs arising from socio-economic conditions which required them, and which may no longer apply.”
I’d never say that all parents are effective, let alone that all people are moral paragons. We watch the news every day in horror, wondering how people can act as they do but realizing that we can expect more of this horror as society fragments and collapses around us. Of interest to me here is the cultural ideal that every healthy society tries to implement and that parents strive to realize.
Also, there’s nothing trivial (which is what you imply) about the ways in which culture interacts with nature to generate the matrix in which we live. It’s true, though, that, as humans, we live in a state of flux and must adapt to changing circumstances. I just don’t think that some current adaptations, such as “alternative families,” are actually as successful as some earlier ones.
But no, Steve, “role modeling” is not at all what I had in mind. Even if I were to argue that children must all learn some assigned “gender role” and perform it correctly—and I don’t argue that—I still wouldn’t argue that only fathers could teach that script to their sons and only mothers to their daughters. It’s probably easier for fathers to “perform” a standard version of masculinity and mothers to “perform” a standard version of femininity, instead of the reverse, but I wasn’t referring to that theatrical paradigm in my earlier comment. Rather, I was referring to the distinctive relational messages that fathers and mothers offer their children.
In the case of mothers, their most basic psychological function within family life has always boiled down, ultimately, to providing children with unconditional love. Not all mothers are equally effective in communicating and evoking that bond, it’s true, but all mothers are equipped by nature with the ability to feed infants and, at least to some extent (assuming cultural encouragement), with the willingness to interact emotionally with them. In effect, mothers tell their young children (both sons and daughters), “I’ll always love you, no matter what becomes of you.” This is one of two sources of self-confidence, which is necessary for children to become mature adults.
In the case of fathers, their most basic function within family life has always boiled down to providing their children with earned respect, the other source of self-confidence. This function does not begin immediately for fathers, when their children are newborns or toddlers. It begins gradually and later, when they prepare to leave home and enter the larger community. In effect, fathers tell their somewhat older children (both sons and daughters),”I’ll respect you if you learn to live honorably and effectively in our community.” This has nothing to do with emotion, although it doesn’t preclude emotional attachment. Fathers can, and usually do, love their children. But love, per se, is not their most important contribution. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily produce emotional gratification for fathers, at least not until their children are mature. In this way, fathers and mothers do not have the same function and are therefore not interchangeable.
It’s true, in theory, that mothers and fathers could switch functions, with mothers providing earned respect and fathers providing unconditional love. But that could present at least two serious problems that few experts or activists are willing to consider. I doubt that many mothers are ready even now to distance themselves enough from their children to command earned respect—not even if they are the ones, not the fathers, who work beyond the home. Maybe cultural intervention or training would eventually prepare them to do so, maybe not. The results of current experiments in social engineering, such as abandoning any gender system at all, are not yet in. Second, especially for single parents, I doubt that either mothers or fathers would help children in this fundamental way by giving them double messages. Coming from the same parent, after all, unconditional love conflicts with earned respect. 

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“. . .brings Commandments into disrepute if. . .”

No, it is clear that God’s Fifth Commandment is to honor one’s parents, even if they are abusive, etc. (Though I understand many people would view this as “difficult,” as if Christianity had anything to do with evading difficulties.)

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Enthusiastic agreement.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

It certainly can and should be taken seriously, but i’d question the premise that the distinctive roles you cite are more than constructs arising from socio-economic conditions which required them, and which may no longer apply.

In terms of role models, i’d argue that just as many poor role models exist as positive ones. The number of people i’ve met who found one, other or both parents insufferable at least equals those who didn’t.

One of the commandments: Honour thy father and thy mother, brings commandments into disrepute if, for instance, parents are abusive, belittling, indolent, addicted, etc.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
1 year ago

I agree with you. And I say that as a single mother. We need to admit the truth. Although single parenthood can be done well, it is not as good a way of raising children as a committed and loving marriage. Children – sons in particular – need fathers. Mine undoubtedly suffered from not having one in his life. Of course a committed, loving marriage is vanishingly rare these days. When I look at my son’s generation, most seem to be separated, divorced, or wishing they were. Perhaps this starts with people recognising that there is no perfect world and no perfect relationship and that, once you have children, their welfare trumps your own and compromises must be made. Young people would do well to listen to JBP on the subject.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

Daughters also need fathers, as any stripper will tell you. (They phrase it as having “daddy issues.”) I have no moral beef with stripping, but there seems to be a very high correlation between it and paternal absence.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

Daughters also need fathers, as any stripper will tell you. (They phrase it as having “daddy issues.”) I have no moral beef with stripping, but there seems to be a very high correlation between it and paternal absence.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

I very much agree with your final paragraph. In this I find Stock to be a little unfair as I think that the people she criticises at NatCon had in mind something practical like changing the tax laws, so as to give advantage to those people who do decide to form a family unit, but without advocating any negativity towards those who do not. There is nothing wrong with society expressing the view, through its tax laws for example, that this is the way we prefer social matters to be conducted, but you are still able to ignore that. Her view was in danger of demanding maximum liberality on the basis that any departure from liberality threatened a return to 1950s culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Rees
George Venning
George Venning
1 year ago

“I don’t believe that suggesting … says anything about other families.”
And perhaps it doesn’t but, how to put this gently… but, apparently, you do because just two paras later, there you are saying that a forty-something woman opting to have a child on her own is so arrogant that she couldn’t possibly bring up “a well-balanced child.”

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

“People end up single parents for many reasons and I don’t believe they should be looked down on.”
I disagree, Jonathan. Among those who end up as single parents, after all, are those who do so by choice. Some are upper-middle-class women who believe that they have some “right” to children. Single mothers by choice, in fact, is their movement (see https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org/). Others are lower-class women who can get more financial help from the government than they can from unemployed husbands or boyfriends. Still others are teenage girls, who want someone (a child) to love them unconditionally but are not ready for marriage.
Along with single mothers by choice, of course, are single mothers by default (due to being separated, divorced, abandoned or widowed). These women do deserve respect and help–but not to the point of trivializing or relativizing marriage as a result. There’s a huge difference between a social norm (which is why every society must actively promote marriage in the interest of children by conferring status or even special benefits on married couples) and exceptions to the norm (which are acceptable in some circumstances, and deserving of compassion but not of normative status).
Support for single parenthood, straight or gay, has taken on a political life of its own in the context of ideologies that place the highest value on the rights of adults, not children. It might make no difference if children did not actually need at least one parent of each sex (as distinct from no mother or no father but also from two mothers or two fathers). But children do need both mothers and fathers, because mothers and fathers (like women and men in general) are not interchangeable. Mothers and fathers have distinctive functions within the family. I can’t explain all of that here and now, but my point of view has support from studies and is at least worth taking seriously.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
1 year ago

I agree with you. And I say that as a single mother. We need to admit the truth. Although single parenthood can be done well, it is not as good a way of raising children as a committed and loving marriage. Children – sons in particular – need fathers. Mine undoubtedly suffered from not having one in his life. Of course a committed, loving marriage is vanishingly rare these days. When I look at my son’s generation, most seem to be separated, divorced, or wishing they were. Perhaps this starts with people recognising that there is no perfect world and no perfect relationship and that, once you have children, their welfare trumps your own and compromises must be made. Young people would do well to listen to JBP on the subject.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

I very much agree with your final paragraph. In this I find Stock to be a little unfair as I think that the people she criticises at NatCon had in mind something practical like changing the tax laws, so as to give advantage to those people who do decide to form a family unit, but without advocating any negativity towards those who do not. There is nothing wrong with society expressing the view, through its tax laws for example, that this is the way we prefer social matters to be conducted, but you are still able to ignore that. Her view was in danger of demanding maximum liberality on the basis that any departure from liberality threatened a return to 1950s culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Rees
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Of Ms Stock was a full paid up member

John Tangney
John Tangney
1 year ago

Cultural Marxism also seems like an apt term when you consider that today’s forms of it ramified out of a 1980s movement to collapse the difference between high and low culture by tenured radicals steeped in Marxism who were in the process of capitulating meekly to the marketization of their institutions, knowing they’d be retired before its effects were suffered by their students’ students. They tacitly avoided risking their campus lifestyles by engaging in politics that might have antagonized their paymasters by pivoting to canon politics i.e.distorting cultural history to make it representative of the contemporary identity political landscape. This was a leveling project that was deeply informed by Marxism even if it was no longer the old Marxism and we can accurately call it such in the same way that we call early forms of Christianity Neoplatonic even though Neoplatonism was originally a pagan phenomenon.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tangney
j watson
j watson
1 year ago

At best you are demonstrating some ignorance on the origins of Cultural Marxism as a phrase and label. It comes from far right antisemitic conspiracy theory as far back as the 1930s particularly used by Far Right propagandists in the lead up to WW2 and beyond. Anyone with an ounce of awareness would be aware of that history and thus find more appropriate descriptor.
In line with the Author’s theme, there is nothing wrong in voicing differences of opinion and potential policy responses on how society has or may develop. There is much we need to debate. When you spill over into racial memes though you pull back the veil on your own ignorance or worse.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

I agree. I don’t believe that suggesting that those heterosexual couples who wish to have children should probably be married and stay together unless experiencing abuse says anything about other families.

People end up single parents for many reasons and I don’t believe they should be looked down on. Gay couples too who adopt or otherwise have children should be perfectly capable of bringing up children.

There was a story in the UK recently about a single forty something woman, wealthy, who thought it was reasonable for her to have a child on her own with a father being around. She was fed up with men. I found her attitude incredibly arrogant and find it impossible to believe that such a person could bring up a well balanced child.

I think we can be comfortable with nontraditional families and still encourage people to get married before having children and to stay married.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Of Ms Stock was a full paid up member

John Tangney
John Tangney
1 year ago

Cultural Marxism also seems like an apt term when you consider that today’s forms of it ramified out of a 1980s movement to collapse the difference between high and low culture by tenured radicals steeped in Marxism who were in the process of capitulating meekly to the marketization of their institutions, knowing they’d be retired before its effects were suffered by their students’ students. They tacitly avoided risking their campus lifestyles by engaging in politics that might have antagonized their paymasters by pivoting to canon politics i.e.distorting cultural history to make it representative of the contemporary identity political landscape. This was a leveling project that was deeply informed by Marxism even if it was no longer the old Marxism and we can accurately call it such in the same way that we call early forms of Christianity Neoplatonic even though Neoplatonism was originally a pagan phenomenon.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tangney
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
1 year ago

I admire the writer for her resistance to Wokery. But she is wrong about glossing over Cultural Marxism. Coined essentially by Antonio Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks it espouses exactly what the Left has achieved today. Destroying the institutions which were the bedrock of classical Liberal societies- the heterosexual family, religious faith, communities based on charity and service etc
What is wrong with espousing these values?
It is Cultural Marxism which arose from American campuses in the 1960s as a mass movement within academia which destroyed the social cohesion of Western societies in particular.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

I really do enjoy Kathleen’s essays and think this one absolutely hits the nail on the head.

The march through the institutions has happened. Strategically, any fight back starts from a very weak position when all the commanding heights are held by the enemy.

Nevertheless there is a significant voting constituency that is not happy with the path we’re on and democracy is not yet entirely dead. BUT, any politician wanting to energise that constituency has to recognise it has changed considerably from the 1950’s. Anti wokeism must incorporate and celebrate some of the gains in tolerance that it’s progressive predecessors established.

What Kathleen is accusing the conference of is just political naïveté, and she’s right.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The first rule of politics: take the citizenry as it is, not as you would want it to be. The English Right too often lapses into nostalgia for an imagined homogenous, hierarchical society of the 1950’s, but that world has long gone (if it ever existed).

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Thank you that needed to be said.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Thank you that needed to be said.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Correct. Politicians of both left and right are floundering, unable correctly to identify diagnose and label these new cultural forces sweeping through society. There is a mind virus, a pathological hysteria embedded now in each and every one of us, all about discrimination and equality. It has – like the Wuhan virus – escaped the Lab of Blairite worthy Progressive Intentions. Fed by a toxic bonfire which includes the obsession with individual entitlement (the legacy of Human Rights), American CRT voodoo, our addiction to social media, Elite London Groupthink, a debased state media and legal system captured by evangelicals for this credo, and hey presto…a state driven post 2010 equality mania has gone loco; it has made whites terrible, our history toxic and enterprise/wealth creation a near criminal act. Tragically, this credo is all the hollowed out Left have left as a guiding principle. The centre and right know they must DO something to resist it. But they are NOT understanding the nature of the beast. References to Karl Marx and wokery do not come close!!!

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

But are her claims of 1.5 mln people not being heterosexual in uk credible?
I live in London and know only few gey and few lesbian people among many thousands I have come across over the years.
I would be surprised if real figure was even quarter of what she claims.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

The figure is approx 2% of the U.K. population, which accords with most objective estimates. Even Stonewall only claim between 7&10%

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yep. 2% x 70 million people = 1.4 million.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yep. 2% x 70 million people = 1.4 million.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

The figure is approx 2% of the U.K. population, which accords with most objective estimates. Even Stonewall only claim between 7&10%

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“Anti wokeism must incorporate and celebrate some of the gains in tolerance that it’s progressive predecessors established”

Agreed, which is precisely why we should not tolerate the woke scum.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The first rule of politics: take the citizenry as it is, not as you would want it to be. The English Right too often lapses into nostalgia for an imagined homogenous, hierarchical society of the 1950’s, but that world has long gone (if it ever existed).

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Correct. Politicians of both left and right are floundering, unable correctly to identify diagnose and label these new cultural forces sweeping through society. There is a mind virus, a pathological hysteria embedded now in each and every one of us, all about discrimination and equality. It has – like the Wuhan virus – escaped the Lab of Blairite worthy Progressive Intentions. Fed by a toxic bonfire which includes the obsession with individual entitlement (the legacy of Human Rights), American CRT voodoo, our addiction to social media, Elite London Groupthink, a debased state media and legal system captured by evangelicals for this credo, and hey presto…a state driven post 2010 equality mania has gone loco; it has made whites terrible, our history toxic and enterprise/wealth creation a near criminal act. Tragically, this credo is all the hollowed out Left have left as a guiding principle. The centre and right know they must DO something to resist it. But they are NOT understanding the nature of the beast. References to Karl Marx and wokery do not come close!!!

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

But are her claims of 1.5 mln people not being heterosexual in uk credible?
I live in London and know only few gey and few lesbian people among many thousands I have come across over the years.
I would be surprised if real figure was even quarter of what she claims.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“Anti wokeism must incorporate and celebrate some of the gains in tolerance that it’s progressive predecessors established”

Agreed, which is precisely why we should not tolerate the woke scum.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

I really do enjoy Kathleen’s essays and think this one absolutely hits the nail on the head.

The march through the institutions has happened. Strategically, any fight back starts from a very weak position when all the commanding heights are held by the enemy.

Nevertheless there is a significant voting constituency that is not happy with the path we’re on and democracy is not yet entirely dead. BUT, any politician wanting to energise that constituency has to recognise it has changed considerably from the 1950’s. Anti wokeism must incorporate and celebrate some of the gains in tolerance that it’s progressive predecessors established.

What Kathleen is accusing the conference of is just political naïveté, and she’s right.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I knew an essay like this would come quickly. “In valorising the traditional nuclear family, post-liberals need to avoid stigmatising those who aren’t in one”. Wrong. The only meaningful way to stop the scourge of single motherhood with all its associated impact on crime rates, welfare spending etc. is to tackle it at the source, and that means a return to a culture of shame. It may be too late for the millions of broken families that suffered under our permissive society, but it can be redressed if we start now to rebuild morality.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

I upvoted this because although it isn’t nice, it happens to be true. Shame and stigma work. Those who rapidly race to use racist/sexist/homophobe against their opponents know and happily wield the power of stigma. There will always be some kind of socially-enforced stigma and it is just a matter of whose stigma is enforced.

Last edited 1 year ago by Derek Smith
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Actually shame really doesn’t work. In fact shame probably causes quite a few problems. Many people think shame works like this, but a fair bit of research has been done with offenders and, conversely, high levels of shame are far more associated with reoffending and addiction.
Perhaps the confusion is in conflating shame and guilt, but there is a significant difference. Guilt is absolutely a positive driver of changes in behaviour; it is the sense of having done something bad and the motivation to therefore change things to make something right or make amends.
Shame, on the other hand, produces no motivation to change; it is the incredibly painful sense of the self being bad, possibly unloveable or unacceptable. Rather than a focus on behaviours that can be changed, the focus is on something internal. It tends to drive isolation and avoidance. There is significant evidence that shame is actually associated with reduced accountability and reduced likelihood of change. It is far more likely to lead to defensiveness and unhealthy coping mechanisms like addiction to try to avoid it rather than changing behaviour.
Shame and stigma only make things worse.

Last edited 1 year ago by UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Actually shame really doesn’t work. In fact shame probably causes quite a few problems. Many people think shame works like this, but a fair bit of research has been done with offenders and, conversely, high levels of shame are far more associated with reoffending and addiction.
Perhaps the confusion is in conflating shame and guilt, but there is a significant difference. Guilt is absolutely a positive driver of changes in behaviour; it is the sense of having done something bad and the motivation to therefore change things to make something right or make amends.
Shame, on the other hand, produces no motivation to change; it is the incredibly painful sense of the self being bad, possibly unloveable or unacceptable. Rather than a focus on behaviours that can be changed, the focus is on something internal. It tends to drive isolation and avoidance. There is significant evidence that shame is actually associated with reduced accountability and reduced likelihood of change. It is far more likely to lead to defensiveness and unhealthy coping mechanisms like addiction to try to avoid it rather than changing behaviour.
Shame and stigma only make things worse.

Last edited 1 year ago by UnHerd Reader
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Rather, shame on you for such a suggestion. Trying to shoehorn people into the type of nice homely vision you have for them is redolent of nothing but prejudice.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Shouldn’t you be reading the Guardian?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

I wouldn’t wipe my derriere with it, since you ask; but the appeal to “morality” has no more meaning than whatever each society chooses it to mean, hence my considered response.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

I wouldn’t wipe my derriere with it, since you ask; but the appeal to “morality” has no more meaning than whatever each society chooses it to mean, hence my considered response.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Shouldn’t you be reading the Guardian?

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Unsurprisingly nothing about the father and a focus on the mother. Is this just clumsy or showing a particular prejudice against the female parent?
Benefit to the child of the ‘shame’?
Stay in an abusive relationship regardless? Not all separations are due to this of course, but your point is not caveated.
There is a debate about family break-up, it’s impact and what society might be able to do to help, albeit there was never some rose-tinted past either.
Your referencing only the mother though probably displays a sub-conscious view of where the blame lies but happy for you to explain otherwise.

Belinda Shaw
Belinda Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Indeed, see my comment on the appalling treatment of unmarried mothers in the past. I think children flourish with two parents, but we can support one loving parent, for the sake of the child.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Is the comment as clear on who is to be shamed as you make it out to be?

I assumed the poster meant shaming the men: for taking advantage of so-called feminism, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution to fornicate freely, and abandon fatherhood roles.

Belinda Shaw
Belinda Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Indeed, see my comment on the appalling treatment of unmarried mothers in the past. I think children flourish with two parents, but we can support one loving parent, for the sake of the child.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Is the comment as clear on who is to be shamed as you make it out to be?

I assumed the poster meant shaming the men: for taking advantage of so-called feminism, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution to fornicate freely, and abandon fatherhood roles.

Simon Bonini
Simon Bonini
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

When you say “culture of shame2 what I am supposed to do grumble when i see a single mother ? Shout out “Where’s your husband?”. What does your suggestion translate to?

Terence Davis
Terence Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Bonini

It’s too late by then; the damage had been done 20 years earlier.

Terence Davis
Terence Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Bonini

It’s too late by then; the damage had been done 20 years earlier.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Especially as applied to deadbeat fathers who are shirking their responsibilities. Any man who fathers a child and walks away from his duty to provide is a scumbag who should have his dole cut and his wages docked.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

And what about the mothers who drive those fathers away?
Divorce stats show it is usually the mothers. They’ve got the economic independence now, and that’s how they choose to use it.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I think you are just further demonstrating the innate anti-female prejudice I pulled RW up about above, but also possibly giving an example why more women than men sue for divorce.
All the evidence shows that divorce is more costly for women – they have a disproportionate amount of the on-going childcare and usually had careers compromised too. Many of a certain age will not have the pension the male might have. Yet they chose to leave anyway. That’s telling us something about the degree of unhappiness and potential behaviour of some Men. It is though difficult to over-generalise. Each will have it’s own story and heartache. But to pin family break up on Women and demonise single mothers is malign.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I think you are just further demonstrating the innate anti-female prejudice I pulled RW up about above, but also possibly giving an example why more women than men sue for divorce.
All the evidence shows that divorce is more costly for women – they have a disproportionate amount of the on-going childcare and usually had careers compromised too. Many of a certain age will not have the pension the male might have. Yet they chose to leave anyway. That’s telling us something about the degree of unhappiness and potential behaviour of some Men. It is though difficult to over-generalise. Each will have it’s own story and heartache. But to pin family break up on Women and demonise single mothers is malign.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

And what about the mothers who drive those fathers away?
Divorce stats show it is usually the mothers. They’ve got the economic independence now, and that’s how they choose to use it.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Shame at not working and expecting the state to keep you and your children; yes, bring it on. Shame at being a self supporting adult who makes choices about relationships and children that are your business and no one else’s; definitely not.
The problem with single mothers is not their singleness. It is normal in other mammalian species for the young to be brought up by female family groups. Human males invented and institutionalised marriage, including in religion, to make themselves relevant. The problem for single mothers is their lack of work, childcare and, therefore, money.
What men like you can’t cope with is that traditional marriage has had its day. It’s over and you are redundant. The solution to child poverty is not men; it is empowering women to live in female groups, either related or otherwise, and sharing the responsibility of working, domestic tasks and childcare. Men can just provide the occasional semen donation.

Mary Belgrave
Mary Belgrave
1 year ago

I brought my son and daughter up on my own in the 70’s. After I split from their father they had no further meaningful contact with him. I wished it had been otherwise. Having a father who did nothing for them has definitely shaped their lives in some long lasting negative ways.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Mary Belgrave

Was it too easy to split from their father? Sounds like an instance of the guardrails being removed and you all regretting that they had been.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Mary Belgrave

Was it too easy to split from their father? Sounds like an instance of the guardrails being removed and you all regretting that they had been.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago

This system relies on the state to tax workers (mainly men) to provide the funds. As a man I don’t find myself very motivated to earn the money to keep it going. Videogames and porn it is.

Last edited 1 year ago by Christian Moon
Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago

Good lord. Dystopian AF

Mary Belgrave
Mary Belgrave
1 year ago

I brought my son and daughter up on my own in the 70’s. After I split from their father they had no further meaningful contact with him. I wished it had been otherwise. Having a father who did nothing for them has definitely shaped their lives in some long lasting negative ways.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago

This system relies on the state to tax workers (mainly men) to provide the funds. As a man I don’t find myself very motivated to earn the money to keep it going. Videogames and porn it is.

Last edited 1 year ago by Christian Moon
Paige M
Paige M
1 year ago

Good lord. Dystopian AF

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

I upvoted this because although it isn’t nice, it happens to be true. Shame and stigma work. Those who rapidly race to use racist/sexist/homophobe against their opponents know and happily wield the power of stigma. There will always be some kind of socially-enforced stigma and it is just a matter of whose stigma is enforced.

Last edited 1 year ago by Derek Smith
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Rather, shame on you for such a suggestion. Trying to shoehorn people into the type of nice homely vision you have for them is redolent of nothing but prejudice.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Unsurprisingly nothing about the father and a focus on the mother. Is this just clumsy or showing a particular prejudice against the female parent?
Benefit to the child of the ‘shame’?
Stay in an abusive relationship regardless? Not all separations are due to this of course, but your point is not caveated.
There is a debate about family break-up, it’s impact and what society might be able to do to help, albeit there was never some rose-tinted past either.
Your referencing only the mother though probably displays a sub-conscious view of where the blame lies but happy for you to explain otherwise.

Simon Bonini
Simon Bonini
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

When you say “culture of shame2 what I am supposed to do grumble when i see a single mother ? Shout out “Where’s your husband?”. What does your suggestion translate to?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Especially as applied to deadbeat fathers who are shirking their responsibilities. Any man who fathers a child and walks away from his duty to provide is a scumbag who should have his dole cut and his wages docked.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Shame at not working and expecting the state to keep you and your children; yes, bring it on. Shame at being a self supporting adult who makes choices about relationships and children that are your business and no one else’s; definitely not.
The problem with single mothers is not their singleness. It is normal in other mammalian species for the young to be brought up by female family groups. Human males invented and institutionalised marriage, including in religion, to make themselves relevant. The problem for single mothers is their lack of work, childcare and, therefore, money.
What men like you can’t cope with is that traditional marriage has had its day. It’s over and you are redundant. The solution to child poverty is not men; it is empowering women to live in female groups, either related or otherwise, and sharing the responsibility of working, domestic tasks and childcare. Men can just provide the occasional semen donation.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I knew an essay like this would come quickly. “In valorising the traditional nuclear family, post-liberals need to avoid stigmatising those who aren’t in one”. Wrong. The only meaningful way to stop the scourge of single motherhood with all its associated impact on crime rates, welfare spending etc. is to tackle it at the source, and that means a return to a culture of shame. It may be too late for the millions of broken families that suffered under our permissive society, but it can be redressed if we start now to rebuild morality.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Let’s just say that Kathleen Stock lives in a different world from the NatCon folks.
But since NatCon is a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation let us just remember Burke’s great line:
“[Society is] A partnership between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”
I wonder what he means by that.

James Anthony Seyforth
James Anthony Seyforth
1 year ago

I think he means: the ideas and institutions of the dead must be left open to us in a way that can drive the change and improvement of those alive in the present, and the unborn should be sworn an ‘oath of allegiance’ by the living that their lives won’t be made unfathomably more difficult by destroying or distorting what useful order, expediency and structure is available and has come before.

That’s fundamentally what conservatism really means, the conservation of some basic values and operational human enterprises that make life less about suffering and more about flourishing.

James Anthony Seyforth
James Anthony Seyforth
1 year ago

It’s like a bass line and melody in classical music, the bass line can often repeat over and over [basic values] but the melody changes over the top of it [change itself]… We entertain change and continuity simultaneously and that spans across time greater than the immediate present.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

Stock’s caution against needlessly pricking the sensibilities of people socialized under the Thatcher, Blair and Cameron regimes seems quintessentially Burkean to me

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

We are the heirs of an immutable past and become the immutable past to future generations. So don’t f**ck with the present.

James Anthony Seyforth
James Anthony Seyforth
1 year ago

I think he means: the ideas and institutions of the dead must be left open to us in a way that can drive the change and improvement of those alive in the present, and the unborn should be sworn an ‘oath of allegiance’ by the living that their lives won’t be made unfathomably more difficult by destroying or distorting what useful order, expediency and structure is available and has come before.

That’s fundamentally what conservatism really means, the conservation of some basic values and operational human enterprises that make life less about suffering and more about flourishing.

James Anthony Seyforth
James Anthony Seyforth
1 year ago

It’s like a bass line and melody in classical music, the bass line can often repeat over and over [basic values] but the melody changes over the top of it [change itself]… We entertain change and continuity simultaneously and that spans across time greater than the immediate present.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

Stock’s caution against needlessly pricking the sensibilities of people socialized under the Thatcher, Blair and Cameron regimes seems quintessentially Burkean to me

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

We are the heirs of an immutable past and become the immutable past to future generations. So don’t f**ck with the present.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Let’s just say that Kathleen Stock lives in a different world from the NatCon folks.
But since NatCon is a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation let us just remember Burke’s great line:
“[Society is] A partnership between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”
I wonder what he means by that.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Addressing housing availability and affordability is the only worthwhile government intervention that can help the shrinking fertility rate. I wasn’t there, but I had read that some speakers addressed this. I don’t think that the notion that children, especially males, raised in heterosexual two-parent families generally do better is necessarily an anti-gay message. Just not very pro-gay.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

Well said on both points.
By the way, videos of all the speakers are available on the conference’s website. I am going to work my way through them over the next few weeks.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Perhaps it’s as broad as being able to afford a family without both parents having to work f/t and with an affordable stable place of residence. Cost of living therefore makes a difference.
Of course what we see as the ‘norm’ now in things a family can afford different than in times past, but relativity does influence decision. I agree some did mention Housing but of course some had also been in charge last 13yrs and strangely seem to forget that as if they were commenting on someone else.
As regards children, esp males do better in 2-parent Hetero families, feels intuitive doesn’t it but I suspect insufficient data yet to show any difference on Gay couples, who will have course have had to make an explicit decision to start a family as opposed to it happening by accident. In time I guess we’ll see a bit more.

John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Parents at the school gates worry about the cost of childcare, their kids needing new shoes, maybe the dilapidated state of the school itself or the turnover of teaching staff not ‘cultural Marxism’, and both parents work because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to afford those shoes, not because they ‘hate Western values’.

Politicians who recognise those prosaic truths and are prepared to do the hard yards involved in delivering in line with real world aspirations, rather than dive into ideological rabbit holes, are the ones who will prosper in the long run.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Nobody ever suggested for a moment that they do hate western values. The haters of western values are those who structured society as it is through tax and other means.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Nobody ever suggested for a moment that they do hate western values. The haters of western values are those who structured society as it is through tax and other means.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

A single mother in the UK gets the median wage (including accommodation) just as long as she is not married or cohabiting with the father of her children.
Incentives matter.