Family and the Politics of Moderation: Private Life, Public Goods and the Rebirth of Social Individualism

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A. Sue Weisler

Author: Lauren Hall, College of Liberal Arts

Assistant professor of political science Lauren Hall has long been interested in how political views and values are formed and sustained. Her latest book, Family and the Politics of Moderation, is the manifestation of three years of research on this topic and argues that the family, among other institutions, has great influence on societal values and political views and goals and emerges as a common element in the dialectic between individual and community.

“The family is the root of the social individualism that resists political extremism from either side,” said Hall. “But what has only been hinted at in political thought is how the family is peculiarly situated between individual self-interest and collective well-being. The history of political thought, viewed through the lens of the family, resembles a precariously balanced seesaw, swinging between the extremes of collectivism and individualism.”

Hall’s research points to churches, religious groups, local governments and social organizations that hold the power to shift polarized political and cultural views but maintains her stance that family remains an integral pillar of society.

“Modern debates about education; health care; care of the elderly, mentally ill and disabled; reproductive rights; marriage laws; and welfare reform are all made more polarized, more vicious, and less likely to find compromise when the institution at the center of those debates, the family, is weakened or broken.

“This book focuses on how the family acts as a fulcrum, what happens when it weakens or fails, and how political theories of all kinds have tried to manipulate it, weaken it, support it or destroy it to fit their peculiar political ends.”

Chapters in the book focus on novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, statesman Edmund Burke and social commentator Montesquieu, and contemporary family forms.

In addition to support from her own family, Hall credits funding from the Paul and Francena Miller Research Fellowship program in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts for the completion of her book.