Familism After World War Ii
The political, economic, and psychological impacts of the family were criticized in the 1930s and especially after World War II—for example, in the description of the authoritarian character by Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, and Theodor W. Adorno. The principle of equality in modem societies did not modify the family. The internal structure of family still maintained a framework, based on the principle of authority and acceptance of its norms. Democratic and industrialized societies, focusing on the individual and his or her social achievements, collided with the traditional and hierarchical structure of the family.
The criticism of the family as a closed and traditional structure appears in three different contexts: psychology, sociology, and politics. These three contexts are represented by the German criticisms of the family, Edward C. Banfield's concept of amoral familism, and Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba's concept of civic culture.
The German criticism of family. Fromm, Reich, and, later, Adorno (1950), in The Authoritarian Personality, criticized the impact that the traditional family has on the social and political attitudes of individuals. They argued that the family stimulates the emergence of authoritarian adults, very susceptible to Fascist propaganda. On the other hand, in North America, Kurt Lewin (1948) developed group dynamics as a way to develop democratic attitudes in the family and in social groups to counteract the possible influences of the growing European authoritarianism.
Amoral familism. Banfield employs the concept of amoral familism in his book, The Moral Basis to Backward Society (1958), to describe a cultural pattern characterized by the absence of moral obligations to anyone who does not belong to the family group, together with a strong distrust toward social and political institutions. Banfield detected this phenomenon in a little community in southern Italy, as a contrary phenomenon to events in northern Italy. Amoral familism takes place when at least two elements combine: scarce economic development and ongoing foreign dominance. This situation reinforces social bonds and cooperation bonds exclusively among relatives. In The Unheavenly City (1970), Banfield applied his thesis of poverty's cultural bases to North American industrialized cities, where excluded and impoverished subcultures exist. From this point of view, the idea that economic development is rooted in cultural factors emerges again, emphasizing mainly the negative presence of basic groups in the social bonds of the society. This concept of the amoral familism was used later by Rafael López-Pintor and José Ignacio Ortega (1982) in the studies they carried out between 1968 and 1980 with the Spanish population.
The civic culture. The civic culture represents a postwar concern to study the conditions that favor the stability of democratic systems. The important decline of political participation—for example, in voting behavior—accompanied by high levels of distrust and political inefficiency justifies this concern. Almond and Verba in The Civic Culture (1963) assumed that interpersonal trust is a basic condition, although not the only one, for the development of secondary associations required for political participation. Interpersonal trust eliminates the barriers of the primary group, establishing bonds and duties with those who are different from one's own group. Interpersonal trust is the opposite of familism, which only establishes bonds of loyalty and cooperation inside the family group. Verba in The Civic Culture Revisited (1980) highlights the importance of family's democratization for the development of social and political attitudes that are necessary for a democratic culture.
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