What is the Familialism Ideology?

Proponents of familialism prioritize the traditional nuclear family.
Proponents of familialism prioritize the traditional nuclear family.

Also known as familism, familialism is a belief system that prioritizes family. Within this system, there is a presumption that the family will take care of its own members and not pass that assignment on to the government. In the western society, the family is typically viewed as a single unit that is made up of one father, one mother, and their child or children (otherwise known as a nuclear family). This unit is the primary ordering of an operational civilization and society in the west. The nuclear family then forms the base for an extended family that consists of different generations. However, the western familialism is usually against other forms of families and social life that have come up in the modern world such as single parents and those in the LGBTQ community.

Western Familism

Admittedly, familialism has a lot of critics who have given this ideology several names such as reactionary, conservative, and even destructive. The idea that the family is a priority in relation to the politics of state can be traced all the way back to the Socratic-Platonic opinion of microcosm and macrocosm. This idea is especially true when it comes to monarchies. Monarchs expect their subjects to be respectful of the crown and the person wearing the crown in the same way that a patriarchal family operates. This form of thinking promotes dictatorial rule since the father makes all the rules and decisions and they have to be followed without any form of dissent.

In modern times, the family is still an important thing. Modern scholars such as Louis de Bonald have likened the family as a minuscule nation with the father as the leader, the mother occupying the position of a minister, and the children are subjects. The father is the strong one while the child is the weak one. This difference in character and power is mediated by the mother. According to Bonald, divorce is the first phase of discord in the state. The moment the highest authority has a falling out with the medium, then everything is thrown into chaos.

Criticism of Western Familialism

In practice, some critics have stated that this form of familialism does not capture the full complexity of the family as a social unit. In modern periods, it is impossible to guarantee that the man will be getting sufficient wages to cater for the entire family. In fact, in many cases the mother is the breadwinner of the family.

Western familialism also fails to recognize the LGBTQ community as a social unit. As such, the LGBTQ community has been harsh on this ideology and has even defined western familialism as a rigid and conservative ideology promoted by individuals who ignore all evidence around them.

Other criticisms have come from the world of psychiatry. Basically, the argument is that this system usually absolves the parents and puts all the blame, should there be any, on the child thus negatively affecting child development. Scholars such as Karl Max have also criticized the ideology by terming it an exploitative system that is harsh on the mother and the children who are considered to be laborers.

Familialism in Politics

In Familialism, responsibility falls on the family for the welfare and economic needs of its members. Interestingly, the term "family values" have been used differently by the Democratic and Republican parties in the US. The Democratic Party refers to "family values" in support of maternity leave, affordable child care, and family planning such as sex education and abortion rights. The Republican Party, on the other hand, generally uses the term "family values" to refer to the traditional role of women in the home, abstinence education, and opposition to same-sex marriage, sexual relations outside of marriage, and legalized abortion. Familialism in politics is also experienced in countries such as Singapore and Russia.


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