Publications

In an ironic twist, American evangelical leaders have joined mainstream acceptance of contraception. Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873-1973, examines how mid-twentieth-century evangelical leaders eventually followed the mainstream into a quiet embrace of contraception, complemented by a brief acceptance of abortion. It places this change within the context of historic Christian teaching regarding birth control, including its origins in the early church and the shift in arguments made by the Reformers of the sixteenth century. The book explores the demographic effects of this transition and asks: did the delay by American evangelicals leaders in accepting birth control have consequences?At the same time, many American evangelicals are rethinking their acceptance of birth control even as a majority of the nation's Roman Catholics are rejecting their church's teaching on the practice. Raised within a religious movement that has almost uniformly condemned abortion, many young evangelicals have begun to ask whether abortion can be neatly isolated from the issue of contraception. A significant number of evangelical families have, over the last several decades, rejected the use of birth control and returned decisions regarding family size to God. Given the growth of the evangelical movement, this pioneering work will have a large-scale impact.

The self-sufficiency and regional outlook of farm life characterized the United States until the Civil War period. With the triumph of the industrial North over the rural South, the expansion of urbanism, and the closing of the frontier, the agrarian sector became an economic and cultural minority. The social benefits of rural life - a sense of independence, commitment to democracy, an abundance of children, stable community life - were threatened. This volume examines the rise of a distinctive agrarian intellectual movement to combat these trends. The New Agrarian Mind, now in paperback, synthesizes the thought of twentieth-century agrarian writers. It weaves together discussions of major representative figures, such as Liberty Hyde Bailey, Carle Zimmerman, and Wendell Berry, with myth-shattering analyses of the movement's cultural diversity, intellectual influence, and ideological complexity. Collectively labeled the New Agrarians to distinguish them from the simpler Jeffersonianism of the nineteenth century, they shared a coherent set of goals that were at once socially conservative and economically radical.

In this paradigm-shifting volume, Allan C. Carlson identifies and examines four distinct cycles of strength or weakness of American family systems. This distinctly American family model includes early and nearly universal marriage, high fertility, close attention to parental responsibilities, complementary gender roles, meaningful intergenerational bonds, and relative stability. Notably, such traits distinguish the “strong” American family system from the “weak” European model (evident since 1700), which involves late marriage, a high proportion of the adult population never married, significantly lower fertility, and more divorces.

The author shows that these cycles of strength and weakness have occurred, until recently, in remarkably consistent fifty-year swings in the United States since colonial times. The book’s chapters are organized around these 50-year time frames. There have been four family cycles of strength and decline since 1630, each one lasting about one hundred years. The author argues that fluctuations within this cyclical model derive from intellectual, economic, cultural, and religious influences, which he explores in detail, and supports with considerable evidence.

Sixty years ago, the UN declared the family the natural and fundamental unit of society. Today no one knows what family means. In response to this unprecedented confusion, The Natural Family: A Manifesto defines the family based on universal human experience. Insisting, without apology, on the reality of the natural family, the manifesto issues a personal call to men and women to rediscover the fundamental source of life, joy, and freedom.

Allan Carlson and Paul Mero frankly admit that those who should have defended marriage were asleep when the full-scale assault on the family began in the 1960s. Even more seriously, most of them joined the assault by eventually adopting the very assumptions philosophical, social, and economic that have almost extinguished the family s traditional legal and social privileges. Family values is now an empty slogan for those with some nostalgic attachment to the family but who have no idea what the family really is.


Carlson and Mero examine why the family is in crisis, the ways in which the natural family is the source of culture and freedom, and what families can do to preserve the most fundamental and wholesome relationship on earth. Assured that human nature is on their side, Carlson and Mero can be both realistic about the family s plight and relentlessly optimistic. The Natural Family: A Manifesto is a road map, especially for the young, for rebuilding a culture of freedom, joy, and love.

"Perhaps the most succinct, thorough, and impressive pro-family argument yet made." —BOOKLIST

Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family Centric Economies - And Why They Disappeared

Freewheeling capitalism or collectivist communism: when it came to political-economic systems, did the twentieth century present any other choice? Does our century? In Third Ways, social historian Allan Carlson tells the story of how different thinkers from Bulgaria to Great Britain created economic systems during the twentieth century that were by intent neither capitalist nor communist. Unlike fascists, these seekers were committed to democracy and pluralism. Unlike liberal capitalists, they refused to treat human labor and relationships as commodities like any other. And unlike communists, they strongly defended private property and the dignity of persons and families. Instead, the builders of these alternative economic systems wanted to protect and renew the “natural” communities of family, village, neighborhood, and parish. They treasured rural culture and family farming and defended traditional sex roles and vital home economies.

 

Carlson’s book takes a fresh look at distributism, the controversial economic project of Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton which focused on broad property ownership and small-scale production; recovers the forgotten thought of Alexander Chayanov, a Russian economist who put forth a theory of “the natural family economy”; discusses the remarkable “third way” policies of peasant-led governments in post–World War I Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania; recounts the dramatic and largely unknown effort by Swedish housewives to defend their homes against radical feminism; relates the iconoclastic ideas of economic historian Karl Polanyi, including his concepts of “the economy without markets” and “the great transformation”; and praises the efforts by European Christian Democrats to build a moral economy on the concept of homo religiosis—“religious man.” 

 

Finally, Carlson’s work explains why these efforts—at times rich in hope and prospects—ultimately failed, often with tragic results. The tale inspires wistful regret over lost opportunities that, if seized, might have spared tens of millions of lives and forestalled or avoided the blights of fascism, Stalinism, socialism, and the advent of the servile state. And yet the book closes with hope, enunciating a set of principles that could be used today for invigorating a “family way” economy compatible with an authentic, healthy, and humane culture of enterprise.

The United States of America is arguably more family-centered than any other Western nation. If polling data can be trusted, the vast majority of Americans--a higher percentage than in any other nation--would rather build society around the family and the church than around the individual. In fact, family and religiously grounded community--not individualism, not capitalism, and not a commitment to polyglot cultural pluralism--have historically provided the basis of America's dominant self-understanding. The American Way, Allan Carlson's episodic history of the last century, shows how the nation's identity has been shaped by carefully constructed images of the American family and the American home. From the surprisingly radical measures put forth by Theodore Roosevelt to encourage stable, large families, to the unifying role of the image of the home in assimilating immigrants, to the maternalist activists who attempted to transform the New Deal and other social welfare programs into vehicles for shoring up traditional family life, Carlson convincingly demonstrates the widespread appeal exerted by the images of family and community. Carlson also shows how a family- and faith-centered discourse anchored Henry Luce's publishing enterprise and even American foreign policy during the Cold War. But many of the reforms and ideas championed by pro-family forces in the twentieth century--family activists' embrace of the federal bureaucracy, Luce's propaganda for suburban living and modern architecture--inadvertently worked to undermine family and community life, writes Carlson. And he shows that the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which effectively made it illegal for employers to offer male breadwinners a living wage, has made it harder for traditional families to make ends meet, further helping to fracture family life. Carlson concludes by arguing that, despite the half-hearted and partially successful attempt of the Reagan administration to again forge a link between the American identity and healthy family life, much bolder measures are necessary if American culture is again to be put on a family- and community-centered footing. Written with grace and precision. The American Way is revisionist history of the highest order.

The Natural Family Where It Belongs emphasizes the vital bond of the natural family to an agrarian-like household, where the “sexual” merges with the “economic” through marriage and child-rearing and where the family is defined by its material efforts. This agrarianism is alive and well in twenty-first century America and Europe. Allan C. Carlson argues that recreating a family-centered economy portends renewal of the true democracy dreamed of by Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.

Critically well received, this paperback edition makes The Natural Family Where It Belongs available to teachers and students of twentieth century American social history and the American family system. It will also be welcomed by practitioners involved with the “new agrarian” revival of the last twenty-five years. As Carlson demonstrates, agrarian households represent the touchstones of a sustainable human future.

Written by one of the most prestigious and respected scholars in the field, The Natural Family Where It Belongs will influence how today’s family life is viewed in America and abroad. 

This book offers a fresh interpretation of American social history, emphasizing the vital role of the family and household autonomy and the joint threats to the family imposed by industrial organization and the state. Carlson shows that the United States - rather than being "born modern" as a progressive consumerist society - was in fact founded as an agrarian society composed of independent households rooted in land, lineage and hierarchy. The book also explains how the social effects of industrialization, particularly the "great divorce" of labor from the home, has been a defining issue in American domestic life, from the 1850s to the present.


The book critically examines five distinct strategies to restore a foundation for family life in industrial society, drawing on the insights of Frederic Leplay, Carle Zimmerman, and G. K. Chesterton and outlines the necessary basis for family life. Family survival depends on the creation of meaningful, "pre-modern" household economies. As the author explains, "both men and women are called home to relearn the deeper meaning of the ancient words, husbandry and housewifery."

This new edition includes an introduction by Allan Carlson, detailing the continued press of the industrial process onto the American family structure since initial publication of the book in 1993.

Fifty years ago, the phrase "family policy" was rarely heard in America. Individual states maintained laws governing marriage, divorce, education, inheritance, and child protection, which regulated the formation, childrearing practices, and dissolution of families. However, these scattered policy issues were not seen as closely related. Until the 1960s, the nuclear family was an institution that was part of the natural life-course expected of most adults. Family meant marriage, children, the establishment of a home, care of the elderly, but perhaps most of all, bonding of the generations.

As early as the 1840s, certain elements of states' policies hinted at a weakening family structure, but not until the 1960s was the family openly attacked. Feminists objected to a male-oriented home economy, demographers encouraged negative population growth, the sexual revolution was on the rise, and religiously grounded morality in public life was challenged in the federal courts. Married couples with children had to shoulder a larger tax burden, further discouraging people from building and maintaining families. Perhaps because family was so central to the founders' lives they found no need to mention it in the Constitution. But today, generational bonds have fractured, while family policy is a paramount public concern.

As Allan Carlson makes clear no nation can progress, or even survive, without a durable family system. Contemporary family policy represents an attempt to counter the negative forces of the last four decades so as to restore the natural family to its necessary place in American life. Fractured Generations' chapters follow the life-course of the human family--marriage; the birth of children; infant and toddler care; schooling; building a home; crafting a durable family economy; and elder care. This is a passionate and well-reasoned appeal for a return to the institution that is the last best hope for America's future: the family.

This devastating account of the work of Gunnar and Alva Myrdal is a monumental case study in the uses and abuses of social science. It portrays how these two young scholars used the power of ideas to help engineer a new domestic order in Sweden. The book focuses on the Myrdals' unique fusion of socialism and feminism with nationalism and pro-nationalism in their joint 1934 book, Crisis in the Population Question turning the issue of Sweden's declining birthrate into "the most effective argument for a radical socialist remodeling of society." The author uses interviews with many of the figures involved and extensive archival research (including restricted materials held by Sweden's Social Democratic Party) to weave an uncommonly personal account of triumphant social engineering.

The work of the Myrdals covered every major area of family policy and planning from a marriage loan program to maternity relief. Using theories and research of a then new science of demography, the Myrdals did not so much demonstrate the interpretation of facts and values as blur the distinction between them in order to insinuate ideological claims into policy mandates. Carlson provides careful historical documentation of social welfare and policy in Sweden, indicating the uneven path to the brave new "middle way." There was renewed emphasis on domesticity and traditionalism in the 1950s, and only in the 1980s was the Myrdal "revolution" truly completed. For Carlson that revolution was less a tribute to the Myrdals' perspicacity than to a concurrence of circumstances: weak and inconsistent data, confusion over cause and effect, and avoidance of controls in experimental settings.

Swedish experiments in marriage and family yielded a variety of results: a triumph of feminism over socialism, of reason over tradition of, central government over regionalism of, urban multi-family dwellings over suburban single family models of, the therapeutic over the moral; and finally of the state over the family. Because the Swedish "model" is widely regarded and emulated, this critique is of immediate significance. It offers the general reader remarkable insight into the nature of Scandinavian social life; and to the specialist in demography, economy, and sociology, a perspective on how social science can become itself the problem rather than provide solutions in contemporary post-industrial life.

The institution of marriage has become perilously weak in America. Changes in the law over the past three decades, such as the spread of no-fault divorce and broad acquiescence to cultures of divorce and intentional childlessness, have stripped traditional marriage of important legal supports. Half of all marriages end in divorce and just as many are childless. Conjugal America seeks to recapture the real purposes of marriage and the unchanging nature of this most vital and fundamental human institution.

Confronting contemporary issues and drawing heavily on the natural and social sciences, each chapter also reaches into the past to find truths grounded in human experience. Carlson reexamines the basic bond of marriage to procreation, showing that this tie has been no less than the foundation of the unwritten sexual constitution of Western civilization. He also shows how the Gnostic heresy, which despises procreation, posed a stark danger to the early Christian movement and to "the sexual constitution" of our own time as well. He then dissects claims regarding the "evolution of marriage," showing that true marriage always represents the vital connection of the sexual with the economic.

Carlson explores the political nature of marriage, showing why every ambitious totalitarian government seeks above all to destroy marriage, and why the true marital bond actually stands for liberty. He concludes by arguing for the necessity of marriage policy. Because both the nature of the centralizing state and the pressures of modernity have altered family circumstances, new protections and encouragements to marriage are now imperative. Conjugal America will be central to the new debate on marriage and its purposes. This book sees the current moment as an opportunity to revitalize a necessary institution that has recently been abused and neglected and reinstate it as the primary source of commitment and care in the modern world.

How is it that the United States, long considered one of the most family-centered countries, has experienced a social upheaval of the last 50 years, amounting to an unraveling of its basic social order? And why is it that ideologues of the 1960s and the early 1970s found such common cause in their opposition to the suburban American family?

Drawing upon evidence from the fields of history, sociology, psychology, economics, and biology, Allan Carlson offers a number of provocative explanations. He denies that the family is merely changing, and shows how recent trends in marriage, divorce, illegitimacy, and fertility are interconnected, and so pervasive as to warrant the term "crisis." He explores the relationship of the family to the American economy, emphasizing the critical importance of strong families to effective functioning of the market system, as well as the pressures that capitalism brings upon family structure. He analyzes the particular importance of gender roles and the historic "family wage" system to social stability and economic progress, and he describes the consequences of their decay. Finally, he emphasizes the fundamental ethical conflict between the family and the state, and shows how governmental efforts to preserve the family have commonly had perverse results.

In his search for solutions to the American crisis in the family, Carlson borrows from a number of traditions. From conservatism, he adopts an unswerving commitment to natural law, and to the father-mother-child unit that constitutes the human family form. From recent feminist scholarship, he applies insights concerning the central importance of gender roles in social and economic structure and change. And from socialist and Marxist critics of the family, he gleans and critically examines the evidence of capitalism's troubled alliance with the traditional family as well as the corrosive effects on the family of the partial American commitment to the welfare state.

BOOKS AND JOURNAL ARTICLES GIVING EXTENSIVE ATTENTION TO ALLAN CARLSON’S WORK:

Kristina Stoeckl and Dmitry Uzalner, editors, Postsecular Conflicts: Debating Tradition in Russia and the United States (Innsbruck Austria: Innsbrucl university Press, 2020): "The Great Battles Lie Ahead: Interview with Allan Carlson."

Julia Mourao Permoser and Kristina Stoeckl, Reforming Human Rights: The Global Network of Moral Conservative Homeschooling Activities (Innsbruck, Austria: Global Networks Partnership and John Wiley & Sons, 2020)

Misa Durkovic, [in Serbo-Croatian] Conservative Thought in the 20th Century (Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad: IK Zorana Stojanovica, 2019): Part IV, Chapter 3, “Allan Carlson on the Natural Family”: 535-90.

Vitalie Sprinceana, Lila Nenescu, and Sergiu Bejenari, Religion and Society in Moldova. Case Study: World Congress of Families (Chisinau, Moldova: Platzforma, 2019): 9-59.

Kristina Stoeckl, [in Russian] “Activism Beyond Confessional Borders: The ‘Conservative Ecumenism’ of the World Congress of Families,” State, Religion, Church 36 (2018, #4): 58-86.

Russell Sparkes, “Distributism Rebooted: John Medaille, Wendell Berry and Allan Carlson,” Humanum: Issues in Family, Culture & Science 5 (2018).

Dimitry Uzlaner and Kristina Stoeckl, “The Legacy of Pitirim Sorokin in the Transnational Alliances of Moral Conservatives,” Journal of Classical Sociology 17 (2017): 1-21.

Hedvig Ekerwald, "To Build a Nation: Alva Myrdal and the Role of Family Politics in the Transformation of Sweden in the 1930's," in After the Soviet Empire: Legacies and Pathways, eds. Sven Eliaeson, Lyndmilla Haratyunyuan, and Larissa Titarenko (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016): 108-33. [Carlson as "foil" to Alva Myrdal.]

John McKeown, God’s Babies: Natalism and Biblical Interpretation in Modern America (Cambridge, UK: Open Book, 2014).

Kathryn Joyce, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009): especially chapters 11 and 18.

Ron J. Lesthaeghe and Lisa Neidert, "The Second Demographic Transition in the United States: Exceptino or Textbook Example?" Population and Development Review 32 (December 2006): 669-98. [A text of the 'Carlson thesis' on religion and fertility.]

Phillip Longman, The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It (New York: Basic Books, 2004).

Don S. Browning, Marriage and Modernization: How Globalization Threatens Marriage and What to Do About It (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003).

Doris Buss and Didi Herman, Globalizing Family Values: The Christian Right in International Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).

 

Mark Powell, "The Pronatalist Undercurrent of the $500-per-child Tax Credit," Population and Environment 20 (May 1999): 455-65. [On Carlson's role in securing passage of this policy.]

© 2023 by Allan C. Carlson, PhD