Connection vs. Autonomy

A follow-up to yesterday’s post: a bit from the New York Times’ David Brooks.

Brooks talks about “the haphazard self” that working-class men try to build for themselves in our current age, and the war between our cultural drive for autonomy and these dads’ desire to be embedded in their childrens’ lives, and good dads: the men list ‘being a good dad’ as a priority, but ‘being committed to my child’s mother’ doesn’t come close, apparently; there is a problem of attachment in general, closely associated with the drive for autonomy:

The men are also loosely attached to churches. Most say they are spiritual or religious. But their conception of faith is so individualized that there is nobody else they could practice it with. They pray but tend to have contempt for organized religion and do not want to tie themselves down to any specific community.

“I treat church just like I treat my girlfriends,” one man said. “I’ll stick around for a while and then I’ll go on to the next one.”

You can read more here, but you get the point. The principles of autonomy and the principles of community may not be compatible in the end. Autonomy rules the roost at the moment, though. There is no saying what community looks like if and when the elastic breaks, though, or else snaps back.

2 thoughts on “Connection vs. Autonomy

  1. I read the article by Brooks, but I am not sure what he would have modern men do. Does he want them to spend more time en famille? Is he advocating stable employment? Should men be attentive to their wives? Would they be better with a deeper religious conviction? Yes. These are manifestly good things. How would he implement them? I think there is another message implicit in his text about a persistent state of adolescence and a refusal to commit to a course of action.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think, yes: the drive for autonomy, divorced from embeddedness in a community, leads to immaturity of a certain kind — not simple immaturity, as such a one can learn to do laundry and pay the bills on time (self-management), but there is a whole skill set of negotiation with others that is not learned, because consumerism is this style of autonomy — there cannot be friction on the way to what is desired. That is why they cannot worship with others, because they cannot be vulnerable about such things, and they cannot settle on “we are like one another in these things” sort of public anchors. Big tent, little tent, doesn’t matter: if there’s a tent for more than one, it’s too big, too cramped. Alone in a crowd, but must be alone.

      Liked by 1 person

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