Randall Collins: Sexual Revolutions and the Future of the Family. [Abstract]

The family is the oldest human institution. Modernity began by replacing family-based organization with bureaucracy. The core of the family has become personal and sexual rather than political and economic. What is personal and sexual has become more a matter of individual choice than in the era of kinship politics; at the same time sexual behavior has become subject to state regulation, either restricting or permitting. From the early 20th century onwards, there have been increasingly militant social movements on one side or another of what is sexually permitted, encouraged, or prohibited. This paper reviews the sexual revolution in non-marital sex; the history of abortion struggles; mobilization of homosexual and transgender movements; and the battle of pronouns. Anti-abortion politics today is a counter-movement in identity politics, in response to the perceived threat to the traditional male/female family. Nevertheless, with a growing number of persons living alone and substituting electronic media for embodied social interaction, the family will likely survive as a privileged enclave of emotional solidarity and shared economic success.

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