東京外大 2003 大問Ⅲ

In many ways, the family is the most obvious field of conflict in the culture war. Some would argue that it is an absolute battleground. The public debate over the status and role of women, the increase in family violence, the rise of aggressive behavior among teenagers, the growing demand for adequate kindergartens, and so on, fill the headlines of the nation's newspapers, magazines, and intellectual journals on a daily basis. Public demonstrations, speeches and statements for or against any one of these issues mark the significant events of our generation's political history. One might possibly say that this field of conflict is the beginning and end of the contemporary culture war, for the issues debated in the area of family policy touch upon and may even relate to other fields of conflict ― education, the arts, law and politics. In the final analysis there may be much more to the contemporary culture war than the struggle for the family, yet there is little doubt that the debated issues in the area of family life are central to the larger struggle and are perhaps crucial to other battles being fought.


Most who observe the arguments over the family, however, tend to grasp the controversy as a disagreement over how strong the family is. One observer, for example, has described the controversy as one between optimists and pessimists. Both sides, he argued, agree that the family is changing, yet they disagree sharply over the degree, the meaning, and consequences of those changes. The pessimists view rising trends in divorce, single-parent families, double-income couples, couples living outside of marriage, and the like, as symptoms of the decline of the family. The optimists, on the other hand, regard the changes as positive at best and lacking effect at worst and, therefore, they believe that social planning should reflect and respond to the new realities. The American family is not collapsing, the optimists say, but is adapting to new social conditions. The flexibility of the family, therefore, signals that the family is "here to stay."


Observations such as these provide interesting perspective and insight on the matter, forcing us to consider the specific social and economic circumstances of family life. But they miss what is really at stake. The discussion over the family, in fact, reflects fundamental differences in the beliefs and world views of the two groups. The issue, then, is not whether the family is failing or surviving. Rather, the discussion is over what the family is in the first place. If the symbolic significance of the family is that it is a microcosm of the larger society, then the task of defining what the American family is becomes vital to the very task of defining America itself. For this reason it is also a task that embraces the future of American political life.