My husband and I have a private joke. When we find ourselves in conversation about shifting social norms or the tribalism of contemporary politics, invariably his eyes begin to twinkle. I know that he’s silently counting the minutes until I utter the words: “Well, you know, it all comes back to the sexual revolution.” Upon reading Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics, I imagine author Mary Eberstadt having similar moments with her husband, Nick (to whom the book is dedicated), and I feel entirely justified.
Eberstadt is a writer and senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute whose previous books trace themes of western secularization, religious freedom, and sexual ethics. In Primal Screams, she follows a similar path, making the case that the liquidation of family in the wake of the sexual revolution is a primary driver of today’s identity politics.While Eberstadt’s conservative bent reveals itself in her framing and word choice, she does attempt conversation across the political spectrum and maintains that regardless of affiliation, we can all agree on two things: first, that the American polis is deeply divided and second, that identity politics is among the most powerful forces of our time. But unlike some of her fellow conservatives, who might simply blame progressives as fomenters of identity politics, Eberstadt seeks to understand what drives victim-based identity in the first place.Identity politics, she argues, answers the question “Who am I?” for a society that lacks traditional sources of identity and purpose. The “Great Scattering”—her term for the social and familial fallout of the sexual revolution—magnified ...1
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