The Thinking 

James Kalb

March 29, 2010


IF YOU have never visited James Kalb’s website Turnabout, I highly recommend it, especially his Anti-Feminist Page. Kalb is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism, a thoughtful and absorbing book on the soft oppression of “equality by command.” I will never forget visiting Kalb’s extended essay on feminism at Turnabout years ago and feeling as if clouds had dispersed after a long storm. I agreed with every word. Rereading it now, I still feel the warming influence of its clarity and insight.

Kalb writes:

The aim of feminism, therefore, is to create a new kind of human being in a new form of society in which age-old ties among men, women and children are to be dissolved and new ones constituted in accordance with abstract ideological demands. In place of family ties based on what seems natural and customary and supported by upbringing and social expectation, feminism would permit only ties based on contract and idiosyncratic sentiment, with government stepping in when those prove too shaky for serious reliance. There is no reason to suppose the substitution can be made to work, let alone work well, and every reason to expect the contrary. Feminism does not care about reason, however, or even about experience of the effects of weakened family life. It is in fact ideological and radical to the core. There can be no commonsense feminism, because doing what comes naturally gets a feminist nowhere.

The objections to anarchist and communist theory apply with yet more force to feminism, because what the latter seeks to eliminate touches us far more deeply than private property or the state. Like the other two theories, feminism can be presented as a lofty and necessary ideal set up in opposition to a long history of dreadful injustice. After all, things like gender that are implicated in all social life are necessarily implicated in all social injustice. Nonetheless, the practical implementation of feminism, especially by force of law, can only lead to catastrophe. Like anarchism it calls for categorical opposition to distinctions and patterns of authority people find natural, and like communism for ceaseless radical reconstruction of all aspects of life, and consequently for absolute bureaucratic control of everything. Both tendencies are thoroughly destructive, and their mutual opposition does not render them harmless.

The result of the victory of feminism has been a combination of disorder and state tyranny cascading from America throughout the world, from the most immediate personal relationships to high culture and international politics. Feminism has meant suspicion and hostility where mutual reliance is an absolute necessity. It has meant growing deceit, heartlessness and brutality in daily life, resulting in particular suffering for the weak. It has meant confusion and misery for the young, who have been deprived of stable family life and concrete ideals of adulthood. It has meant the destruction of local and popular institutions by ever more powerful and irresponsible state bureaucracies. It has set women free mainly to be low level employees and unattached sexual commodities. It must therefore be opposed as a destructive fanaticism based on a gross and wilful misapprehension of human life.

It is not surprising that feminists, who misconstrue so much, misconstrue the nature of the opposition to them. Since their position requires a comprehensive and minute system of ideological regimentation they assume antifeminists must also be aspiring tyrants. They thus recreate their opponents in their own image.

In fact, to be antifeminist is simply to accept that men and women differ and rely on each other to be different, and to view the differences as among the things constituting human life that should be reflected where appropriate in social attitudes and institutions. By feminist standards all societies have been thoroughly sexist. It follows that to be antifeminist is only to abandon the bigotry of a present-day ideology that sees traditional relations between the sexes as simply a matter of domination and submission, and to accept the validity of the ways in which human beings have actually dealt with sex, children, family life and so on. Antifeminism is thus nothing more than the rejection of one of the narrow and destructive fantasies of an age in which such things have been responsible for destruction and murder on an unprecedented scale. It is opening oneself to the reality of things.

                         — Comments —

Sage McLaughlin writes:

I found the Tyranny of Liberalism absolutely engrossing. He’s an underappreciated writer, for sure, and if the kids over at National Review were ever to pay him any attention, it would improve my opinion of them.

Laura writes:

Kalb is combative in the most thoughtful way, which is why I think he will have a long shelf life but not appeal to those looking for cheap intellectual thrills. He’s not an angry conservative who despises and lashes out at all liberals, but a writer who dispassionately shows how much liberalism hurts liberals, how it dehumanizes  and confuses the very people who celebrate it. For instance, he writes:

The changes brought about by the radicalization of liberalism in the sixties and thereafter have hurt the weak and marginalized [them] more than anybody. The liberation of women and of sex has deprived women of masculine support, feminized poverty, and turned girls into sexual commodities. The fact that their lack of any definite position, combined with feminine responsiveness to social context, induces them to cooperate in their own commoditization makes the process more rather than less degrading. Gay lib has liberated conduct that destroys lives by glamorizing acting on weaknesses and facilitiating preying on the confused. (The Tyranny of Liberalism, page 123)

This recognition that liberalism causes personal unhappiness and ruins lives won’t make him popular among those who bask in an us versus them mentality.

As I said, I vividly remember the first time I sat down and read his Anti-Feminist Page. It was if I was suddenly cured of a prolonged case of nausea. I couldn’t believe a man was saying these things and didn’t end it all by adding, “Oh, but of course, women should have everything men have.” It was through reading him that I discovered the work of Lawrence Auster. I am deeply grateful to both of these men for their courage and brilliance.

Sage writes:

I first read that [anti-feminist] page in about 2000 or 2001. I was actually shocked, and I had the feeling of reading something by Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein. I recall feeling slightly afraid that my boss would find out I had read it on my computer at work. Now, of course, I read lots of traditionalist contraband, but nothing has quite struck me the same way.





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