“Truth may be unwanted, inconvenient, resented, mocked in all the best places—even harassed, suppressed, and forced underground. But that does not make it anything other than truth.”
Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics
A bitter divisiveness afflicts America. To act “with malice toward none, with charity toward all” has become a faded ideal as citizens silo themselves into hyper-partisan tribes defined by politics, race, gender, and sexuality. The rancor of news pundits, the incivility of social media, and the storm of opposition to free speech on college campuses are symptoms of a fraying social fabric familiar to anyone with even a casual eye on current affairs.
Explanations of this discord have been offered from many quarters but have failed to get at its roots. To the dispassionate observer, the hostility between “tribes” seems simply irrational. But Mary Eberstadt, accomplished essayist and cultural critic, may have gotten to the bottom of it. Applying her peerless lens of analysis, she argues that the rise of identity politics is a direct result of the collapse of the family.
Her logic—backed by startling new data—runs as follows: humans from time immemorial have forged their identities within the structure of the traditional family. The family, in a real sense, is the first tribe. But with the decline of the family, generations of people have been set adrift and lack a firm sense of who they are. To fill the void, they shape their identity according to their membership in a politicized group, and their seemingly constant fury is, in fact, a primal scream for the familial root system of which they have been deprived.
Advance Praise for Primal Screams
“A well-researched, powerfully argued, and profound account of the deepest sources of our current cultural crises. Wise and courageous, Mary Eberstadt has written an indispensable book for understanding our time.”
Leon R. Kass, professor emeritus, Committee on Social Thought, The University of Chicago
“Some basic questions of identity have overtaken Western politics in the 21st century, and before they can be addressed, they must be understood. With her characteristic clarity and breadth of learning, Mary Eberstadt offers a powerfully persuasive guide to why we are beset by these challenges, and how to take them on.”
Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs
“Primal Screams is a deeply thought-provoking reflection on human nature and the fate of our republic.”
Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
“Mary Eberstadt proves, yet again, that she is one of America’s most insightful — as well as compassionate — analysts.”
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center
“In Primal Screams, Mary Eberstadt responds to the deepest cries of the wounded souls of our time. Read it and share it.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Institute
“Mary Eberstadt understands ‘identity politics’ better than its practitioners — and any of its critics to date. She takes seriously the question of why so many people feel a need for the sense of belonging that identity politics seeks to provide. Her answer is terrifying — a loss that human beings of modern times have suffered, but of which we have been almost entirely unaware. Until now.”
Tod Lindberg, author of The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern
“It is scarcely a foregone conclusion that our society will return to sanity on questions of sexual morality and marriage. But if we do, then prophets like Mary Eberstadt will be celebrated in song and story.”
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
Reviews of Primal Screams
“Primal Screams is and should be controversial. It is also quite brilliant. I can think of few books in recent memory that eschew academic and journalistic orthodoxy in as cutting and well defended a way. Anyone interested in the roots of our current identity-driven dilemmas would be remiss in not reading it.”
David Marcus, The Federalist
“An incredibly influential, intellectual, precise commentary about current culture, philosophy, and the fate of the post-modern man.”
Jonathan Van Maren, LifeSite News
“Eberstadt’s work is not only for conservatives but also for everyone who thinks about contemporary society….”
–Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review
“A compelling thesis, deftly defended.”
Peter Leithart, Theopolis Institute
“Mary Eberstadt’s thesis is exactly right, and she backs it up with evidence.”
Luma Simms, Public Discourse
“Mary Eberstadt manages the nearly impossible: finding something new—and worthwhile—to say about identity politics….If we see more books about identity politics in the near future, and doubtless we will, they will have to grapple with Eberstadt’s argument, and take a look through the lens she provides.”
Phil Jeffery, Washington Free Beacon
“What Primal Screams does so masterfully is to hold up a mirror to our own cultural collapse and point a laser beam right at the heart of the problem….”
Ashley McGuire, Institute for Family Studies
“Eberstadt deserves accolades for giving us this thoughtful, compassionate, and ruthlessly honest volume.”
Jeff McAlister, Longview News-Journal
“Sympathetic and persuasive.”
R.R. Reno, First Things
“Eberstadt is a shrewd, thoughtful analyst of our culture, and scrutinizes her subject through a nonpartisan lens….Primal Screams is, then, important for readers of all political and ideological complexions.”
Madeline Fry, Washington Examiner
“I wait for Mary Eberstadt’s books the way some people used to wait for the next Harry Potter installment.”
Fr. John Hollowell, Pastor of Annunciation and St. Paul’s Catholic Church
“Primal Screams provides a cogent, prophetic take on how and why it is that so many well-educated, materially well-off people…do not seem to know who they are.”
“One of our most perceptive cultural analysts.”
Gene Veith, Patheos
“Vintage Eberstadt: clearly argued with conviction…This is a good and helpful book, and the responses of Dreher and company are thought-provoking and constructive….[S]he offers us a model for how political discussion should be pursued.”
Dr. Carl Trueman, The Gospel Coalition
“Brilliant, serious work of the kind we’ve needed for decades.” – Joseph Bottum
“In this concise, elegantly written book, Mrs. Eberstadt marries brilliant analytical power with wry wit.” – The Washington Times
“I hope [this book] will be a means of grace for people who did not know Fr. Arne personally and a fond reminder of his spiritual legacy for those of us who did” – Leonard A. Leo
“Mary Eberstadt has done a great service… In these conversations Fr. Arne practically leaps off the page.” – Fr. Paul Scalia
“A powerful new manifesto.” – Robert P. George
“A tour de force, essential reading.” – Jonathan Last, The Weekly Standard
“Eberstadt is a superb analyst. Her hypothesis—carefully demonstrated and ringing true—is that secular progressivism is not just a political ideology; it is a competing faith, a religion.“ — Public Discourse
“…[C.S.] Lewis now has a rival: The Loser Letters, by Mary Eberstadt…this is witty and wicked satire.” – Scot McKnight
“Eberstadt brilliantly defends the faith from radical New Atheism with wit and humor….more than a match for Hitchens and Dawkins and their flying spaghetti monster.” – Matthew Archbold, National Catholic Register
“Home-Alone America is a fine first salvo in what may be a changed war.” – Kelly Jane Torrance, Washington Times
“A book that should be read by every concerned parent, pastor, and policy maker.” – R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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