Engines of Decline

Disturbing the Nest is among the finest and most readable works of comparative sociology published in the last ten years, and the most effective critique of the Swedish welfare state now in print. David Poponoe's careful, fully documented, and gently devastating portrait of modern Sweden surprises the reader, in part, because Poponoe is himself a social democrat and an admirer of the dream that motivated the "middle way" visionaries of the 1930's. He is also a prominent scholar, currently at Rutgers University, and author of the popular college text Sociology.

The book succeeds because Poponoe is an honest man. He readily acknowledges the biases found in his discipline, and labors to overcome them. He notes that most of his colleagues refuse to acknowledge the modern phenomenon of "family decline" because they actually favor the passing of paternal authority, and the victory of women's liberation, economic egalitarianism, and sexual permissiveness: the very engines of decline. The discipline of sociology, he adds, "consists mainly of secularists. . . . It is no secret either that most sociologists today are politically leftwing on most social questions."

Poponoe crafts a theory of "family decline" that rests on the historical movement of Western peoples from the "nuclear family-kinship system," rooted in tradition, toward a "post nuclear-family...

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