The Family: The Most Basic Institution

August 26, 2013

Although the modern world has glorified the individual, we can have no illusions. Isolated man accomplishes very little by himself. It is upon man in association with others that a civilization is built.

Family potrait

That is why the family is so important. The family is the first and most basic social, political, and economic unit without which the State would cease to exist and society would fail to perpetuate itself.

It is to this institution that we now turn. Since both society and economy began around the hearth of the traditional family, it is to the family, with the father as its head and the mother as its heart, that we must return to be regenerated.

Father and son

It is not just the physical existence of the family that we seek. We need the spirit of the family. That is to say, the family is able to communicate an atmosphere of temperance and balance that particularly addresses our present needs.


It does this by creating the ideal psychological conditions for individuals to develop. The family at once limits, yet challenges. It succors, yet makes demands. Inside its climate of intense affinity, affection, and stability, a person can develop a colossal self-sufficiency. At the same time, the individual comes to have a great dependency on the family to provide both support for shortcomings and incentives to excel.

Painting by Leopold Loeffler

Painting by Leopold Loeffler

Family members share qualities and appetites, defects and disordered passions. Yet the family, especially the large family, is also rich in solutions since the individual draws upon family traditions, past figures serving as role models, and corrective or counterbalancing traits from the two family lines to hold defects in check. The family is the home of the moral and social virtues. In this way, the family is a veritable school of temperance that provides a practical formation that theoretical teaching cannot supply.



John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need To Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 179-80.



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