Reality, like God, will not be mocked. This is the core message of Mary Harrington’s excellent new work, Feminism Against Progress. In challenging and compelling fashion, Harrington shows how so-called feminism destroys women, body and soul. Unhinged worship of unfettered autonomy, the core demand of an insane ideology falsely sold as progress, powers this destruction. True enough, but Harrington’s aim is not mere complaint. Rather it is to tell us that both women and men can truly flourish, even in this age of liquid modernity, by building a new system — one informed by the wisdom, not of the 1950s, but of the pre-industrial age.
(This is the first paragraph of my review; the complete review can be found at the journal IM-1776.)
If you agree with your summary of her book, how much is gained by reading the book? I often add books that you have reviewed to my “read someday” list, but how much do the details in this book add to the argument if you are already convinced?
A fair question. You should buy the book, on principle. But, if I do say so myself, the summary is pretty good. That said, Harrington goes into a lot more depth–for example, on chemical birth control being a disaster, not only for its social effects, but for its physical/emotional effects on women, and on the broader environment as well. Reading the book certainly wouldn’t be a waste of time, and it’s pretty short.
This does look like an interesting book worth reading despite the excellent summary in this review. Mary Harrington is an interesting character. I’ve been following on UnHerd for quite a while — that’s where she got her start after blogging for a while. I agree with some of what she says and disagree with other things, but always find her worth reading.
The main thing I like about Mary Harrington is that she struggles with the difficult task of reconciling her abstract thinking with reality. Many people don’t bother. They simply make an abstract argument, throw out some contrived examples, and think they have made their point. But abstract ideas mean nothing in the real world unless you can show that they really work.
Recently I have seen a lot of people making this mistake in the realms of economics, climate, and the pandemic. In economics Mariana Mazzucato’s recent books The Mission Economy and The Big Con present some good ideas that unfortunately have little connection to reality. Regarding the pandemic Zeynep Tufekci continues to insist that wearing masks in public will stop respiratory virus transmission even in the face of real-world evidence showing the opposite.
And as to climate change Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book represents the epitome of the genre — a hundred authors contribute hot air to the climate change crisis but all of it abstract and nothing pragmatic. It’s like they live in their heads rather than the real world. Like lawyers arguing a case instead of scientists or engineers offering solid data.
Thinking, reading and writing help me learn, but it’s too easy to come up with ideas that make sense in the abstract but do not work in the real world. It’s always good to read authors like Mary Harrington (and Vaclav Smil) who at least make the attempt to understand how the world really works. If you want to change the world, you have to do that.
I just recently finished listening to Mrs Harrington book. To my surprise while listening to the last section I realized that by some accident of history or Gods good grace I was raised and am now raising my children in circumstances quite similar to the ideal laid out by reactionary feminism. The pre industrial sex roles never having been fully broken down in most of my family lines as the family maintained its agricultural roots. The continuity came close to breaking down towards the industrial age model in my grandparents generation and nearly went the other way early in my parents day. The 1980’s farm crises and my parents response to it seemed to re-entrench the older agrarian model of division of labor. The farm economics of their early years were bleak enough that the farm could not afford to pay many hired men so they both worked the farm. Mom milked and managed the herd while raising me and my sisters while Dad did the field work, fixed whatever broke and operated a commodity milling and trucking business that mom performed the office work for.
In many ways their shared goal of being farmers and maintaining the farm is what kept their marriage together through many a difficult time. In the current day my wife and I are following the same path as I very much valued the childhood and coming of age this arrangement provided. Reactionary feminism seems natural to me having know little else within my life. I can never provide much insight beyond anecdote and my favorite impractical solution of a return to the farm but there it is for what’s it’s worth.