Blog 7) ‘The Development of the Adolescent Self’


‘The Development of the Adolescent Self’

Many adolescents in the modern, Western world go through various forms of identity crisis. One major reason for this is (I believe) the ‘schizophrenic’ messages which our culture gives adolescents: on the surface, this stage of life is celebrated as redolent of infinite possibilities and opportunities – any young person in the modern world can become anything they want to be. At the deep level, the traditional determinants of social destiny; parental class and social status, are still massively influential – to the extent of nullifying the culture’s surface message.

What could make Western society’s libertarian rhetoric about life chances a reality? Answer; taking child-rearing (at least the crucial first years) out of the ‘Isonuc’ (the isolated nuclear family). Then the socio-economic status of the parents will no longer be indelibly imprinted in the psyches of their children. Only in Prima can children be shielded from the corrosive effects of blatant differences between the material status of parents in different Isonucs. Generational reproduction is the core of social class.

Without it, many of the obnoxious features of Capitalism disappear: if infants experience equality of opportunity at the start line in the Prima, then material inequality across a life-time is a fairly trivial business, confined to the snobberies of fashion, petty jealousies and rivalries and the randomness of individual life-style choices. What’s really still abhorrent about contemporary Capitalism is its arbitrary condemnation of children to lives of bleak deprivation simply because their parents were born into bleak deprivation, material and cultural.

The ideological spokespeople of Capitalism celebrate its reward of individual merit, based on a combination of talent plus effort. Because of the great and general social benefits conferred by merit, this surely should be celebrated and rewarded. But Capitalism’s ideologues are silent when it comes to the children of the meritorious: on what logical, economic or ethical grounds should they be deserving of a materially and socially privileged upbringing, above other children? Should anyone else refer to this issue, they exclaim, “you surely can’t be proposing to remove children from their parents – that would be inhuman!” And, of course, that’s right; it would be! So Prima solves this problem by moving the parents (voluntarily) into equalitarian communities of 50 couples, with one child each, for five and a half years.

One hundred adults bringing up their own children (and naturally treating them preferentially to the other 49), but also having a significant role in the lives of the others – not least in the sense of sharing the same standard of living with them and their parents, at least for their Prima years. This would effectively and unequivocally mark out all Prima children as equal at birth. The contrast (when fully comprehended) with the minimal tinkerings with the Isonuc which the contemporary state attempts (in the name of this ideal), should be painfully clear. The one mouths the rhetoric of equality of opportunity, the other guarantees it! Some social commentators have suggested, probably ironically, that if inequality comes from inborn talent and this comes from a person’s genes, then human genes should be manipulated in the name of equality.

This, of course, ignores what we learned from decoding the human genome and the recent revolution in epigenetics: we now know that there aren’t enough genes to deliver ‘inborn talent’ on their own. The ‘blueprints’ of the genes need the ‘builders’ of epigenetics before the organic structures can actually be produced. What this means, in terms of social policy, is that our environment in early infancy (and even in the womb) can determine our traits and our fates for the rest of our lives. Consequently, progressive reform in this area will be overwhelmingly more effective in improving outcomes for our children than any amount of tinkering later in life.