Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important

Premise 1, Section 1A


Using Bowen’s Family Systems Therapy Theory clinically, led to exploring his systemic, institutional “larger concentric circles”.

Understanding individuals and families in a framework emphasizing integration of these six fields led to faster, deeper resolution of the presenting family and parenting problems.

We believe that this fundamental principle, responsibly applied, can help modify, explain and predict personal, societal, and economic behavior more effectively than "objective" numbers, however parsed and extrapolated.

Numbers can be our eyes but never our brains.

Accordingly, we argue for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary study of social phenomena at micro and macro levels. This approach must analyze and testify to universal human tendencies, functioning at the levels of individual, family, local and broader culture, political organization, and macroeconomic structure.

Such an approach will help illuminate circular, self-perpetuating connections between family rules, legal institutions, commercial law and theory.

We will show how a tradition of object constancy (faith in abiding relationships) distinguishes and shapes intimate, political, and commercial dynamics; how the dimension of separation/individuation in family systems theory, reveals personal, social, political and economic development as essentially interactive.

On the level of The Family, our interdisciplinary approach will investigate popular and governing conceptions of gender, parenting, responsibility and loyalty, hierarchy and inclusivity, notions of truth and honor. Finally, individually, how what has traditionally been called Freudian "defense mechanisms" and "character disorders" in fact have both political and macroeconomic dimensions and purposes

Politically, we will show how these themes find mutually reinforcing expression within and between families, local societies, regional and national groupings, and international macroeconomic and governance arrangements.

Societally too, these broad patterns include very different social-cultural understandings of, among other things; government, loyalty, honesty-corruption, the rule of law, family structure, individuation, mental health goals, civic and personal obligation, interpersonal and financial debt, immediate and delayed gratification – most concretely what it means to pay (or avoid paying) one’s taxes.

(At this point, we again suggest that a principled distaste for cultural stereotyping ought not reflexively disqualify what we’ve said so far. It is clearly a danger and one that we addressed previously. For now, we ask a brief suspension of disbelief on this score pending digestion of the material below and its counter-balancing value to the dangers of unexamined prejudice. See “Knowledge and Bigotry”).

From our perspective, the introduction of family therapy systems insight as a filter into these other previously disconnected disciplines represents a new and we hope enlightening, perspective to well known social theory covering many of these concerns, from Adam Smith, to Marx, to Max Weber and Thomas Piketty. Fairbairn, Winnicott, Maslow are seen as forerunners. This understanding of systems suggests the revolutionary importance of Bowenian factors interacting with the core of social, political, and economic life.

Nothing here is new or original except this attempt at showing the interaction and integration; the “gestalt “ that makes up individual, family and societal functioning.

As an example of an economic approach that suffers from a lack of integration with a system’s cultural and historical factors, we quote an eminent economist writing in the wsj.com

“The Greek Solution Solved Nothing”

“Three essential problems remain, and leaving the Eurozone may be the answer.”


July 16, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET

“The modern Greek tragedy isn’t over—after an interlude, there will be more acts…. But three underlying problems remain: Greece must escape from the current depression, reduce its debt burden and restore its competitiveness. All three trace to fateful decisions made in the early days of the euro.

Back when the euro was just an idea, many economists warned that the countries involved weren’t suited to using a single currency because they weren’t what economists call “an optimum currency area”—a group of nations with similar business cycles and substantial political unity, labor mobility and cross-country fiscal transfers….”

Please note the absence of factors that contribute mightily to the Northern electorate’s frustration and reluctance to cooperate with the Tzipras regime. Two of these factors are:

1 – the current and historical of theme of internal corruption and clientelism in Greece. Germans proudly pay taxes; Greeks proudly avoid them.

2 – the lack of Northern trust that Greece will negotiate in good faith and, once negotiated, will live up to its obligations.

Is it possible that “an optimum currency area”— is a euphemism for qualities that relate to values such as trust, reliability and integrity rather than econometrics and GDP numbers?

Euphemisms to avoid unpleasant truth are a favorite tool of families in dysfunction.

“…The euro’s founders did not dispute this judgment; they played down its importance. The order can be reversed, they insisted: First we’ll create the common currency, then we’ll create the conditions that make it work…”

What are those conditions that “make it work?

“…Germany’s Helmut Kohl and France’s Francois Mitterrand went further, subordinating the economics to a big political idea. What’s the theory of optimum in currency areas, compared with ensuring that Germany and France never go to war again? Hard to argue with that, but it doesn’t repeal the laws of economics. The Eurozone still isn’t an optimum currency area, and that explains much of the Greek problem.

But Greece’s creditors are so far unwilling to offer much debt relief because that means that some third parties must pitch in money or relinquish claims on Greece. And that brings up the second departure from an optimum currency area: The Eurozone is not a country; its mechanisms for fiscal transfers across borders are underdeveloped and contentious."

"Compare the U.S. I live in New Jersey, one of the richest states. We New Jerseyans have been making fiscal transfers to poor states like Mississippi, funneled through the federal government, for decades. But few of us notice it, and we don’t vote on it. The transfers happen automatically because New Jersey and Mississippi are in the same country. Germany and Greece are not. Angela Merkel is right to worry that Germans oppose transfers to Greeks. Would Americans vote for transfers to Mexico? …”

Mississippi has a cultural and governance reality that may differ from New Jersey in some respects, but the relevant cultural factors are that integrity, the rule of law and the consequences of cheating are fairly well aligned in all the American states. What Dr. Blinder leaves out is the fact that in America and in Germany blatant corruption is punished. In Greece, Mexico and others, it is admired. Acceptance of the rule of law in a society is crucial for trust and trust is an industrial and post-industrial necessity.

"…How do you fix that? Under floating exchange rates, some semblance of parity would be restored by currency depreciation. But that can’t happen with a single currency. The answer could be either huge wage hikes in Germany or more devastating wage cuts in Greece—a terrible solution.

"So the Greek problem may never be over as long as Greece remains in the Eurozone."

Mr. Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, is the author of “After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead” (Penguin, 2013).

Part of the problem is indeed a unified currency without a unified country, but why call that “politics”? Is that a euphemism for a set of societal differences in values, institutions (e.g. a legal framework) and national character?

If somehow, there was a successful vote for Greece to become a state in Germany, would that “political unity” solve the problem? Would Greeks therefore become Germans?

Is asking these questions a sign of bigotry?

There seems to be zero mention of any socio-cultural elements in this entire article. More of this later.


Principles to be used in describing these unifying features of the society-wide human experience are the following:

1) All systems in nature, seek balance and stability (HOMEOSTASIS). This is true for small systems (families, businesses, schools) as well as larger systems (corporations, governments, societies). Nature abhors a vacuum and detests instability and chaos.

2) The universal human (as well as others, e.g. primates canines et al) species need for connectedness and recognition between members of a family and its more immediate extensions. 

3) The universally observed pattern of multigenerational extended families banding together and creating us's (who are good and right) and them's (who are bad and wrong).

4) The universally observed creation of ever expanding kinship systems (us’s) that contain values; rules of behavior (institutions) concerning social, economic and political behavior.

5) Bowen’s multi-generation transmission process that facilitates these multi- generational contents, patterns, and rules while simultaneously allowing for ongoing modification and adaptation to new individual, familial and societal circumstances.

6) Systems theory’s non-linear, reciprocal ever spiraling pattern of the systems' interaction.

7) Because of the multi-generational patterns inherent in all these principles, an intervention, prediction or even an understanding of any individual, family or society must entail a historical framework.

8) Finally, the central “gestalt” principle of unity and synchronization that Frederich Perls applied to the individual and his neural makeup, also applies over time, to societies and groups.