Carlson, Allan C. 1949–
Carlson, Allan C. 1949–
(Allan Constantine Carlson)
Born May 7, 1949 in Des Moines, IA; son of Harry Bernard (a certified public accountant) and Constance Ann Carlson; married Elizabeth Cecelia Belin, July 1, 1972; children: Anders, Sarah-Eva, Anna, Miriam. Ethnicity: "Swedish-American." Education: Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1971; Ohio University, Ph.D., 1978. Politics: "Conservative/Agrarian." Religion: Lutheran. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, wilderness hiking, canoeing.
Office—Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, 934 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103; fax: 815-965-1826. E-mail—[email protected]
Lutheran Council in the USA, Washington, DC, assistant director of Office for Governmental Affairs, 1975-78; Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA, assistant to the president and lecturer in history, 1979-81; Rockford Institute, Rockford, IL, executive vice president, 1981-86, president and publisher of Chronicles, Family in America, and Religion and Society Report, 1986-97; Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, Rockford, founder and president, 1997—.
Arbetarrorelsens Arkiv, Stockholm, Sweden, research associate, 1976, visiting scholar, 1977; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, faculty member, 2003, 2006; guest lecturer at other institutions, including Colgate University, Moscow Lomonosov University, Hillsdale College, University of Wisconsin, Brigham Young University, and Georgetown University; guest on television and radio programs in the United States and abroad. World Congress of Families, general secretary, 1997, 1999, 2004; Family Research Council, distinguished fellow for family policy studies, 2002-05; member of National Commission on Children, 1988-93, and Council on Families in America, 1991-2000; member of advisory board, Child and Family Protection Institute, 1983-88, Center for Military Readiness, 1992—, and Research Institute on the Family of the Ministry for Social Protection of the Russian People, 1995-2003; consultant to Family of the Americas Foundation, American Life League, and other entities. Burpee Natural History Museum, trustee, 1998-2008, chairman, 2004-07. Military service: U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, between 1971 and 1979; became second lieutenant, 1973.
Philadelphia Society (trustee, 1986-88, 2001-03; first vice president, 1988), Rotary Club of Rockford (president, 1994-95).
John F. Cady fellow in history, Ohio University, 1975; American Scandinavian Foundation grant, 1977; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1979; Institute for Educational Affairs research grants, 1981-82, 1984-85; George Washington Honor Medals, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, 1985, 1987; Earhart Foundation research grants, 1991, 1997, 2000, 2005; Fieldstead & Co. research grant, 2007-08.
Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1988.
The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics: The Myrdals and the Interwar Population Crisis, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1990.
From Cottage to Work Station: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age, Ignatius Press (San Francisco, CA), 1993, published with new introduction as The Family in America: Searching for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2003.
For the Stability, Autonomy, and Fecundity of the Natural Family: Essays toward the World Congress of Families II, Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society (Rockford, IL), 1999.
The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2000.
The "American Way": Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity, ISI Books (Wilmington, DE), 2003.
Fractured Generations: Crafting a Family Policy for Twenty-first Century America, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2005.
Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2006.
(With Paul T. Mero) The Natural Family: A Manifesto, Spence Publishing (Dallas, TX), 2007.
Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Crafted Family-Centered Economics … and Why They Disappeared, ISI Books (Wilmington, DE), 2007.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Privatization Revolution, edited by Lissa Roche, Hillsdale College Press, 1987; Faith and Challenges to the Family, edited by Russell E. Smith, Pope John Center, 1994; Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right, edited by Joseph Scotchie, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1999; Wendell Berry: Life and Work, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2007; and Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person in the American Past, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2007. Special editor, "Marriage and Family Studies" series, Transaction Publishers, 1988—. Contributor to periodicals, including Modern Age, National Review, Family Policy, Touchstone, Society, American Enterprise, Wall Street Journal, Policy Review, Los Angeles Times, and Chronicles: Magazine of American Culture. Editor, Persuasion at Work, 1981, and Family in America, beginning 1986. Serves on editorial boards of the Intercollegiate Review and Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.
Allan C. Carlson writes books dealing with social issues, social politics, and the American family. Reviewer R. Alton Lee, writing in Journal of Church and State, called Carlson's The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America an "important work on conservative agrarian thought in the twentieth century." The author analyzes the writings of authors such as Liberty Hyde Bailey, Carle C. Zimmerman, and others to "trace the pattern of decentralist thought in modern America," explained Lee. Among the goals of these new agrarians were preserving the family unit, maintaining the fertility of rural America, and stressing the importance of the working home. Underlying their goals were assumptions such as a reliance on technology, distrust of organized religion, support for mass education, and faith in social engineering. Carlson examines how the agrarians failed to achieve their goals and covers specific topics important to the theme, such as Wendell Berry's finding that modern technology, far from being the expected boon, destroyed American agriculture and the family farm.
"The author is thoroughly acquainted with his sources and sympathetic to their message," noted Lee, adding that The New Agrarian Mind was "carefully crafted" and "well written." But it is also Carlson's opinion that protection of the farm family, "through special treatment of the farm economy, could be seen as an admirable exercise of sentimentality, but one with no prospect of long-term success." "Carlson's work jars long-settled opinions," wrote Paul Gottfried in a review of the book for American Enterprise. "I suspect Carlson expected at the outset of his project to find more consistently appealing subjects," Gottfried added. "What he has uncovered, however, may be more valuable than the imagined antecedents of a rural American conservatism."
"My Ph.D. came in modern European history from Ohio University (through a program which evolved into the Contemporary History Institute now found there)," Carlson once told CA. "I studied principally with John Lewis Gaddis and Carl G. Gustavson, writing my dissertation under the latter's direction. Focused on Sweden, it explored the roles of economist Gunnar Myrdal and his activist wife Alva Myrdal in crafting social democratic family and population policies in Sweden during the 1920s and 1930s. The manuscript emphasized the ideological origins and content of their work. A slimmed-down version eventually appeared in book form in 1990, under the title The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics: The Myrdals and the Interwar Population Crisis.
"Since 1981, though, most of my energy has focused on American subjects. My work in Gaddis's seminars on the origins of the cold war developed into a focus on the quest by foreign policymakers for an American identity stable enough to give coherence to their overseas projects. Lengthy essays ‘Foreign Policy and "The American Way": The Rise and Fall of the Post-World War II Consensus’ and ‘Luce, Life, and "The American Way"’ appeared in the mid-1980s in the eclectic idea journal This World. In both I tracked the influence of religious thought and organization on the self-perception of Americans. They formed two key chapters of The "American Way": Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity.
"In the mid-1980s, I turned toward American social history and issues of social policy, most involving the family" Carlson continued. "My guide or mentor in this work was Robert Nisbet. Two books emerged: Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis and From Cottage to Work Station: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age. Together, these volumes portray the family institution as whip-sawed between the ambitions of both the modern, globalizing, corporate economy and the modern state, and critically examine twentieth-century efforts to preserve family autonomy. Long essays on family questions written during this period include ‘Gender, Children and Social Labor: Transcending the "Family Wage" Dilemma,’ ‘Toward a Theory of Family Taxation,’ ‘Liberty, Order, and the Family.’
"From this interest, I have also labored as a ‘public historian,’ in the sense of seeking to apply historical techniques and wisdom to contemporary issues. I served through appointment by President Reagan as a member of the National Commission on Children (also known as the Rockefeller Commission) from 1988 to 1993, and played a key role in crafting the commission's final report, Beyond Rhetoric; of the contents of this ‘bipartisan’ product I remain fairly proud. I've served on other panels producing reports and policy recommendations dealing with welfare reform (1987), marriage (1995), and taxation (1997). I have organized four international congresses on issues of family policy, written numerous articles on related questions, and have ‘done my time’ on American talk radio and talk television.
"During the 1990s, my thoughts turned increasingly toward the efforts of the Agrarians, a group of twentieth-century U.S. writers working to save a distinct, rural, non-industrial, ‘decentralized’culture," Carlson continued. "My 2000 book The New Agrarian Mind is an intellectual history featuring chapters on botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey, sociologist Carle Zimmerman, economist Ralph Borsodi, novelist Louis Bromfield, the ‘Vanderbilt’ agrarians, historian Herbert Agar, the rural activist-priest Luigi Ligutti, and man of letters Wendell Berry. This book was my labor of love, and it does seem to be finding an audience."
He added: "My recent book, Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Crafted Family-Centered Economics … and Why They Disappeared, continues in this vein, exploring efforts primarily in Europe to create family-centered economics, neither capitalist nor communist."
One theme that recurs throughout Carlson's writings on the agrarian mind, the American social crisis, and the role of the family in industrial society is the importance of preserving the family unit. In Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage he addresses the religious or moral arguments favoring the institution of marriage by sidestepping the religious teachings per se and focusing instead on the benefits of marriage in the larger social picture. Carlson believes that the economic and social future of America depends on the most stable and nurturing family units; and these include a male and female, legally married, and a lot of well-adjusted, productive offspring. He supports legal, political, and social measures that reward such family units and opposes measures that support single or same-sex parents, tax penalties for legally wed couples, and other politics that can erode his concept of the ideal marriage. An Internet Bookwatch reviewer called Conjugal America "a reasoned treatise, written with … precision and rationality" that can enlighten readers regardless of their positions on the moral issues themselves.
Fractured Generations: Crafting a Family Policy for Twenty-first Century America takes Carlson's positions a step further. In this work, according to Books and Culture correspondent J. Matthew Sleeth, Carlson makes no secret of his belief that successful families depend on Christian values such as "sacrifice, long-term commitment, altruism, and responsibility," and that declining population dynamics in western society are related to eroding religious values. Carlson calls for increasing population growth to stabilize an economy threatened by an overload of retirees, and he sets out a series of changes in public policy that he believes will encourage population stability. The Natural Family: A Manifesto, written with Paul T. Mero, is another paean to the traditional family unit—and to home-based schooling, work, and care-giving for the extended family. The authors call for solid (economic, financial, and social) support to qualifying family units and a withdrawal of support for families that do not meet his qualifications. W. Bradford Wilcox wrote in the National Review that the manifesto is based on the premises that the family is more important to society than the individual; that simply wanting to form a natural family is not enough to ensure success; and that government, political, and social support for the family has lagged seriously behind the rhetoric for decades. The solutions that Carlson and his coauthor spell out, in no uncertain terms, include such proposals as eliminating no-fault divorce and increasing tax incentives for having children and caring for elderly family members.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Enterprise, July, 2000, Paul Gottfried, review of The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, p. 57.
Booklist, September 15, 2003, Ray Olson, review of The "American Way": Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity, p. 183.
Books and Culture, March-April, 2007, J. Matthew Sleeth, review of Fractured Generations: Crafting a Family Policy for Twenty-first Century America, p. 36.
Choice, August, 2007, B. Weston, review of Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage, p. 2184.
Internet Bookwatch, March, 2007, review of Conjugal America.
Journal of Church and State, winter, 2001, R. Alton Lee, review of The New Agrarian Mind, p. 162.
National Review, September 20, 1993, Richard Vigilante, review of From Cottage to Work Station: The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age, pp. 75-76; August 27, 2007, W. Bradford Wilcox, review of The Natural Family: A Manifesto, p. 40.
Reference and Research Book News, November, 2006, review of Conjugal America.
Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society,http://www.profam.org/ (November 28, 2007).