no such thing...

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Fri Aug 30 13:59:57 MDT 1996

    I second, urgently, Doug's request below. I think I remember reading
this, but until I read Doug's request I had not focused on the fact that
it might be quite apocryphal. I have been using it vigorously as one
pole of my presentation of Milton's epics, of much 18th c. writing,
and of Austen's novels.

    If Thatcher didn't say it, she should have, for it expresses both
the core (I think) of bourgeois ideology AND then shows the utter in-
tellectual confusion (more or less deliberate) in the contradiction
it proceeds to affirm. The same "logic" that dissolves society dissolves
the family. The "official" social unit of bourbeois society must be
the "abstract individual" whose "dot-like" existence Marx notes in
the *Grundrisse*. But if that "individual" exists (in any real or
illusory mode), then the "family" can only be (essentially) an
ad hoc unit formed by contract. (Children are only temporary
residents of the capitalist nuclear family, for by definition the
purpose of child raising is to send that child into the world as
one more "dot.") Milton was one of the very first Europeans to
imagine concretely this absurd reality or real absurdity, the indi-
vidual, and he was (consequently) the first clearly to see that
the "new" family (which he saw in the Garden of Eden) was formed
by an abstract free choice (a contract), and hence needed to
be dissolvable (hence his pamphlets in defense of divorce which
got him into trouble with almost everyone).

    Anyhow, I hope someone can validate the quotation from

> Does anyone know when and where Margaret Thatcher said "There's no such
> thing as society, there's only individuals and their families"? And if you
> know that, do you know if I have the wording right?
> Doug
> --
> Doug Henwood
> Left Business Observer
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