With Primal Screams: How The Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics, Mary Eberstadt rounds out her insightful analysis of the sexual revolution which she began with her first book, Home Alone America. We see a thinker who has grappled with her subject for an extended length of time, one who has understood its complexity and analyzed it from a variety of perspectives, a thinker who has given her readers a body of work to build on—one deserving of its praise.
In Primal Screams, Eberstadt argues that today’s identity politics arose from the deep anthropological wound slit open by the sexual revolution. That is, the ascent of identity politics reveals that people are having an identity crisis, and they are having an identity crisis because the sexual revolution resulted in family—and, by extension, individual—breakdown. This sent mankind throughout the West into a crisis. The fundamental question “Who am I?” can no longer be answered outright. When it is answered, it is answered via ersatz identities. Eberstadt calls this question “the preeminent psychic howl of our time.”
The book progresses much like her earlier work, How the West Really Lost God. It begins with a summary of the subject matter thus far, an outline of her new theory (“The Great Scattering”) where she demonstrates via social and cultural analysis the scattering of human families, three chapters of impressive supporting evidence to show the connection between The Great Scattering and the contemporary manifestation of identity politics, and a conclusion. Unlike her previous book, however, after the conclusion we are given an opportunity to read responses by Rod Dreher, Mark Lilla, and Peter Thiel to her ideas. The book concludes with an afterword, in which Eberstadt gives a brief rejoinder.
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