Brooks Compliments One Strain of Determinism With Another

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 in Musings | No Comments

In his Valentines Day Column (, David Brooks relies on recent social science scholarship to inveigh against economic determinism. Brooks argues that economic determinism inadequately explains the “weakening of the social fabric.” He recounts that neo-conservatives had attributed social deterioration to cultural factors while market libertarians had blamed large government for the same.

Diagnosing the problem as one of weak communities and social fabric, Brooks offers the remedy of “bourgeois paternalism,” or a profusion of “organizations and structures” that induce responsibility. These would presumably account not only for the economic factors behind social breakdown, but the “sociologic, psychological and cognitive” ones as well.

Brooks seems to rely on social science not quite to debunk economic determinism, but to diversify determinism with sociological, psychological and cognitive data. In a sense, he is pointing to more than one variable to explain that human beings are determined. Although he ultimately suggests that social policy must account for more than economics to repair our deteriorating social fabric, he still seems committed to a more encompassing, but still deterministic, theory of human character and causation.