Men crave power. How the laws and mores channel this impulse determines the shape of a given culture.
If you want men to join the legions, you make it so that the clearest path to power for a typical man will be to join up with the legions, serve his time, and then marry and be fruitful on his plot of land. If you want men to form households, you given them rights over those households and the families that issue from them.
Since the 1960s (and even before), the US has elected to instead channel male ambition into other areas. The state and its theorists achieved this by depriving fathers of patriarchal authority over their households. This was long-developing in both culture and law.
One of the key changes, heralded popularly by the advice of Dr. Spock (who was in turn heavily influenced by Freud), was the attribution of the physical disciplining of children and wives to the existence of all war and violence in society. This has also been echoed by the Swiss psychoanalyst, Alice Miller, who argued that the physical discipline regime prevalent in German-speaking countries directly lead to the rise of the Nazis and World War II.
Previous to this era, it was a common bourgeois saying in the US that ‘a man’s home is his castle.’ While this didn’t mean that the man was necessarily a sovereign on the level of a head of state, he was at least expected to maintain order within his household, and to discipline his children.
Men lost the right to use legal force against their wives and children in stages. In the early 19th century, laws against wife battery made it into law in the US and the UK. These regulations were further tightened, and have continued to be tightened, up until and including the Violence Against Women Act.
When most modern, educated, well-bred people tend to think of this trend, they tend to feel good about it. It seems entirely reasonable. After all, only low-class people beat their wives and children.
From another perspective, we might see that the disciplining doesn’t really go away from society. The switch is just passed on from the father to the policeman and the schoolmaster. The state’s hirelings retain the right to discipline children, although wives tend to be permitted to run wild, especially nowadays, restrained only by their desires and sense of self-interest.
The disciplining also changes from spanking to drugging, often heavy drugging of untested chemicals onto children. This sometimes includes powerful anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and various amphetamines. The side effects, not to mention the primary effects, can be quite severe — much more so than sore asscheeks.
Anyway, the reason why no one wants to be a patriarch today is that patriarchs have no more legal authority. They have no formal power over their wives or children. They only have influence. Influence is both fickle and distinct from power. When a child misbehaves in the modern world, there are only a few paths that a parent can take. They can verbally discipline the child (more likely to work in a higher-class household than a lower-class one), they can illegally or semi-legally beat them, they can take them to a psychiatric professional of some kind, or they can feed the kid to the justice system. Schools have their own corrections systems of varying levels of effectiveness.
Further, paternal heads of household can be deprived of their assets and children at any time at the arbitrary whim of their wives. The wife can commit adultery, and the man can still lose his property in the ensuing divorce. The children and the wife alike can be wildly disrespectful to the head of household, and the man has no recourse other than whining.
Naturally, this position holds little appeal to anyone sane. To the extent that a family attempts to hold the old form is the extent to which it’s in rebellion against the law and the dominant culture.
Returning to the beginning of this post, if we hold that men crave power, and if the role of patriarch no longer confers power, but instead vulnerability, we should assume that the male will to power will instead be redirected into other pursuits in which it’s still recognized.
Given that the basic attainment of family authority is out of reach for just about all men, we instead see more redirected energy outside the family, into corporations, the state bureaucracy, athletics, and various status competitions.
Men who aren’t very good at real competitions instead move into fake ones, to get the vicarious sense of power — video games, fantasy football, club sports, internet debating, science, blogging, forum-posting, and other safe outlets for power-jockeying unlikely to bring down too many consequences from anyone with power.
If you give men even a sliver of power, most become contented with that. When you deny them much of any power, the functional ones will set their ambition-engines running, but they will divert themselves away from family, because it confers no authority, while it once did.