Thursday, September 30, 2004

Upcoming Developments

I haven't written for a while, partly because every time I sit down and try to put into words this topic that's been raging around inside my head for weeks, I find something else in the blogosphere that I need to link to and think about and incorporate into my argument before I publish it. So my imagined post has just grown and grown, and I've had to break it up into multiple parts. I'm still not sure how many, but I've got to get it out soon, or else it'll never see the light of day.

What is it? Something of a manifesto, I suppose, though perhaps far too reflective to warrant such a label. All summer, just about everyone has been talking about Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas? It's a fascinating argument which Frank makes: so very right about many things, but so very wrong about the most important ones. To me, his book reveals something much larger than a simple electoral concern (or travesty, if you prefer); the disconnect between the conservative voting habits of culturally motivated lower- and working-class white voters in the American midwest and south and their (presumably more important) actual economic interests is a lot more interesting than a simplistic tale of elite capitalist Republicans manipulating fearful, redneck rubes. On the contrary, Frank helps get us close to the crossroads where (populist) culture and (progressive) class-concerns collide. But he refuses to look seriously at that crossroads, why it's there and what the costs of trying to transcend it or just dispose of it might be. In that sense, I have the same problem with Kansas that I had with John Judis and Ruy Teixeira's The Emerging Democratic Majority: a book that does so much to uncover the hard political demographic complications of culture and class in America today, but all in the name of just urging Democrats in the direction of a rather condescending bit of platform building. There is something that needs to be said here, something on behalf of the divide which these authors expose that doesn't turn it into a simple problem to be solved. I don't think these authors, in short, pay their topic the respect it deserves. (While I don't share either of their equally apocalyptic perspectives on the possible consequences of, and necessary responses to, this divide, I think both Timothy Burke and Scott Martens are at least aware of the depth of what's happening.) Whether I can actually manage to say what I think needs to be said, I don't know. But anyway, hopefully by this weekend or next week, I'll be able to start rolling my thoughts out. Expect excursions on the Democratic and Republican parties, socialism and populism, free trade and globalization, Christianity and Wal-Mart. Just what you've always come here to read, right?

In the meantime, be aware that I've installed a hack (borrowed from this good gentleman) that should make the comments function much more user-friendly. Also, keep an eye on what happens over at Laura's place. She's going to be talking about family and work-related issues all next week, and it appears that several high-powered academics and policy wonks are going to be following the conversation there closely. So if you have anything to say on those topics, plan on joining in the discussion; it's sure to be a rewarding one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Russell, I am very interested in the Frank book (the New York Review, predictably, loved it). Reading between your lines and knowing your weltanschauung, it sounds like the unique and complex concerns of rural Americans are being given short shrift once again...  

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