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February 18, 2014

New Book Alleges Progressivism Chiefly Animated by Class, Cultural Snobbery

Via Hot Air, Michael Barone considers Fred Siegel's "revealing" new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.

The novels of Sinclair Lewis, the journalism of H. L. Mencken, and the literary criticism of Van Wyck Brooks heaped scorn on the vast and supposedly mindless Americans who worked hard at their jobs and joined civic groups — Mencken’s “booboisie.”

These 1920s liberals idealized the “noble aspiration” and “fine aristocratic pride” in an imaginary Europe, and considered Americans, in the words of a Lewis character, “a savorless people, gulping tasteless food,” and “listening to mechanical music, saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world.”

This contempt for ordinary Americans mostly persisted in changing political environments. During the Great Depression, many liberals became Communists, proclaiming themselves tribunes of a virtuous oppressed proletariat that would have an enlightened rule.

For a moment, idealization of the working man, but not the middle-class striver, came into vogue. But in the postwar years, what Siegel calls “the political and cultural snobbery” of liberals returned.

Jonah Goldberg has written about this book, and I wrote about him writing about it.

Incidentally, I think it is inevitable that class and culture wind up essentially driving "politics," but that people ought to recognize this and work to restrain this tendency.

I've often complained of both some on the right (and most on the left) turning what ought to be questions of policy into personal fights undertaken to establish a particular, idiosyncratic expression of a culture as dominant and favored.

There are cultures I favor and think have more on the ball than others, but even within specific cultures, I have criticisms of cultures I favor, and I find good things in cultures I don't.

I just don't see the wisdom of making politics a proxy fight for whose culture is better, nor of encoding most particulars of a culture's creed into the U.S. legal code.
Such things are for argument and rhetorical suasion, not mandates and laws.

Videos: Fred Siegel discusses his book here, in a ten minute excerpt.

The full hour is here.

Sent by Yip.


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posted by Ace at 06:06 PM

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