Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, December 06, 2004

If It Doesn't Ring, It's Not Kristol

The other day I joked to Judy that if I began to read the words of the intellectual right I might become “converted”. I’ve finished One Nation, Two Cultures, by Gertrude Himmelfarb, and I can happily report that I have emerged relatively unscathed.

The thesis of this work is that civil society (the arbiter of the individual versus the collective needs conflict) is currently home to two distinct moral cultures. She refers to the dominant culture as “post-modernists” (what will we call the modernists that come later?), rooted in bohemianism (is this not an ethnic slur?), steeped in “relativism” and just plain “looseness”.

The dissident culture is of course that of traditional republican and Puritan virtue. This culture has found itself “emasculated” by the welfare state. The resurrection of this dissident culture will be wrought through reassertion of family, an end to the tyranny of the secularists, unity among the religious traditionalists, school vouchers, etc.

…or maybe not, she doesn’t predict the outcome of this struggle.

Weaving through the machine gun fire of statistics was a little tiresome. If perhaps the Bradley Foundation (who likes to support her students) could cough up a little cake for me I could have the time to research all these surveys and their sources to see if there is a pattern of self-service. When I see statistics I get my radar up, up, up. Take this example, part of a discussion about domestic violence, marraige and cohabitation:

Thus it is husbands who are generally represented as the guilty parties and marriage is made to appear as the locus of the problem, although it is the nonmarital relationship that is far more often associated with violence. A Department of Justice study finds that a woman is three times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted by a boyfriend and ten times by an acquaintance than by a spouse.

There is no hint as to whether there is cohabitation with these rapists. It also occurs to me that nearly all women have had more than three boyfriends and ten acquaintances, thus the statistic is very alarming concerning husbands!

This wholesale assignation of societal conflict to the sphere of morality of course very neatly sidesteps the entire issue of economic class. Contrary to the analysis of current voting pattern, which reveals the center of political alignment and the median income as being one and the same, Himmelfarb says of the democratization of the dominant (once counter) culture, “Having been spared the class polarization that Karl Marx predicted, we have succumbed to the cultural revolution.”

To be quite truthful, I began to lose respect for Gertrude Himmelfarb early on. Consider the “emasculated” culture referred to above. This phraseology seemed a little strange to me, but I let it go and then, smack, there it was again! This second time I asked myself, “If masculinity is equivalent to vitality, then am I not wasting my time reading this woman’s book?”

On the positive side, I know a lot more about Alexis de Tocqueville and I am moved to learn much more about Hegel.


At 4:10 PM, Blogger JD said...

I need to start reading, I mean seriously.


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