Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Should We Restore Bourgeois Hegemony?

Campus Red Guards and Brown Shirts are out in force to punish Law Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander. You see, the two professors wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a return to 1950s bourgeois culture and a rejection of today’s multicultural mishmosh.

By their lights, America’s cultural elites, the academic and media class that tells everyone what to think, has produced a nation that is largely dysfunctional, unable to compete in the modern world.

Wax and Alexander count the ways:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

What caused this problem? America’s bourgeois culture was replaced by a culture grounded in the values of the Vietnam counterculture. Bourgeois culture promoted certain values. Wax and Alexander explain:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

To which we feel obliged to add that our nation was also following the same script during World War II. At that time, we fielded a military that defeated fascism and Nazism. The culture that reigned during and after Vietnam has no such accomplishments to its credit. People who despise bourgeois hegemony because they want to fight fascism should remember who really did defeat fascism.

Were there problems? Wax and Alexander answer that, of course there were. And yet, during the 1950s America dealt with its problems constructively. It did not feel the need to destroy the nation in order to validate grievances.

They write:

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.

Disadvantaged groups failed to progress after Vietnam. Under the aegis of the intellectual elites, the cultural fabric of America was shredded... to the point that there was nothing worth integrating into. Fragmented into warring tribes, the culture could not impart values that could produce success. 

The breakdown was produced by Vietnam and by the counterculture it spawned:

A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.

And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.

Thus we arrived at multiculturalism, a misguided attempt to allow everyone to have equal self-esteem. You can imagine that today's culture warriors are especially offended to read Wax and Alexander make the all-too-obvious point that all cultures are not created equal:

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

Yet, some American precincts have not embraced the deviant cultural practices advanced under the heading of multicultural diversity. In some corners of America, people still live as they did:

Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

Wax and Alexander call on our academic and media elites to abandon their preening acceptance of multiculturalism and to restore bourgeois hegemony:

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

Of course, Wax and Alexander have been denounced as racists for trafficking in hate speech. For the record, hate speech is speech you hate because you do not know how to engage it. Why do they not know how to engage it? Because today’s bien-pensant leftist academic intellectuals are mentally challenged.  Keep in mind, name calling is the first recourse of the feeble minded.


Jim Sweeney said...

Left out of your comments and perhaps theirs is the slow abandonment of religion and regular church attendance which was de rigeur in the 40s and 50s. The slippery slope argument was intoned - I was there at the time - but ignored but we've been on it now for two generations and it shows. Asians have not felt this yet which is the main reason they do so well as a group - culturally, they are yet in the 50s.

Sam L. said...

The Leninists, Marxists, Socialists, and Communists (and maybe the Trotskyites, if there are any) have been undermining western civilization for many, many years.

James said...

Something will be reestablished regardless of what people want. My guess is that it will be a general crack down on these people and the pols that have abetted them from the shadows. As I've said before, Trump's greatest accomplishment to date is the unmasking of these people, their backers in the political and media world and academia. Of course by their hysterical behavior they've made it pretty easy and it's what many many people suspected all along, but to have it right out there front and center in the national attention is priceless.

Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

The good thing about advice like this is that it doesn't take a movement. It takes individuals to value it and follow it. I mean individuals can decide, although obviously the goal is strong family structures, and strong civil engagement.

And marriage is apparently the answer to everything for heterosexuals, but now that gays and trans have the right to get married, everything is ruined, and we're required by law to not discriminate against these losers and freaks.

Wendell Berry gave his own Bourgeois recommendations back in 1994, seeing "Home economics" as the central approach, expanding from prudent households to prudent communities, but it is not online, and too long for Stuart for me to share here.