Saturday, September 17, 2016

Reading List

"We are a country that imagines itself as democratic, and yet the majority has never cared much for equality."

So smart. Real history, but very readable. It upended many things I thought I knew, plus it could not be more relevant.


mlutwak said...

I read this last week. While I thought it was interesting and full of nice anecdotes, I thought it was ultimately fairly incoherent. The author's POV is completely informed by how mainstream media and thinkers have historically viewed this "class" of people. She never gives voice to, or to identify who she thinks these people actually were/are.

Her definition of class is vague: is she talking about an ethnic group? An economic group? A level of income? Are these people just poor? She conflates poor working class people with people who are "sub-proletariat" -- outside of the economy.

The author's definitions of "trash" vs "redneck" varies as she tries to prove her points. The contemporary political scene -- the emergence of Palin & Trump -- is being supported & driven by people who would be traditionally defined as suburban middle class. The folks living in the "hollers" aren't voting or contributing money to political campaigns.

I won't even get into her anachronisms or her forays into comparing the writing quality of Carolyn Chute's fiction and other writers...

I agree with her basic point that class is a crucial dynamic in America, and that its intersection with race reveals the driving motor of our history. However, I think one has to start by defining and analyzing the basics of our economic history. (European-)American history is completely wrapped up with the transition from mercantile to industrial capitalism.

Perhaps the definition of white trash starts with the English ex-peasants driven from their land in the 16th & 17h century enclosures. But, then (I think) one has to hammer out a definition of class, and how it evolved as our economic system evolved.

I recommend Sven Beckert's EMPIRE OF COTTON.

KAZ said...

I was most interested by her discussion of the racial divide as it was created as a means to let the lower classes fight things out--who's lower? You are. I agree that we need better definitions overall. Part of it is that we don't talk about class enough. But I also really liked the part about eugenics--TR, etc. Donald "It was a great night for Mexico" Trump is a eugenicist, as his dad was, and we don't talk about this enough, either.