Phi Beta Cons

Continuity of Cultures

What the interminable Republic primary process of 2011–12, with Romney still struggling and the improbable Santorum still running, says to me is that the culture wars continue, despite various conservatives announcing periodically that they are over and that they themselves are quite comfortable with the state of things. To my mind, nothing has surpassed Gertrude Himmelfarb’s brilliant analysis, One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (2001). This book suggests that there are two cultures: an elite, permissive, and non-judgmental culture, and an opposing moral-religious culture that cuts across class and racial lines. This could be a useful supplement to Charles Murray’s analysis, which is also valuable. Both Belmont and Fishtown probably contain people who fit into each of Himmelfarb’s categories. “Elite” might not seem apropos of Fishtown, but it is possible that individuals of even lower status pick up elite opinions as they wade in the trash of popular culture.  


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