A while back I put Colin Woodward’s book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” in my wish list based on the Z-Man’s description of its importance. I’m about twenty percent into it and I’ve got an idea of where it is going. I also can tell that Woodward is a thorough going lefty but that there is a lot of useful information in the book. The beginning of the book describes the origins of the various “nations” that he contends still underly the current political and cultural reality of the United States and its surroundings in North America.
As I said, there is a lot of slant to his description of the character of the various populations and you can tell where his sympathies lie and who he is virtue signaling to but there is also valuable information that actually helps to explain some general behaviors that can be observed at work today.
For example, Woodward waxes poetic about the New England characteristic of local autonomy and small-town democracy. This is presented as a contrast to the feudal rule of aristocratic Virginia where great landowners lorded it over the common men and monopolized the government and the courts. Supposedly this is still the reality today. But anyone living in New England knows that any community that imposed any policies out of synch with the smothering regulation existing at the state level would be assaulted with the full force of the state’s judicial and administrative might and quickly the offenders would find themselves in prison and their families dispossessed and harassed out of the state.
One of the features of New England was its early adoption of universal education and the establishment of higher education as the basis of elite status. This is also touted as a democratic virtue as opposed to the wealth-based basis of education in Virginia. Looking at the present day it’s instructive to see that the educational situation is much changed. The educational state of the poor even in New England has degraded to the point where claiming universal education is very debatable. And the status of higher education has likewise changed to the point where elite status is more of a legacy condition than any kind of meritocratic status. In other words, the state and poorer colleges have been degraded to where their degrees are approaching a worthless status whereas the high-status Ivy League schools are the domain of elite families and the affirmative action minorities that they include for the sake of appearances.
What seem to be happening is that the supposed egalitarian impulses of the New England nation and their descendants in the other Left dominated areas of the country have abandoned the pretense of equality and now embrace the model of an elect elite directing the lives of the rest of society as some sort of latter-day serfdom. This conforms more closely to the Marxist model than any puritan world view. And this of course makes sense. As the New Englanders shed their Christianity, they reached out for what replaced it in their environment, the fashionable socialism of nineteenth century intellectuals.
I’ll have a full review at some point and other discussions of the ideas and the applications of these ideas to the present condition we find ourselves in. Z-Man was right. There is useful information in this book overlaid with leftist smugness.