The Clare Spark Blog

May 4, 2012

Charles Murray Dreaming

Perhaps the most interesting items in Charles Murray’s book talk to members of the David Horowitz Freedom Center on April 30, 2012, were 1. His recommending the educational theories of E. D. Hirsch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._D._Hirsch) and McGuffey’s Readers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGuffey%27s_Reader); and 2. His reluctance to answer the question from one attendee: “Why do upper-class [white, Hollywood, Left Coast] people support the Left?” (He did blame “political correctness” for its failure to demonize unmarried women e.g., families without fathers.)

Perhaps Murray did not want to get into a lengthy answer, but were I to be asked that question about progressives/liberals who support the leftism, statism, and the ostensible decay of a common white civic culture that worries Murray, I would simply point to the observable fact that corporatist liberalism was not concerned with popularizing revolutionary socialism, but was a calculated deceptive move to “the Left” in order to preserve upper-class wealth against the red specter that had been haunting Europe since the French Revolution. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/.) Indeed, FDR thought that it was a risible notion that he was a revolutionary, as his big business critics alleged until a bunch of them went over to Keynesian economics in 1942, inspired by such as Robert M. Hutchins and Harold Lasswell (https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/) .

As for Hollywood liberals, the answer should have been obvious to the questioner. Throughout history, class resentments have existed. The recent immigrants to the US who founded the big studios were hardly artistes, but were businessmen eager to make money by entertaining a mass audience, an audience that Protestant middle-class progressives had spurned unless they could be improved through uplift. (See the project to uplift “Marja” in https://clarespark.com/2009/11/13/supermen-wanted-early-freudians-and-the-mob/. ) Early Hollywood had no illusions about mass taste, and provided adventure, sex and violence to a readymade audience that already was alienated from snooty and exclusive nativist old families. The Mayers or Goldwyns or Laemmles and their movie or television offspring still adhere to populist feeling and a hefty dose of primitivism. Social realism and didacticism do not sell, except as a warning to other “liberals” that the natives are restless and gun toting, or that criminals may be running everything. But Dr. Murray is worried that the white working class is obese and watches too much television, as if the upper classes do not enjoy the more sophisticated adventures, romance, soft porn, escapism, and even artiness provided by the younger writers and producers, affected as they have been by counter-culture naughtiness, identification with Marlon Brando or James Dean, clever parodies, and fun.

In my view, the notion that there was once a common civic culture that united the white working class with upper-class elites (the theme of his talk) is wishful thinking.  Murray recommended his earlier book Losing Ground for its emphasis on family, vocation, passionate avocation, motherhood, community, and faith: these together would promote longevity. This is culture wars talk, and though some of it makes sense, I have the nagging feeling that Murray, like other moderates, is emphasizing human weakness and dependency, not independence and the critical thought I have presented on this website. (See this excerpt from Eros and the Middle Manager: https://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/.)

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