Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Countering the counterculture

Bill McClay has a nice little piece in the new issue of Touchstone. A snippet:

Not so long ago, the quest for liberation from social convention carried certain perils. But now we have made that quest into a new social convention in its own right, with its own canons of respectability, such as the routine celebration of books and movies and other works of art solely on the grounds that they are “troubling” or “transgressive,” qualities now deemed to be peculiarly meritorious in and of themselves, quite apart from their specific content.


Of course, one of the many dirty little secrets of this dirty little ethos is that it rests upon a veiled form of class snobbery. There must always be certain unnamed “others,” the gaping suburbanites and mindless rubes who are thought to sustain and uphold the philistine conventions from which “we” perpetually need to be liberated. But those “others” seem increasingly shadowy and hard to locate. The specter of a monolithic “red state” America is an easy way of positing the continued pernicious existence of such benighted “others.”


But as a resident of a certifiably red state, I can authoritatively testify that we are all Bobos on this bus—or at least most of us. The new convention has been triumphant beyond its wildest dreams, and now suffuses our popular culture and our advertising, assimilated into the mainstream in the most remarkable and incongruous ways.

Read the whole short thing.

Discussions - 1 Comment

True. Lets agree that this "new social convention" originates from John Stuart Mill. Lets then ask if it is only under millian convention that the idea of class snobery would be seen as a bad thing.(perhaps not...but this is largely a millian objection to a millian spawned problem.) That is if the sole objection to valueing freedom of speech for its own sake is that it rests on class snobery then Mill could be the answer as well as the problem.

As I see it the problem of the first paragraph is "creeping subjectivism". I suppose that I agree with conservatives when I think that in some instances this subjectivism has gone to far. That is we are always looking to praise something that will awaken us from the comfort of the truths we already grasp. But on the whole I don’t think this is as big of a problem as it is made out to be.

Long story short the article objects to the new social convention...that is itself based upon a resistance to ontological structuring...by showing that this convention is itself an ethos that seeks to blame an other. But if this is the case then the essay is itself "troubling".

That is if there is to be an ontological/ideological/cultural grounding for truth statements then there will be the insiders and the outsiders, the "us" and the "them"...in short the "others" and of course the spector of a "monolithic red state america"...not perhaps to mention a monolithic blue state america as the other side of the coin. But liberation from social convention is liberation from all veilled forms to include class snobbery.

In other words if the article is objecting to the new social convention of "liberation from social convention" then it must also take "class snobbery" to be not a dirty little secret but a sign of health...or at least a sign that people are still making claims about the truth that exclude and create "others" instead of discarding "truth" as simply the product of a "lens" or "box-thinking".

Our current tension is also a dominant tension within the thought of John Stuart Mill. Calling it a dirty little secret is Millian... But who cares about "class snobbery" if it is based upon the Truth?

Why does this article seem to object to the "new social convention"...by appealing to its canons of respectability?

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