Philobiblon: The Matter of America

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Matter of America

Just finished Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with America?, an interesting exploration of the right-wing working-class voter. It's not quite so original a phenomena as he claims, I would suggest, nor does he really manage to explain why so many voters are suffering from what he effectively describes as "false consciousness", but interesting nonetheless.

His account is almost entirely focused on his home state of Kansas, which was, he says, a hotbed of radicalism 100 years ago, "when those in the hardest-hit areas [economically] were the most radical. In Kansas, the political geography of class has been turned upside down".

He argues the right has largely achieved this by hijacking the left position of perpetual victimhood, through fighting issues of abortion, gay rights, TV and movie content that it almost certainly cannot win. He concludes, without really exploring, the reason why the right has got away with this is that liberalism has surrendered the economic arguments, leaving that ground to laissez-faire capitalism as a fait accompli.

I still don't think that he gets to the "why", but an interesting discussion.

The Observer's reviewer was more complimentary.


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