6.6.16

THISTLE 'N-DIXIE.

Seems like a lot of "neo" stuff on Cold Spring Shops lately.  Book Review No. 14 will recommend Neo-Confederacy:  A Critical Introduction.  It's a book that has ample opportunities to become a diatribe against all things conservative, and a cast of contributors including contrarian sociologist James (Sundown Towns) Loewen and staffers at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

And yes, the adherents of the Southern Rebellion are part of the yeomanry's push-back against the gentry.  One essay cites (p. 83) an adherent attaching symbolic value to the Confederate Battle Flag.  "It says 'NO' to gun control, abortion, Third World immigration, moral deviancy, feminism, paganism, radical environmentalism, exorbitant taxation, globalism, crass consumerism, and big government."

That passage says more about the schisms in the conservative coalition that appeared after the Evil Empire closed up shop, than it does about any generalization of Confederacy nostalgia to the body politic.  Yes, the neo-Confederacy the authors study argue that boutique multiculturalism and celebrations of transgressivity for some but not for others are not healthy; and yet, there are objections people can raise that do not involve tattered gray uniforms, let alone hoods and burning crosses.

But rather than go down the rabbit hole of Godwin's Law corollaries that tempt, the authors offer a discussion of culture studies that might serve as a prototype for serious work on the other differences that provide research material in literature, music, sociology, not to mention economics and political science.

Consider the implications of a passage at page 144.
Another legacy of the civil rights movement is the concept of multiculturalism, the meaning and import of which continues to be debated.  For some, multiculturalism promises greater equality, while for others it is merely a conduit for maintaining the status quo (i.e. white privilege), albeit with a surface-level recognition of a multiracial society.
Emergence is messy, and one-size-fits-all ideologies, whether propounded in the common room or by the light of a burning cross, are likely to fracture, if not to fail outright.

Likewise, the book's exploration of the supposed ties between an ancient Anglo-Celtic honor culture and Southern beliefs (from whence I cribbed this review's title) might be a clinic of the ways in which a scholar can question simpleminded notions of "authenticity."  The dead hand of a nostalgia for the Highlands holds back contemporary adherents to the Confederacy.  Generalizations to nostalgia for indigenous ways in the Americas or African ways lost to the slave trade, or to third world honor cultures taken broadly, are left to the reader as exercises, or for future research.

Finally, for an academic work, the writing is refreshingly readable.  Yes, there is a "hyper-masculine discourse" here, and a reference to Louis Althusser there, and yet, dear reader, you won't be reaching for strong coffee at page three, as might more conventional and ponderous academic tomes compel you to do.  The authors note, toward the end, that it is to highlight the possible contributions of neo-Confederate beliefs to more mainstream political discourse that motivates their work.  And yet, they offer insight rather than incite.

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

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