There is a tendency to romanticize the past; to look back to an earlier epoch in America and the elusive “kindler, gentler America” that is referred to in such reverential tones. Truth is, the past was not so idyllic though that has not stopped Americans to be enraptured by the specter of a brand new dawn. To go back and abolish the Civil Rights Act or follow grandpa Paul into a deflationary spiral, or invoke Jesus for some dubious scheme or assert that higher taxes will result in social solidarity are all flawed schemes that are ideologically based. To claim a leftward swing in American politics will reclaim the lost innocence of togetherness is pie in the sky. There is no end to the liberal market reformers who end up reinforcing what they claim to be dismantling.
( see link at end) :In the mid-20th century, economist Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalism – the acknowledged world-historical champion in terms of producing wealth and prosperity – would, by a process he called “creative destruction,” eventually undermine the very social institutions that gave it birth and guarded its existence. He pointed out that market capitalism exposed more natural ordering structures – the “ties that bind” – to a brutal new calculus. Commitment to kin, community and place entail making heavy economic sacrifices and provide benefits not easily entered on a balance sheet. The more cost-efficient process of market economics fomented an ongoing progressive revolution that eventually rendered those social and family ties largely superfluous. Lord Acton observed that “every institution tends to perish by an excess of its own basic principle.”
This tendency of our political and economic culture toward a state of permanent revolution is the hallmark of any modern progressive society. And if there is one deity today to which every politician, right and left, will pay obeisance, it is the god of progress.Read More:http://dailyduck.blogspot.com/2006/07/populism-authenticity-and-other-lies.html
Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath is a bit pop culture, but basically expressed what so obvious to most. In fact it was tame. The wealthy classes, led by Morgan and Rockefller had taken over the big studios in Hollywood and were churning out Shirley Temple drivel backed up by morality code which was in fact a metaphor for censorship. They had no desire to help the poor and the basic message they conveyed to Hoover and later Roosevelt, was that finance was the motor of the economy and not labor:
But to the captains of industry and the traditionally wealthy who made up Hoover’s official and private entourages the prospect of massive federal relief was dismaying. All of the initial reactions of Hoover and the class he so steadfastly represented had been self-serving. Tariffs were placed upon foreign imports, absurdly low income taxes upon the wealthy reduced even further, and federal reserves hoarded in a miserly fashion or loaned at reduced rates to select banks and industries. The remedy for the depression, the country was told, lay in the protection, and where possible the augmentation, of the capital resources of the wealthy, for these resources were the key to renewed economic growth and revived employment….
…Such naked opportunism at so desperate an hour had to be dressed in Emperor’s clothes of the first order. And Hoover and his supporters spent most of their time spinning and sewing. What they fashioned was a formidable ideological garment made of the following materials: The economy of the country was fueled, not by labor, but by money. Those who possessed money would bring the country out of the depression as their confidence was restored by a protective and solicitous government. If the needy millions were served instead, a double blow would be struck at the nation’s strength. First of all, the capital resources of the government and of the wealthy (who would have to be taxed) would be depleted. And, secondly, the moral fiber of those who received relief would be weakened—perhaps beyond repair.Read More:http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC02folder/shirleytemple.html
Steinbeck, in part, distanced himself from ideology and was also engaged in it.Part of the aesthetic of social realism with its inherent modalities and artistic conventions. What would he think about our current financial crisis? There are more haves than then, but an increasing quantity of underclass plus victims of structural or technological unemployment is a looming social tragedy unless some form of measures are foreseen. There way too many people, ostensibly middle-class muddling along to nowhere, without adequate emergency money, in debt, and no provisions for retirement and no prospect for a decent inheritance to leach onto. Our Depression era ancestors made do with very little and a transformation to those values of ingenuity, made do and D.I.Y would be a sour grape to swallow for many since status and distinction is such a dynamic component of our self-esteem. It would maybe not destroy, but severely wound the pop culture monster on which our economy depends.