Left. Egalitarian. Sandernista.

February 17, 2016

The Cultural CreativesIn an essay I wrote ten years ago (!) I compared subcultures in North America to make a point about poetry cultures. The essay is Changing a Culture: (A Look at Cultural Modernism and Free Market Verse).  In it I allude to Modernist culture and my inspiration for that category of subculture came directly out of the work of Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson and their book: The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World. I interviewed them in 2000 and their work seems quite prophetic to me now, at least as much as it did then.

In the book they argue that there are three basic subcultures in North America (& a similar dynamic in Europe):

Traditionals were described as:

On the Religious Right
Want Traditional Relationships
Have Conventional Religious Beliefs
Oppose Feminism in Work


Support Financial Materialism
Are Not Self-Actualizing
Are Not Altruistic
Are Cynical About Politics
Give Success a High Priority in Life
Are Not Relationship-Oriented

And that group they coined the Cultural Creatives:

Want to Rebuild Neighborhoods/Communities
Fear Violence Against Women and Children
Like What is Foreign and Exotic (Xenophiles)
See Nature as Sacred
Believe in Ecological Sustainability
Believe in Voluntary Simplicity
Believe Relationships are Important
Believe Success is Not a High Priority
Are Profeminist At Work
Believe in Holistic Health

among other things (28, 29).

Were I to interview the couple today, I would surely ask them about the graph I posted recently, created by Benjamin Studebaker:

Left Egalitarians, Neoliberals and Right Nationalists

Notice the groupings Studebaker uses and their similarity to what Ray and Anderson described in 2000. Remember that was before 9/11, before the cultural swing right as exemplified by Nipple-Gate in 2004, rampant Islamophobia and support for the endless violent occupations that continue this day, not to mention the Trillions of dollars wasted on militarism. It has taken 16 years from one chart to the next, but we see with the percentage of voters aged 18-29 in the New Hampshire primary (83% Sanders, 16% Clinton), the next generation has made up their mind about the future direction of this country, at least in a state that has known about Sanders for a while, being next door to Vermont. 50 million in 2000 probably means 80 million in 2016 and they’ve not had a voice in USAmerican politics for a while. Canada just elected a Cultural Creative Prime Minister, so the example is already there.

Other commentators around the world recognize what is happening, among them Thomas Piketty writing for Le Monde:

The Vermont senator’s success so far demonstrates the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections

Here’s a bit of his argument:

Let’s glance back for an instant. From the 1930s until the 1970s, the US were at the forefront of an ambitious set of policies aiming to reduce social inequalities. Partly to avoid any resemblance with Old Europe, seen then as extremely unequal and contrary to the American democratic spirit, in the inter-war years the country invented a highly progressive income and estate tax and set up levels of fiscal progressiveness never used on our side of the Atlantic. From 1930 to 1980 – for half a century – the rate for the highest US income (over $1m per year) was on average 82%, with peaks of 91% from the 1940s to 1960s (from Roosevelt to Kennedy), and still as high as 70% during Reagan’s election in 1980.

This policy in no way affected the strong growth of the post-war American economy, doubtless because there is not much point in paying super-managers $10m when $1m will do. The estate tax, which was equally progressive with rates applicable to the largest fortunes in the range of 70% to 80% for decades (the rate has almost never exceeded 30% to 40% in Germany or France), greatly reduced the concentration of American capital, without the destruction and wars which Europe had to face.

I would quibble with this and say that USAmerican neoliberalism started with Jimmy Carter in 1976.  I recognized that (even if I would not have articulated it that way) by 1980, when in my first federal voting opportunity, I chose John Anderson, running as a 3rd party candidate. Something inside me back then recognized that Carter was taking us on the wrong path and Teddy Kennedy would never be elected president, nor would his pet project Single Payer Health Care ever come to the US. Of course Kennedy did not win the nomination, but he weakened Carter’s standing and then Reagan and his henchmen pulled off treason with Iran to get elected, but that is another story. Today the cultural winds are shifting, perhaps in time to save the biosphere.

These categorizations are, of course, generalizations, but the idea explains a lot about my Facebook arguments with supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Modernists, they are generally not self-actualizing, altruistic and idealistic and they are financial materialists who are cynical about politics. Of course I am going to sound like a lunatic to them. I actually have humane feelings for other mammals and don’t give a shit about a corporate “career.” They’d see me as a “mansplainer” and I am guilty as charged, but I generally save the ‘splaning for those that most need it:

PEN Mansplaining to the Witch Hazel

PEN Mansplaining to the Witch Hazel


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