We're not in Kansas Anymore

Secure in its control of the material means of production, the American Right has always taken the lead in the exploration of underlying, non-material, cultural factors in public life. By the "cultural," I (and they) usually mean the realm of values and voluntary behavior in day-to-day life as they are mediated through such institutions as family, church, news media, schools, and the creative arts.

Right-wing interest and intervention in the cultural arena goes all the way back to the founding of the robber baron family foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, et al). In the post-World War II era, the CIA made cultural politics a part of its containment strategy. If the truth were told, over the years the CIA has probably funded more U.S. intellectual and artistic activity than the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities combined.

In the post-Vietnam era, many of the old (apparently unwitting) CIA cultural operatives became founders of the reactionary school of political-cultural thought called Neo-Conservativism. One of the chief Neo-Con institutional shelters was, and is, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile the American Left has always been hobbled by its inability to speak authoritatively in the cultural realm. The Left did have a strong cultural voice in the 1930s and 1940s. But it was forcibly silenced by the repressions of the Red Scare era in the 1950s. Since then, the Left has often been held back in the cultural realm by a liberal relativist ethos which is unwilling to make value judgments about anything. More recently, the disproportionate influence of various cultural nationalists (ethnic and sexual) has made it difficult for the Left to find a cultural language which can be comprehended by a broad majority of the American people.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1992
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