Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Defined by class

Lewis Lapham was the editor of Harper’s Magazine, for over 30 years. Harper’s has the distinction of being the second-oldest continuously published magazine in America (do you know the honor of being the oldest?). In an age of five-second sound bites and a populace given more to American Idol than American literature, Harper’s longevity and relevance is quite an accomplishment. Actually, staying true to its intellectual underpinnings in a dumbed down nation might be Lapham's true legacy at Harper's.

As a writer and social critic, Lapham has continually written about class in America. The 600 pound elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, class arguably informs American life more than any other factor.

In the late 80s, as the Reagan years were mercifully winding down, Lapham gave us Money and Class in America: Notes and Observations on Our Civil Religion (Grove Press, 1988). In this book, a series of Lapham’s essays, his underlying theme is the degradation and caustic effects that chasing money for money’s sake has on culture, politics and society as a whole. Showing that his thoughts and ideas are still relevant, Lapham notes in an interview granted for The Progressive,

“We [also] need an awakening on the part of large numbers of people, both Democrat and Republican, of a political consciousness that has been dormant for the better part of the last thirty years. We have to change the notion that politics isn’t important, that what’s important is the economy and money, and that politicians serve at the pleasure of their corporate sponsors. They might as well be hired accordion players at a hospitality tent at a golf tournament.”
Lapham also has some interesting insights about young college graduates and how they no longer are interested in ideas and things bigger than themselves—only how to land a cushy corporate gig and make money.

If you’d like to read more from the interview with one of America’s great essayists, you can access it here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Liberals love to play the class warfare card at every opportunity. The rich are always getting richer, or so you say, but what about the middle class and lower class? They are doing better than decades before.

It never occurs to the class warfare specialists that rich people got that way generally because they work hard and take enormous risks. Have you ever been hired for a job by a poor person?

According to your warped political reality, those who become successful are to be reviled and punished with oppressive and confiscatory taxation. Worse, they are to be considered the enemy of working men and women who are portrayed as conspiring to ruin the lives of average Americans.

As President Lincoln said, “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

Here's a link you might want to read that refutes your ideas about the richest Americans.