Right Left |
Case for Cultural Sensitivity in Economic History
Volume II, Number 3
I was bent over with laughter when I read Walter Goodman's tongue-in-cheek
account, in the New York Times of August 19, of the annual meeting
of a well-established scholarly association. "Sociologists to the barricades,"
ran the headline. The official theme of this year's meeting of the American
Sociological Association was "Oppression, Domination and Liberation." The
conference promised insights into "manifestations of social inequality,
such as class exploitation and oppression on the basis of gender, ethnicity,
national origin, sexual preference, disability, and age." It was a big
tent, remarked the Times reporter, as he lingered in amazement over
seductive panel of titles such as "Gender Oppression," "Postmodern Critiques
of Science," "Gender Discrimination Revisited," or "Confronting Racism,
Sexism and Homophobia in Academia." Among the speakers who caught the reporter's
attention was an assistant professor from California "who kept announcing
himself as a 'pro-feminist gay Chicano.'" The rare speaker who neglected
to call for immediate political action found himself denounced for "implicit
racism," while another speaker's call for "an end to the system we are
all fighting against" met with approval. There was warm support in the
audience for what the Times reporter describes as "a non-discriminatory
policy of overthrow."
Given the theatrical simulacrum of political engagement on the part of
our assembled sociological colleagues, it was not entirely surprising,
perhaps, that Ralph Nader, the presidential candidate, appeared to address
the meeting and drew a sizeable crowd, while the "Gender Discrimination"
panel attracted only two dozen women, among them "a small woman in a large
hat calling fervently and very sociologically for a 'feminist paradigm.'"
The reporter was having a field day, in the tradition of James Thurber,
but he also raised a serious question: "what was a presidential candidate
doing making a campaign address under the auspices of a group purportedly
given to scientific independence of a sort?"
I suppose that most readers of this bulletin are not in the least surprised
by the odd behavior attributed to our sociological colleagues. After all,
we have seen equally surprising attitudes struck at nominally scholarly
meetings for some time now. Some of us have learned to give a wide berth
to panels whose participants "construct" and "deconstruct" and speak of
"representation," "discourse," "gender," and "bodies" in tortured phrases
seemingly mistranslated from the original Bulgarian, as in "Rewriting the
Sexual Encounter" or "The Artisanal Body: Narrating Bodily Knowledge."
University Presses continue listing monographs with alluring titles such
as Making the Body Beautiful (plastic surgery), Written on the
Body (tattoos), Tortured Subjects (pain, bodies,) or The
Pope's Body. Violence done to bodies is a popular theme in university
press books, as in Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier or
Sapphic Slashers, although the duller titles are content with proclaiming
their radical chic quality by inducing the passé-partout word "gender,"
as in Gender, Sexuality and Self, or, grandly, The Gender of
Such topics, often chosen by dissertation writers and panelists at historians'
conferences, may seem a bit on the odd side. The innocent observer may
also be struck by the uniformity of these productions which resemble each
other as fatefully as do the cheap constructions of suburban strip malls.
The books and papers are all about oppression, about violent sexual behavior,
about "bodies." They seem designed to invite derision.
Could it be that the contortions described by the Times reporter
are actually symptomatic of a disease already receding? For confirmation
of such an optimistic prognosis, one may turn to the Olympian verdicts
in the pages of the New York Review of Books, which attest to the
survival of a hard core of sane scholarship immune to the vulgar fetishes
brandished by mobs of arrivistes. One need only to look at the program
of our own national conference to recognize that many historians stay clear
of trivial pursuits. Look at some of the names of the speakers at our two
June conferences: John Patrick Diggins, Karen Fields, Shelia Fitzpatrick,
Robert Fogel, John Lewis Gaddis, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Eugene Genovese,
Daniel Gordon, Victor Davis Hanson, Richard Hellie, John Higginson, Patrice
Higonnet, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Russell Jacoby, Donald Kagan, Emmet Kennedy,
Robert Kingdon, Mary Lefkowitz, Michael Lind, Pauline Maier, Martin Malia,
Wilson J. Moses, Steven Ozment, Orlando Patterson, Stanley Payne, Leo Ribuffo,
Sheldon Stern, Deborah Symonds, John Womack, Dale Van Kley, Lynne Viola,
Sean Wilentz, or Gordon Wood. Many of the other participants were young,
fresh out of graduate school, or still students. We heard straight talk
and significant questions addressed. And although the theme of the 2000
conference happened to be the study of Revolutions, no one called for an
armed uprising, and blessedly, there was no mention of bodies.
Huppert is president of THS and a professor of history, University of Illinois,
Left, Right, Left
Andrew J. Bacevich
As an entering graduate student in history at Princeton in the mid-1970s,
I lacked both academic preparation and intellectual self-confidence. When
it came to divining the meaning of the past, everybody else -- faculty
and fellow students alike -- evinced great certainty. For my part, I felt
overwhelmed, as if I had been shoved toward an unfamiliar pitch, handed
an odd-shaped ball, and told, "you're in." I didn't even know the rules.
Only the fact that I was at the time also a serving military officer saved
me from complete disorientation. Despite all the evidence to the contrary
that had heaped up over the previous decade -- Saigon had fallen just two
months before my arrival on campus -- I approached history certain of one
thing: in a manichaean world, the United States walked on the side of the
When it came to my chosen field -- U. S. diplomatic history -- this conviction
offered a useful compass. By the 1970s, the study of American foreign relations
had become all but indistinguishable from the study of the Cold War, which
was in turn largely viewed through the prism of Vietnam. As such, the field
was stormy, contentious, highly politicized, and on occasion downright
nasty. Knowing who the good guys were, knowing that the likes of Mao, Ho,
and Fidel weren't good guys, permitted me to navigate to a safe
harbor -- to wit, the familiar confines of liberal internationalist orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy offered a multitude of benefits, not the least of which was that
it obviated any requirement to examine pre-existing assumptions regarding
the purpose and uses of American power. It enabled me, with Ernest May,
to derive comfort from the belief that whereas "Some nations achieve greatness;
the United States had greatness thrust upon it."1 The ultimate explanation
for (and justification of) American global preeminence lay in the realm
In the grand historiographical scheme of things, orthodoxy also enabled
me to situate myself in relation to two key figures, each in his way a
nemesis of the liberal internationalist creed: William Appleman Williams,
the godfather of Cold War revisionism, and Williams's renowned precursor,
Charles A. Beard.
At the time, one was au courant, the other passé. Everybody was
reading Williams. His ideas did not inform seminar room debate; they permeated
it. By contrast, no one read Beard. If we had occasion to touch on his
ideas, it was chiefly for the purpose of rejecting them out of hand.
Of the two, Beard was by far the easier to reckon with, if only because
he had long since become discredited. In the twilight of a fabulous career,
this lifelong progressive had (so the story went) inexplicably soured,
veered sharply to the right, and on the defining question of the day --
whether or not Hitler (and the system he represented) posed a threat to
the United States -- erred spectacularly. To the last, Beard had opposed
U. S. entry into World War II. As soon as the war ended, he returned to
his cause with something like perverse enthusiasm, launching a venomous
attack on FDR for having been deceitful, prevaricating, and manipulative.
In so doing, Beard put himself beyond the pale of respectability. Already
in 1944, Lewis Mumford was castigating Beard in print as "a passive --
no, active -- abettor of tyranny, sadism, and human defilement." 2 The
bottom line was that Beard was a certifiable isolationist. In the liberal
internationalist church there exists no greater sin. Knowing that, I knew
all that I needed to about Charles Beard.
Beard's intellectual heir, Williams proved far less easy to dismiss, if
only because of his status as a reigning academic celebrity. In his writings,
Williams echoed and amplified themes that Beard had first developed decades
before -- depicting U. S. foreign policy as an outgrowth of domestic imperatives,
manifested in a persistent drive to secure an "open door" for American
capitalism. Like Beard, Williams viewed the drive for openness abroad as
an effort to deflect threats to cherished but deeply flawed political,
economic, and social arrangements at home. Whatever ailed the country,
the solution was to be found in growth, especially economic growth. In
the eyes of American policy elites, therefore, the choice was as stark
as it was inescapable: commercial expansion or stagnation and decay, world
dominion or irreversible decline.
To Beard, the implications of continuously "pushing and holding open doors
in all parts of the world," had been clear: it pointed to meddling, militarization,
and permanent war justified as a messianic pursuit of universal peace.3
Williams concurred, adding his own apocalyptic warnings about illusions
of military omnipotence, born of the nuclear revolution. But whereas Beard
could only speculate about calamities that might ensue, Williams had seemingly
irrefutable proof immediately at hand: the debacle of Vietnam.
When it came to remedies, Beard offered modest suggestions for Americans
to tend to their own garden. Williams seemingly went much further. More
than a mere progressive, he stood in the vanguard of the New Left. In the
fashion of the day, Williams denounced American "imperialism," touted the
virtues of "revolution," and referred sympathetically, if vaguely, to "socialism."
To some, such talk was heady stuff. To others, it smacked of sedition.
Indeed, Williams fancied himself something of a homegrown radical. Among
his legion of admirers, much was made of his role as charismatic leader
of the "Wisconsin School." The young Williams had breathed deeply the radical
vapors that seemingly hover above Madison. But other parts of his biography
told a different story. Like Beard -- and like myself, for that matter
-- Williams had been born and raised in the heartland. Like myself, he
was a service academy graduate. During World War II, he had served honorably
as a naval officer in the Pacific. Could such a man really be quite the
dangerous heretic that cardinals of the liberal internationalism such as
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. accused him of being?
Schlesinger and other princes of the church would not budge from their
insistence that the defining question of the Cold War was whether or not
Stalin (and the system he represented) posed a threat to the United States.
On that score, Schlesinger had no doubts and, my own dismal experience
in Vietnam notwithstanding, neither did I. Yet Williams, like Beard before
him, disagreed and persisted in posing altogether different questions from
a different point of view. When it came to totalitarianism, he was, again
like Beard, blind, deaf, and dumb. That became the bottom line on William
A. Williams. Knowing that, I knew -- for the moment at least -- all I needed
Fast-forward twenty-five years. A decade after the end of the Cold War,
with totalitarianism little more than an ugly memory, we have ostensibly
embarked upon an altogether new era. According to the conventional wisdom,
one of the few things that we can state with confidence about this new
era is that the United States has yet to devise a coherent foreign policy.
Now at the top of the heap, the nation that had greatness thrust upon it
just makes it up as it goes along.
Bill Clinton, thus far the era's dominant political figure, says otherwise.
Although as a foot soldier in what Mrs. Clinton calls the "vast right wing
conspiracy," I cannot abide her husband. On this point it seems to me that
he deserves a hearing. Clinton campaigned for the presidency, announcing
his discovery that in the aftermath of the Cold War foreign and domestic
policy had become all but inseparable. He came into office promising to
place U. S. economic interests at the forefront of his foreign policy agenda.
To the new president and his advisers, that meant above all finding new
outlets for American manufactures and capital. Securing new markets abroad,
administration officials said, was a prerequisite for restoring prosperity
at home. (Absent prosperity, there would be no second term).
Appropriating clichés about globalization and the information revolution,
the president and his lieutenants -- chief among them Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright and Samuel L. Berger, his national security adviser
-- evolved over time a broad theoretical basis for this renewed emphasis
on commercial diplomacy. Henceforth, they argued, the central objective
of U. S. grand strategy would be to facilitate the processes of integration,
tearing down barriers that obstructed the movement of goods, capital, people,
ideas, and culture. The aim was to nurture an international order whose
abiding characteristic would be "openness." Harnessed to the wonders of
information technology, "openness," they asserted, would generate wealth
on a scale hitherto unimaginable. It would advance the cause of democracy
around the world. It would reduce, if not eliminate, the inclination of
states to wage war against one another. It would produce a world sharing
America's values (which are, of course, universal values) and remade in
America's image. Over that world the United States would benignly preside
as the "indispensable nation." In an open world, international politics
would no longer be a zero-sum game. It would be win-win, with the United
States, not so incidentally, claiming the larger share.
This was not just idle talk. The passage of NAFTA, the creation of the
World Trade Organization, Clinton's flip-flop on China granting the "butchers
of Beijing" Permanent Normal Trade Relations, the three hundred plus trade
agreements that the administration incessantly bragged about having negotiated
-- all testified to the vigor with which the United States pursued the
goal of openness.
But the pursuit of that goal tells only half the story of American policy
in the 1990s. The other half centered on the doings of the anachronistically
named Department of Defense. At a time when conventional threats to U.
S. national security had all but vanished, American military activity increased
exponentially. As the world's only superpower, the United States dispatched
forces around the world in an astonishing array of settings and situations
to demonstrate resolve, restore order, enforce norms of behavior, succor
the afflicted, and punish rogues and miscreants.
Globalization, it turns out, has a dark side as well. The same openness
that helped launch the Clinton economic boom also offered opportunities
for those who did not share the president's view that the United States
embodied what the president called "the right side of history." According
to Clinton, globalization generated new threats, making the world a more
dangerous place and expanding the requirement for American military power.
Nobody could quite say what the ultimate cost of openness was likely to
be, whether in blood or treasure, but it was not going to be a freebie.
Thus, although the United States was already spending more on defense than
all of the other major powers, whether friend or foe, combined,
the 1990s ended with both of the candidates vying to succeed Mr. Clinton
agreeing that the Pentagon's budget was too small. Meanwhile, the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, having shed their infatuation with nukes, were flinging
themselves headlong into a fresh effort to achieve military omnipotence,
hoping to parlay America's edge in advanced technology into what they called
"Full Spectrum Dominance."
From time-to-time reservations about these policies were heard, whether
coming from those who detect in U. S. global aspirations a certain hubris,
or from others uncomfortable with the incessant flexing of American military
muscle. The Clinton administration regularly denounced such concerns as
the hectoring of isolationists.
What is one to make of all this? From my present vantage point -- no longer
a serving officer and not a practicing diplomatic historian, but an interested
observer of contemporary policy -- the received dogmas of liberal internationalism
have not proven to be especially useful.
But the insights of Beard and Williams -- neither of whom would have been
surprised by a liberal president's preoccupation with openness or penchant
for using force -- have been very useful indeed. When it comes to Hitler
and Stalin, they remain as wrong as they ever were. But their peculiar
blind spots are today less pertinent -- indeed, may even account for --
the fact that, in their own time, they were able to see what others missed
or refused to acknowledge.
What they saw then matters now. The progressive-turned-crank and the icon
of the New Left remind us that the supposedly "new" policies of a "new"
era have deep roots in the American diplomatic tradition. Re-reading Beard
and Williams, it becomes impossible to accept the Clinton administration's
typically self-aggrandizing claims of innovation and creativity in reshaping
American grand strategy. Taking a fresh look at the "Open Door" thesis
suggests that the post-Cold War assertion of global leadership (a. k. a.,
hegemony) backed by military power reflects the culmination of a project
that spans a century or more.
For those seeking to understand the origins, scope, and implications of
that project, Beard and Williams deserve recognition as genuine (if flawed)
prophets. Dissenters from the present-day foreign policy consensus should
find inspiration in the example of Beard who persevered, despite being
vilified for advocating an "isolationism" that he never actually espoused.
They should honor the courage and patriotism of Williams, who, as it turns
out, was never quite the wide-eyed radical he purported to be. (Not only
did Williams nurse a soft spot for conservative statesmen like Herbert
Hoover, he positively loathed the cultural upheaval to which the New Left
helped give rise, being equally discomfited by the sexual revolution and
the women's movement. His "revolution" amounted to a nostalgic hope that
America might adopt the values of the small-town Iowa of his boyhood).4
Those who would fashion a critique of post-Cold War U. S. foreign policy
could do far worse than to take as their point of departure the framework
of analysis first developed by Beard and Williams. Above all, they might
follow the example set by Beard and Williams in refusing to accept the
perversion of language that impedes honest discourse about the actual purposes
to which American power is put -- the language that today, for example,
talks of "humanitarian wars" that are nothing of the sort, and the use
of force to "restore democracy" where democracy has never existed. However
unlikely the notion, those of us who consider ourselves conservatives might
actually find in the embattled old progressive and the self-professed radical
kindred spirits. Worried about the consequences of the United States involving
itself in another world war, Beard once cautioned that America's true destiny
was not to be Rome but to be America. In the first decade of the second
American century it may be too late to worry about whether or not the United
States should be shouldering imperial burdens. But it is not too late to
reflect on just what sort of empire we intend to be. In that regard, we
would do well to heed Williams's counsel. "Assume empire is necessary,"
he wrote in his last book. "[W]hat is the optimum size of the empire; and
what are the proper -- meaning moral as well as pragmatic -- means of structuring,
controlling, and defending the empire so that it will produce welfare and
democracy for the largest number of the imperial population?"5
Those remain the right questions. In the post-Cold War era, they are increasingly
urgent questions. To ignore them further is to court disaster.
J. Bacevich is professor of international relations at Boston University.
He is completing a book on post-Cold War U. S. foreign policy.
May, Imperial Democracy (New York, 1961), p. 270.
in Peter Novick, That Noble Dream (New York, 1988), p. 292.
A. Beard, The Open Door at Home (New York, 1935), p. vii.
cultural conservatism -- by the end of his life he had returned to the
Episcopal Church -- greatly complicated efforts by his biographers to canonize
him as a New Left saint. See Paul M. Buhle and Edward Rice-Maxim, William
Appleman Williams: The Tragedy of Empire (New York, 1995), pp. 153-156,
160-165, 177-178, 198, 250.
Appleman Williams, Empire as a Way of Life (New York, 1980), p.
Profession: The Case for Cultural Sensitivity in (Economic) History
Economic history is still a battleground. George C. Rogers made the point
in his commentary on several econometric papers some two decades ago. Observing,
"It is names, not numbers, that count," he flashed on the screen a slide
of a mid-eighteenth-century waterfront view of Charleston, South Carolina.
He then went down the row of wharves and, after naming their owners, explained
their ties across the Atlantic, down in the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic
seaboard. It was a bravura performance. History for him was about people,
not simply their statistical shadows and patterns. It frustrated Rogers
that his subject had been lost to view in the papers on which he was commenting.
Why not, he in effect was asking, render the understandings derived from
statistical analysis in such terms as his reading of the Charleston waterfront
suggested? Rogers's commentary was also substantive. South Carolinians
in the eighteenth century lived within the world economic system. The meanings
and functions of this system, however, were personal as well as local,
not just statistical or global.
The same is true, it can be argued, when the subject is the American South's
industrialization in the half-century before or the half-century after
the Great Depression. One needs to grasp the nature of the challenges and
changes facing the South's leading modernizers, this argument goes, to
see broadly the contexts and constraints within which these men operated.
That said, the story is still the achievement of relative economic success
in a relatively backward area, and that story should, the argument continues,
take us back from numbers to names and from economics to culture. From
this perspective, much of the interest of the story lies in the ways in
which modernizers defined and pursued their goals culturally as well as
economically. These men were not simply importing, but adapting, as well
as adapting to, norms and practices originally developed elsewhere. In
doing so, they were taking into account issues of race, class, and gender
that had specifically regional, not only national, dimensions.
The argument has present application. Although Mississippi and North Carolina
are now the most industrialized states in the union, labor does not have
nearly the organized presence there that it developed in the North. This
matters, as do the differences in worker culture between North and South.
As a machinist from New Jersey recently observed, living in Charlotte is
not like living in Newark or Chicago. He was talking about more than prevalent
accents and diet. He found education, productivity, and professional associations
as well as pace of life, neighbors' attitudes, and entertainment opportunities
very different. "You can take the Yankee out of the North," he said, "but
you can't take the North out of the Yankee." Many southerners would agree.
There are still cultural as well as economic differences between North
and South, although they are diminishing.
What scholars need to remember, the culturally sensitive insist, is that
the South's industrialization began as southerners were consciously reframing
their cultural identities after the Civil War. In important ways the economic
and cultural development of the region were intertwined. The contrasting
argument is that an area's long-term economic success is to a large degree
situational and circumstantial, not cultural or social or moral. The small
initial advantages of some communities or regions become magnified with
the passage of time. Success breeds success. Little differences become
big differences. Such economic success, however, is not predestined or
permanent. The plantation economy propelled much of the Old South's wealth
but then mired the region in colonial dependence on an industrializing
North in the wake of the Civil War's devastation.
Scholars inclined to this culturally insensitive approach ignore the arguments
of Max Weber and Richard Tawney in, respectively, The Protestant Ethic
and the Spirit of Capitalism and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.
Weber and Tawney sought to explain the motives and behaviors of the participants
in the take-offs of the economies of Northern and Western Europe. They
observed that Protestantism arose in these same areas of future economic
development at a time and among people important in that development. Their
conclusion was that the culture, and elements of the ideology of Protestantism
had had profound economic consequences.
Scholars challenging the premises of Weber and Tawney can point to differences
between the developments of the American South and the American manufacturing
belt. There is no large region in the contemporary, developed world with
a more Protestant populace or greater level of church attendance than the
American South, a place as large as all of Western Europe. Yet this area
fared progressively worse than the northern industrial belt that drew large
Catholic and Orthodox Christian, as well as Jewish, immigrant populations
in the century before the Great Depression. Even today, despite the economic
resurgence of the sunbelt, the South has less entrepreneurship, cutting-edge
developments, or number of patents than the much more urbanized parts of
Urban density translates into markets, a depth of labor resources, and
inventive talent. The South has cities, but not a belt of cities. Instead,
it has belts of rural poverty--the black belt, stretching through roughly
650 counties from Delaware to Texas; Appalachia, which runs from northeastern
Mississippi to New England and is primarily a belt of white poverty; a
Latino belt stretching westward from Texas, and a Native American archipelago
encompassing reservations and other Native American population concentrations
in North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as in such western states
as South Dakota.
Together, the black belt and southern Appalachia almost precisely match
the Bible belt, as well as the gospel music belt. The plantation economy
that led to the black belt's development and the migration patterns and
transportation developments and geographic features that have defined aspects
of Appalachia's emergence have been culturally linked in profound and often
surprising ways. To isolate the economic from these other considerations
may have heuristic value. On the other hand, to separate the South's economic
from the region's cultural development is fundamentally misleading. The
South's culture and economy--or cultures and economies--developed together
and interdependently. Weber and Tawney were not wrong to ask about the
interrelatedness of Protestantism and capitalism. And, as close readers
know, they never argued simple cause and effect. Rather, they suggested
that the developments reinforced each other ideologically as well as practically,
at the level of work ethics and habits. Both scholars also noted quietist,
corporatist, and other tendencies in Protestantism that were anti-capitalist.
The development of capitalism militated against these anti-capitalist strains
in Protestantism, while the development of Protestantism helped define
the cultural perceptions and functions of capitalism.
New England began as a corporatist and anti-capitalist, Protestant bastion,
only later to flourish as an increasingly secular center of industrial
development, while the South began as a relatively secular magnet for profit
seekers, and only later saw its economic development outstripped by the
manufacturing belt during a period of growing southern religiosity. This
paradox does not undercut, but rather reinforces the significance of the
effort to analyze cultural and economic developments together, dialectically.
If culture has pervasive and profound economic implications, economic developments
also have pervasive and profound cultural implications. As Steven Hahn
has noted in his The Roots of Southern Populism, many southern yeomen
surrendered much of their vaunted independence when they started participating
in the market economy as cotton or tobacco producers, or as textile mill
Even at the level of infrastructure, the economy includes cultural factors.
Most would acknowledge that education at once reflects and imposes cultural
values to economic as well as social and political ends. Scholars have
long accepted that the different natures of French, German, and English
economic developments in the twentieth century in part have reflected decisions
made about education in each country in the nineteenth century. Tax policy
is another arena where cultural values have considerable influence. A strong
labor town, Philadelphia has imposed heavier taxes on business than any
other major metropolis in the country. The correlation of patents with
other indices of economic development does not argue against the cultural
dimension of entrepreneurship. Rather, it suggests that development not
only takes place where entrepreneurship is valued, but also can change
culture, increasing its value.
To observe that very different cultural areas have sometimes produced very
similar numbers does not effectively counter the point. Over the last third
of the nineteenth and first two-thirds of the twentieth centuries, northern
New England, Quebec, and the Maritimes did no better fundamentally than
the American South. Both broad areas lagged significantly behind the emerging,
then maturing, manufacturing belt. But while Quebec and the South both
lagged, they did not lag for all the same reasons. In each case, though
the reasons were in substantial part structural, they also, as a result,
Both regions were much less urbanized, much more rural than the manufacturing
belt. Both depended on agriculture, extractive industries, and later, low-wage
manufacturing. Quebec, like the South, lost a war, and its dominant population
also suffered as a result. French ethnicity and Roman Catholicism shaped
education policy differently, however, than the race issue and Protestantism
in the South. North Carolina and other southern states welcomed immigrant
industries and people in the wake of desegregation. French Canada became
progressively less hospitable over the same decades. Francophone separatism
has been a much more influential force than southern separatism since World
To understand what the numbers mean, one needs to do more than isolate
and perform statistical analyses on a few factors, however key those factors
may be. The numbers do not so much explain as show what needs explaining.
Economic life is not only experienced, but also conducted culturally. The
rituals of bargaining in a Moroccan souk are very different than the rituals
of Wall Street. People can live in more than one culture or community,
but they cannot live outside of culture and community. Even early desert
anchorites in the Christian world and the hermits with whom Sidhartha went
to live in the Indian forest, were equally parts of their respective communities
by virtue of how and why they lived apart.
Like these men apart, economies can only be understood in their cultural
contexts. In the end, then, despite the heuristic value of analyzing economic
performance separately, shouldn't one consider cultural and economic development
Moltke-Hansen is President of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
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