New Consensus for Old: Cultural Studies from Left to Right by Thomas Frank

By Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank has been sending wake-up calls to almost every body nearby during the last decade, in venues from The Village Voice to Harper's. His takes on hard work politics, advertisements, the virtues of the Midwest, and the way un-cool you actually are have gained him a large viewers, and during this piece, Frank supplies us a examining of cultural studies—viewed by means of a few as an enormous new point of view within the academy, yet by means of others as an unwieldy theoretical fad.

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Put more generally, our sense of mastery over the world and, conversely, our retreats into docility are influenced by our interpretations of what is possible and what is inevitable. With stable expectations, the notion that things might have been otherwise appears remote or even unthinkable. ” This is why identity is contingent on a “realistic” description of the world. ” Identity thus requires some strict understanding of the permissible and the forbidden, the possible and the inconceivable. The upshot is that, both in the immediate fray of politics and in the long sweep of history, we are who we are in large part because we exact certain kinds of behavior from ourselves and from others through the injunctions of our norms and the power of our methods.

Under these conditions, the perceptions and expectations of citizens in general and elites in particular tend to revert to the mean. By the mid-1990s, Nicaraguans’ genuine expressions of democratic aspiration were overwhelmed by an equally heartfelt lament that echoed the central theme of their nation’s traditional historiography and political lore: Their land, they said, is haunted by an antidemocratic past. 34 But this pervasive view of the nation as doomed does not survive in a vacuum. The publication of Country of Irredeemables itself contributed to the historiographic limitations that constrict actors’ field of imaginative possibilities.

25 This book, however, demonstrates that policies, institutions, and incentive structures, while crucial, are embedded in the relationships between underlying systems of normative scheming and regimes of arbitration. Normative scheming draws on individual rationality and affects “personal culture,” but is reducible to neither. , “Big Bills Left on the Sidewalk: Why Some Nations Are Rich, and Others Poor,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 10, no. 2 ( Spring 1996): 3–7, 19, 22. P1: JZZ 0521842034int 12 CUNY001B/Cruz 0 521 84203 4 June 16, 2005 10:54 Political Culture and Institutional Development Argentina, precisely because individual rationality dictates that for his or her labor to be efficacious and investment to be productive, the agent must accommodate to the group norms of his or her new environment.

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