Saturday, December 24, 2016

Collin Woodard's American Character

First, a word on the book's prequel: I found Colin Woodard's American Nations to be pretty convincing: some slurring of historical specifics, and some occasional weak arguments for interpreting a few events in ways that proved his thesis even when simpler and more cogent solutions seemed available, but that is to be expected in making an argument at the popular level. A chapter on the "first nation" nation would have been nice, but may have been beyond the scope of the book; more of a discussion of how African Americans fit into the proposed nations or if an understanding of an independent, less-geographical African American nation would make more sense--but Woodard acknowledges this.

The basic thesis is that North America, from about 100 miles south of the US/Mexican boarder north, is made up of 11 regional cultures, who's characters, goals, values, ideals and social expectations were largely formed within the first few generations of their settlement, have changed little since, and explain most of the history of the continent better than other paradigms (North vs. South, conservative vs. liberal, urban vs. rural, etc.).

What I find most difficult with the book, however, is how, as the story comes up to the present, Woodard's apparent biases seem to take over the story. While he does a pretty good job of demonstrating in their origins how each nation was behaving in keeping with its national culture, and how this was generally self-serving, by the end of the book it become clear that Woodard sees a direct line