[Marxism] Gordon S. Wood on Sean Wilentz

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Sun Nov 13 15:12:30 MST 2005

Yes, "republicanism"--specifically "artisan republicanism" is a useful
concept, if it's clearly defined.  I've written a lot on this myself,
but try to focus on specific manifestations (land reform, for example).
The trouble is that "republicanism" tends to be like "traditional family
values" or "new and improved"--terms the meaning of which tends to be
imbued by the individual hearer or reader or viewer.  

Many commentators then and later assume the Democratic proclivities of
the early working class as a feature of class identity, but the primary
sources don't really confirm this view.  As I've pointed out,
workingclass militants came from Whig and from non-political, as well as
Democratic backgrounds and kept those proclivities.  

On questions of race as a feature of this presumed class identity, I'd
really recommend that you check my YOUNG AMERICA out of a library and
read the chapters bearing on the subject of race and slavery.  As much
as possible, I tried to let the original sources speak for themselves.
And, on this point--as on the Democratic Party--the scholarly literature
doesn't entirely jibe with the literature.   

Finally, I think that, in academe (which does not have to pin down
meaning in an activist sense), the lines between critique, explanation,
excuse, and admiration can be very permeable.  So, too, in this case,
we've seen a slide from a class critique of Jacksonian Democracy, to
acceptance of an assumed class embrace of Jacksonian Democracy, to an
embrace of Democratic politics on a pragmatic basis...and you end up
criticizing John Brown for retarding the electoral process of slave

To me, that's something of an acid test.  If someone has trouble
figuring out whether they're on the side of John Brown, I speaks volumes
for their analysis.  

Mark L.

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