Over the course of his life and work, Lasch, who was the son of progressive parents and was himself initially drawn to Marxism, grew more culturally conservative as he grew more and more tired with American society’s tendency to equate the good life with mere consumption and consumer choice. Both Democrats and Republicans, he believed, adhered to the “ideology of progress,” a belief system whereby, either through redistribution of wealth or economic growth, “economic abundance would eventually give everyone access to leisure, cultivation, refinement—advantages formerly restricted to the wealthy.” (...)
But Lasch’s conservatism was always idiosyncratic, fusing respect for the conservative traditions of working-class life also celebrated by Charles Murray—such as faith, family, and neighborhood—with a genuine desire for egalitarian democracy based on broad-based proprietorship. As a former Marxist, his analysis always held labor, particularly when self-directed or done voluntarily in cooperation with others, in high esteem because of the ethic of responsibility it produced. Work wasn’t, or shouldn’t be, just a means to put food on the table or a roof over your head. Rather it provided meaning, dignity, and moral instruction, something not found by repeating mind-numbing tasks over and over at someone else’s direction. (...)
Lasch understood the paradox that much of the modern American left and right find contradictory: property could be theft, particularly under capitalist property relations and wage labor, but it also meant freedom for small producers—such as farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers in the 19th century or what today have become small business owners and sole proprietorships—who were able to control the conditions under which they made their living. The rise of mass production for ever-expanding markets and with it the shift to salaried labor destroyed this radical yet deeply conservative outlook on life, turning skilled craftsmen who worked for themselves into interchangeable cogs in somebody else’s machine, both literally and figuratively. Workers understood this, noted Lasch, and reacted by “defending not just their economic interests but their crafts, families, and neighborhoods.” (...)
Revolting against the dehumanizing conditions of deskilled wage labor, yet understanding that large-scale factory production was here to stay, skilled craftsmen and owners of productive land exemplified by organization like the Knights of Labor and the Farmers’ Alliance envisioned a new society that resisted both state capitalism and state socialism. (...) With no sense of how history could have gone any other way, any pursuit of worker control today has been lost to history, smeared as communist rather than authentically American. (...)
[B]oth parties cling to different branches of what Lasch called the ideology of progress, redistribution on the left and “a rising tide lifts all boats” on the right. By contrast, Lasch’s vision of the good life is truly radical yet profoundly conservative; it harkens back to traditions now largely dormant in American life where those who worked for a living wanted to build local communities, in the words of 19th-century labor leader Robert MacFarlane, based upon the now forgotten American ideal of “small but universal ownership” of property, which was the “true foundation of a stable and firm republic.” In other words, independence rooted in both liberty and equality.
This producerist ideology, according to Lasch, “deserves a more attentive hearing, on its own terms, than it has usually received.” It holds the answer to the questions critics like Charles Murray raise—and reveals that too many libertarians and conventional conservatives are confused apologists for a system that produces everything they despise: authoritarianism, centralization, and widespread dependence.
Uma questão que me ocorre é se a "classe trabalhadora" defenderia tanto os valores da "faith, family, and neighborhood" como tudo isso - é dificil a um europeu dar opinião sobre autores norte-americanos, mas dá-me a ideia que na Europa tanto a "fé" como a "família" são valores mais de classe média do que da classe trabalhadora (nem que seja porque os filhos da classe média demoram mais a se tornarem independentes - os filhos da classe média assalariada porque demoram anos a tirar cursos superiores; os filhos da classe média de pequenos empresários porque acabam frequentemente a trabalhar com os pais); já a "vizinhança" sim, parece-me um valor tipico da classe trabalhadora (mas é capaz de haver aqui também uma questão de definição - muito provavelmente os autores em questão quando falam em "working class" estão a incluir também os pequenos empresários, que dá-me a ideia que tendem a ser mais socialmente conservadores do que os assalariados).