The Birth of the Mainstream

I’m sure the recent articles about Modernism are confusing to a lot of our readers.

I started by reaching back deep to Charles Baudelaire in the mid-19th century in France. I moved on and briefly looked at Nietzsche and D.H. Lawrence before describing Nietzsche, Darwin and Baudelaire as proto-Moderns who prepped the European intelligentsia for the arrival of Modernism. Yesterday, I looked at Daniel Bell who argued that Modernism undermined European culture by insisting on the autonomy of the aesthetic from moral norms and by overvaluing the self and transgression.

How should I simplify this argument? Where am I going with this?

In the 19th century, the West was liberal and believed in Progress with a capital P, but it was a world that was alien to own. America was a deeply Protestant country. It was a liberal, democratic and capitalist country. It was also what modern day progressives would describe as a “racist” and “white supremacist” country. It was a “sexist” country that took patriarchy for granted. Americans were White, Anglo-Saxon (English in culture), Protestant and liberal and republican in principles. Blacks had been given citizenship and some degree of rights which varied by state and region due to America’s commitment to liberal and republican principles, but were not considered fully American. The same was true of other minority groups because at this time being an American meant being part of a dominant ethnic group. America’s liberal elite also had a Romantic as opposed to a Modernist sensibility.

The “mainstream” as it exists today did not exist. Jews were arriving en masse in the United States during the Great Wave (American liberalism, capitalism and naiveté made this possible), but were not yet politically, economically and culturally ascendant. WASPs were still the dominant elite and expected Jews and Catholics to assimilate (Anglo-conformity) like previous groups of immigrants. The American elite was not cosmopolitan and Americans, particularly the White Protestant majority who were simply the nation, were embedded in communities. European Catholic immigrants had their own vibrant communities. American Indians had their own communities. Blacks were building their own communities. Ethnicity was not suppressed and even after the wound of the War Between the States the country was not fragmented. By that I mean Americans were generally embedded within communities. Even during the War Between the States, the two sides engaged in combat over the preservation of the Union and slavery were both Anglos and evangelical Protestants and republicans. They even celebrated the same holidays. Reunion was possible because of the overwhelming similarities between North and South.

Americans have always been individualists. In the 18th and 19th centuries though, Americans were utilitarian individualists as opposed to expressive individualists:

Utilitarian individualism: A form of individualism that takes as given basic human appetites and fears… and sees human life as an effort by individuals to maximize their self-interest relative to these given ends. Utilitarian individualism views society as arising from a contract that individuals enter into only in order to advance their self-interest…. Utilitarian individualism has an affinity to a basically economic understanding of existence.
Expressive individualism: A form of individualism that arose in opposition to utilitarian individualism (which see). Expressive individualism holds that each person has a unique core of feeling and intuition that should unfold or be expressed if individuality is to be realized…. Under certain conditions, the expressive individualist may find it possible through intuitive feeling to “merge” with other persons, with nature, or with the cosmos as a whole.

In other words, utilitarian individualism is basically a political and economic form of individualism whereas expressive individualism is an aesthetic form of individualism. The former comes from liberalism whereas the latter comes from modernism. Liberalism is focused on the individual as the basic unit of society. Modernism is focused on the expression of the inner world of the self.

America in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries was a world that was suited to liberalism and utilitarian individualism. In the beginning, there was only colonists and settlers and the land alongside hostile Indians and black slaves. There was a vast frontier. America needed people and bonded labor because anyone could simply move due to the abundance of land. Labor was in short supply. Life was overwhelmingly rural. In this environment, utilitarian individualism, fierce religiosity and white supremacy were practical. It made intuitive sense to Americans that individuals are “born free and equal” because they were in a literal sense in the American colonies. The social structure of the Old World was never replicated in the frontier society of the New World. Americans were always socially mobile. As a practical matter, they had no choice but to be self governing. There was always the West as an outlet for discontent. Americans were too busy settling and building the country to have any use for this decadent garbage.

In the 1890s, the director of the U.S. Census announced the Western frontier was closed. 35% of Americans lived in cities. The overwhelming majority of them lived north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi. In the 1920s, the number of Americans living in cities surpassed the number of Americans living in rural areas for the first time in American history. Once again, the vast majority of them lived north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi. The South and West remained far behind the East and Midwest in urbanization until the post-World War II era. Today, 82% of Americans live in urban areas.

Mainstream conservatives do not understand the American past which they invariably perceive through the prism and myths of the post-World War II era. Americans used to be an ethnic group with liberal and republican principles. America was a “White Man’s Country” all the way down until World War II. White Americans were an ethnic group. They were the dominant ethnic group. They were the American nation. European immigrants came here and adopted their identity and historical narrative (Anglo-conformity), learned English and hopefully became Protestant. They joined the ethnic group. It is true the ethnic group was broadened over time. It went from Anglo-Protestant to Anglo White Christian. Americans were English-speaking White Christians with a black minority who were a thorny problem. Today, this has been demonized as “white supremacy” and thrown in the garbage by liberals, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. There used to be an ethnically defined American nation that incorporated immigrants.

At the beginning of the 20th century, America’s elite which were the Northern WASPs who had ruled the country since the War Between the States started to become cosmopolitan. This region north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi was essentially the Great Britain of the United States while the South and West were its colonial dependencies. It was urbanized and settled. European immigrants were pouring into the region and changing its culture and demographic makeup which was not the history of the Jim Crow South. The South didn’t industrialize and urbanize until the years between 1940 and 1960. Even today, White Southerners are overwhelmingly descended from Old American stock.

America in 1900 was White, Anglo-Saxon (English in culture), deeply Protestant, liberal and republican in principles. It was deeply bourgeois. Theodore Roosevelt who charged San Juan Hill in Cuba with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War was a Romantic president. Late Victorian morals were the mainstream. America was not particularly innovative in the arts and culture. Instead, Americans were highly innovative in technology and shaped the 20th century in this respect. The “mainstream” as it exists today did not yet exist. It was an alien world oblivious to the charge of “racism.”

America as I have described it in 1900 was an outpost of Western civilization. Most Americans lived in rural areas. The frontier had recently closed. The region north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi had a few bustling cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the United States at that time and was part of this metropole region. The truly important action in the late 19th/early 20th century though was going on in Western Europe where Modernism was born in France in the late 19th century. This was a time of enormous cultural upheaval in Western Europe.

Western Europe in the 19th century was growing liberal and democratic, but it was also under the spell of Romanticism. This is how Isaiah Berlin defines Romanticism:

“Romanticism is the primitive, the untutored, it is youth, the exuberant sense of life of the natural man, but it is also pallor, fever, disease, decadence, the maladie du siècle, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the Dance of Death, indeed Death itself. It is Shelley’s dome of many-coloured glass, and it is also his white radiance of eternity. It is the confused teeming fullness and richness of life, Fülle des Lebens, inexhaustible multiplicity, turbulence, violence, conflict, chaos, but also it is peace, oneness with the great ‘I Am’, harmony with the natural order, the music of the spheres, dissolution in the eternal all-containing spirit. It is the strange, the exotic, the grotesque, the mysterious, the supernatural, ruins, moonlight, enchanted castles, hunting horns, elves, giants, griffins, falling water, the old mill on the Floss, darkness and the powers of darkness, phantoms, vampires, nameless terror, the irrational, the unutterable. Also it is the familiar, the sense of one’s unique tradition, joy in the smiling aspect of everyday nature, and the accustomed sights and sounds of contented, simple, rural folk—the sane and happy wisdom of rosy-cheeked sons of the soil. It is the ancient, the historic, it is Gothic cathedrals, mists of antiquity, ancient roots and the old order with its unanalysable qualities, its profound but inexpressible loyalties, the impalpable, the imponderable. Also it is the pursuit of novelty, revolutionary change, concern with the fleeting present, desire to live in the moment, rejection of knowledge, past and future, the pastoral idyll of happy innocence, joy in the passing instant, a sense of timelessness. It is nostalgia, it is reverie, it is intoxicating dreams, it is sweet melancholy and bitter melancholy, solitude, the sufferings of exile, the sense of alienation, roaming in remote places, especially the East, and in remote times, especially the Middle Ages. But also it is happy co-operation in a common creative effort, the sense of forming part of a Church, a class, a party, a tradition, a great and all-containing symmetrical hierarchy, knights and retainers, the ranks of the Church, organic social ties, mystic unity, one faith, one land, one blood, ‘la terre et les morts’, as Barrès said, the great society of the dead and the living and the yet unborn. It is the the Toryism of Scott and Southey and Wordsworth, and it is the radicalism of Shelley, Büchner and Stendhal. It is Chateaubriand’s aesthetic medievalism, and it is Michelet’s loathing of the Middle Ages. It is Carlyle’s worship of authority, and Hugo’s hatred of authority. It is extreme nature mysticism, and extreme anti-naturalist aestheticism. It is energy, force, will, life étalage du moi; it is also self-torture, self-annihilation, suicide. It is the primitive, the unsophisticated, the bosom of nature, green fields, cow-bells, murmuring brooks, the infinite blue sky. No less, however, it is also dandyism, the desire to dress up, red waistcoats, green wigs, blue hair which the followers of people like Gérard de Nerval wore in Paris at a certain period. It is the lobster which Nerval led about on a string in the streets of Paris. It is wild exhibitionism, eccentricity, it is the battle of Ernani, it is ennui, it is taedium vitae, it is the death of Sardanopolis, whether painted by Delacroix, or written about by Berlioz or Byron. It is the convulsion of great empires, wars, slaughter and the crashing of worlds. It is the romantic hero—the rebel, l’homme fatal, the damned soul, the Corsairs, Manfreds, Giaours, Laras, Cains, all the population of Byron’s heroic poems. It is Melmoth, it is Jean Sbogar, all the outcasts and Ishmaels as well as the golden-hearted courtesans and the noble-hearted convicts of nineteenth-century fiction. It is drinking out of the human skull, it is Berlioz who said he wanted to climb Vesuvius in order to commune with a kindred soul. It is Satanic revels, cynical irony, diabolical laughter, black heroes, but also Blake’s vision of God and his angels, the great Christian society, the eternal order, and ‘the starry heavens which can scarce express the infinite and eternal of the Christian soul’. It is, in short, unity and multiplicity. It is fidelity to the particular, in the paintings of nature for example, and also mysterious tantalising vagueness of outline. It is beauty and ugliness. It is art for art’s sake, and art as an instrument of social salvation. It is strength and weakness, individualism and collectivism, purity and corruption, revolution and reaction, peace and war, love of life and love of death.”

This was hugely important.

Romanticism lit the fire of ethnonationalism in Europe. The educated and professional classes were enchanted by the Romantic ideal and forged the nation-states of Western Europe. Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Italy and Germany were either resurrected or unified largely as a result of the influence of Romanticism. America was unified too by Lincoln. The unification of Germany and the shift in the balance of power in Europe that caused led directly to the World Wars. The shift from Romanticism to Modernism was similarly important. It largely explains the shift from the 19th century to the 20th century.

Romanticism had been directed outward toward peasants, rural areas, the common man, Nature with a capital N, Progress with a capital P, the primordial origins of one’s own ethnic group which has been transmitted down to us through language. It allowed intellectuals and the educated and professional classes to imagine that they had an ethnic and cultural bond with the common people. Germans, for example, wanted to unify all German-speaking people under the German Reich. Theodore Roosevelt could write with great pride about the Anglo-American triumph in The Winning of the West. The Irish and the Poles could dream of an independent Ireland and Poland. Nationalism was a pillar of solidarity that buttressed liberalism and expanded alongside it into the 20th century. It solved a very important problem which was the identification of rulers with the ruled in a bond of solidarity.

What is the difference between Romanticism and Modernism? Why is this so important? What changed in the 20th century when liberals shifted from having a Romantic to a Modernist sensibility?

Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) is considered a masterpiece of Romanticism. It is a landscape of a confident European man looking down on nature.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893) is considered a masterpiece of Modern art. It depicted a twisted figure on a boardwalk suffering from anxiety. It is someone experiencing a panic attack.

The biggest difference between Romanticism and Modernism is that the former is directed outwards and the latter is directed inwards. It is obsessed with the interior world of the self. It is not interested in God or Nature. It doesn’t depict an idealized form, a higher truth, the divine or objective reality. Modern art doesn’t serve any social purpose. It is about the self expression of the artist and what he is experiencing. It is art for art’s sake: capturing and retrieving a fleeting unique experience and embodying it in art.

As Charles Baudelaire said and knew from experience, down or descent is the way we go into the realm of the Devil. This is what Modernism emphasizes as a sensibility. It is about the self and its interior experiences: self exploration, self expression, self realization, self liberation. It is obsessed with how interior psychological states manifest in the real world. Every sensibility is a choice that necessarily privileges and assigns value to some things while devaluing other things. Liberalism emphasizes the individual over the collective. Modernism emphasizes the inner self and its experiences. Before Modernism, liberals had a traditionalist sensibility that went either upwards toward transcendence (religion) or outwards toward other people (ethnicity), usually both since ethnicity and religion have historically been intertwined. It was something you did with other people and determined how you thought about other people. In contrast, Modernism encouraged spelunkers of the self to pursue and express their own lifestyles.

What is Modernism? It is elitism and cosmopolitanism. It is the alienation of the intellectual and the outsider. It is hatred and rejection of the bland, philistine bourgeois and the dirty masses. It is seeing a father or a mother as an idiot. It is being stimulated by foreign cultures or exotic outgroups. It is the smug feeling of being better than everyone else. It is the absence of the sacred and transcendence in your life. It is the entire genre of science fiction. It is the wisdom of youth. It is a rootless, bohemian existence. It is hyper individualism and cultural relativism. It is the quest to find and be able to express your “true self.” It is your cool wine aunt or your hipster brother. It is changing your sex like your clothes. It is your piercings, tattoos, your tan and sunglasses. It is divorce, millions of aborted children and indifference to future generations. It is exploring and being tormented by interior psychological states. It is sniffing out and exposing the -isms and -phobias lurking in other people and ranking people on the basis of them. It is about YOU. It is narcissism and self absorption of the Summer of Love. It is the rejection of filial piety. It is social irresponsibility on a grand scale. It is the “liberation” of your innermost being. It is the rejection of the past and the celebration of the new. It is living in the present and creating utopias on earth. It is being a tourist on earth in pursuit of endless novelties. It is being a “bobo in paradise.” It is wallowing like a pig in cultural and moral decadence. It is aestheticism and nihilism. It is buying the latest product and keeping up with the latest fashions. It is “choosing” your lifestyle and living in the companionship of a small group of self chosen friends rather than being incorporated in an ethnic group or practicing a religion. It is transgression against traditional cultural norms which is confused with progress. It is being detached from your own ethnic group and your coreligionists. It is being hip as opposed to being square. It is being “cool.” It is the celebration of urbanity and rejection of “backwardness.” It is pluralism. It is the rejection of Nature and God. It is about “living” your life which is defined as the capture and retrieval of experience. It is hedonism. It is endless experimentation with sex and drugs. It is fouling our civilization and indifference to its decay. It is Vox.com and The New Yorker. It is the new Taylor Swift. It is the syphilis of Baudelaire and Nietzsche, the neuroses of Edvard Munch, the mental illness and suicide of Vincent van Gogh, the misanthropy of H.G. Wells, the perversion of Sigmund Freud, the homosexuality of Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Michel Foucault and Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis abandoning their own children. In short, it is now what is considered “mainstream” in the contemporary West. It is our own times.

In the United States, Modernism has a beginning in the early 20th century. The following excerpt comes from Henry F. May’s book The End of American Innocence, 1912-1917:

“Everybody knows that at some point in the twentieth century America went through a cultural revolution. One has only to glance at the family photograph album, or to pick up a book or magazine dated, say, 1907, to find oneself in a completely vanished world. On one side of some historical boundary lies the America of Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan, of Chautauqua and Billy Sunday and municipal crusades, a world so foreign, so seemingly simple, that we sometimes tend, foolishly enough, to find it comical. On the other side of the barrier lies our own time, a time of fearful issues and drastic divisions, a time surely including the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the atom bomb. Clearly on one side of this line lie Booth Tarkington and O. Henry and the American Winston Churchill, and also, we should not forget, Henry James. Clearly on our side lie Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Stearns Eliot, and also the writers of television advertising. At some point, if not an instantaneous upheaval, there must have been a notable quickening of the pace of change, a period when things began to move so fast that the past, from then on, looked static.

Some of these paradoxes are, of course, more apparent than real. We do not have to choose between the two pictures of prewar America: the end of Victorian calm and the beginning of cultural revolution. Both of these pictures are true. In the years we are going to examine, the few years just before the impact of war on America, we are uniquely able to look at both pictures at once. We can see the massive walls of nineteenth-century America still apparently intact, and then turn our spotlight on the many different kinds of people cheerfully laying dynamite in the hidden cracks. It is my hope that a concentrated but fairly wide-ranging study of this short period, of its thought and literature and politics, may tell us something about the old America and something about the beginnings of our own times. …

In college the Young Intellectuals had been exposed to nineteenth-century materialism and also to nineteenth century refutations of it. The result was that most of them regarded Spencer and Haeckel and Marx, and even the more modern materialists, as old fashioned. At the same time they had ceased to accept, or even to discuss, traditional Christianity. Yet most of them retained a religious habit of mind learned in childhood and were eager for new kinds of faith.

These young men had been deeply affected by pragmatism, and often combined James’ wide-openness to emotion and innovation with Dewey’s bold belief in social and intellectual reconstruction. They welcomed the more biting dicta of the social scientists; some of them had encountered Veblen’s astringent skepticism. Yet Wells, with his optimism and his recent semimysticism was for many of them the most important social prophet. Bergson had given new and welcome support to their confidence in their own intuitions. From Nietzsche and Ibsen and Shaw – for that matter from nearly all the literature they read – they had learned a fierce contempt for nineteenth-century bourgeois morality. Dostoevsky had revived their religious instincts, and Freud had convinced them of the necessity of sexual self-expression. All these influences had combined to produce a new kind of radicalism, passionate yet somewhat imprecise. The Young Intellectuals agreed on at least one point: they were uninterested in any plan for social improvement which was not also a program for spiritual and artistic liberation. …

Anarchism, the noblest of radical dreams, attracted many of the Young Intellectuals and their older friends. They did not know much about the older American anarchism, the movement of Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker. But anarchism in a general sense was deep in the heritage of the Young Intellectuals. Some of them knew that Thoreau had said that government governs best which governs not at all. Many more knew that their favorite American older writer Walt Whitman had said he had nothing to do with institutions.

Moreover anarchism had a worldwide literature of great power. Tolstoy’s road of renunciation. Kroptokin’s distribution according to need, Max Stirner’s extreme individualism were specifically anarchist. The anarchist movement, with its drama of bombs and spies, outrage and espionage and persecution, had furnished subjects for Dostoevsky, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad …”

America became majority urban in the 1920s.

In America’s biggest cities north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, Modernism was arriving from Western Europe in New York City and Chicago. The old establishment which clung to the Victorian culture of 19th century America was coming under assault by Modernist radicals. A century later, the Modernist insurgents of the 1920s have become the exhausted American establishment. New ideas are once again drifting across the Atlantic. The old ideas are plunging the West toward a new Crisis.

Note: The Rolling Stones are the embodiment of Modernism. See also John Lennon.

About Hunter Wallace 9507 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

23 Comments

  1. Buttressing your argument, the America that Henry James, Henry Adams, Edith Wharton, T. S. Eliot Sargent and even arguably Whistler fled to to Europe from was an America whose European roots were being frayed by the cultural changes that you describe; these changes would include immigration (Jewish for the most part) and the dislocation and national vulgarity brought about by the victory of the North in the Civil War. Their common goal was to re-root themselves in the the higher culture of the European homeland.

      • Hope that you’ll mention that, though Robert E. Lee bounced him from West Point, Whistler seems to have always revered the general and had himself supported the Confederacy.

        • Whistler had an unusual life story.

          He was more European than American. The same was true of the James brothers who had a cosmopolitan background. Henry James eventually left and settled in Europe where he became a British subject.

          • British Identity and American Identity were pretty fluid at the time. There was a steel manufacturer from Sheffield who moved from Yorkshire to Missouri called George Shaw and he became the steel supplier for the Mississipi area and retired in a decade with his wealth to build a huge botanical garden in the English manner. It’s called the Missouri Botanical Garden now but it is like Blenheim Palace in a subtropical climate. Henry James straddled the end of that era in his novels.

      • Good article. So in other words as people became detached from the rural soil an they became more systematised, affluent and URBANE the levels of people’s PERSONAL dissatisfaction tend to grow. This is a curious inverse because rural life is more arbitrary & survivalist in nature, rural people generally have far fewer CHOICES about free time, leisure gadgets and options, marriage partners etc. In traditional rural societies dissatisfaction is usually more of a family or GROUP expression that is based on something concrete, such as drought, land disputes etc. Their frustration tends to be a result of external circumstances. Urban modernists tend to get angsty about their own self generated “intellectual” and “perceptual” problems…people not thinking the same way as them is huge on their list of “modern problems”. Essentially the problems of the modern “atomised individual” are the problems of deeply self absorbed people randomly bumping into each other and not connecting on a fundamental level.

    • I would say the contrary. It appears to me that these people were Modernists fleeing a Romantic America. The disdain some have for the rural and/or poor (White) Americans is outright revolting at times. It seems like they wanted to cut themselves off from their home country more than anything to be frank.

  2. Your inclusion of Nietzsche is spurious. The man categorically condemned “modern ideas,” which is to say liberalism. That is why he castigated English philosophers. He certainly did not believe in “capitalism,” liberalism, or socialism. The man was through and through a fascist in the old sense of the word. Any attempt to fit him into a rationalization of our current elites is simply false.

    Flaubert and Baudelaire were laments for the failure of Romanticism’s promise to destroy liberalism (the bourgeoisie), not celebrations of liberalism. Both cast long, nostalgic bows to the middle ages. Their books were complaints about artistic impotence in a world increasingly dominated by smug liberalism.

    You are still working with the Marxist definition of the bourgeoisie. That definition is superficial and disingenuous, and discredited. Rousseau properly defined the bourgeoisie as the liberal as such. “Modernism” is the triumph of liberalism and the bourgeoisie, which is to say hypocritical exploitation, as opposed to real exploitation (the pre-bourgeois world) and equality (Communism and National-Socialism). The “intellectual” as we know it in the public, academic sense is a strictly bourgeois phenomenon. Why else is BLM so collegiate? Check out Christopher Lasch’s book “The New Radicalism in America.” You will enjoy his ridiculing of Randolph Bourne.

    • Nietzsche had an enormous impact on Modernism.

      He was a cosmopolitan elitist who thought of himself as a “good European.” He rejected nationalism and boasted about his Polish roots. He hated anti-Semitism. He rejected the idea of objective truth in favor of perspectivism. He was deeply alienated. He contracted a venereal disease and went insane. He rejected both traditional religion and morality which he described as a cover for power relations. He believed in overcoming nihilism through art. He looked down on the masses from his Alpine mountaintops. Nietzsche’s imperative – become who you are – is self-expression which is the very essence of Modernism. Modernism is a sensibility. It is not liberalism.

      • The romanticized or true take/tale of Nietzsche, finally losing his cognitive facilities from contracting syphilis frequenting sex workers, is him giving into finally accepting Christianity as the answer to life while trying to figure with frustration playin a Franz Liszt composition on the piano???????????????

    • Good comment, anonymous. BTW I am not the same “anonymous.” The same handle can be used by multiple commenters here, apparently.

  3. Whistler did go to West Point, and so did Poe. Try to imagine General Poe.
    A book I enjoyed in this vein was Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, viewing Hitler the artist living alongside with Hitler the conquerer.
    Hitler’s views on art was very strong. ‘Art is the clearest and most immediate reflection of the spiritual life of a people. It exercises the greatest conscious and unconscious influence on the masses of the people…in its thousandfold manifestations and influences it benefits the nation as a whole.’

    But Hitler’s views on the purity of art were being undermined by the twentieth century. As the book says:
    ‘Radio, phonograph, photography, illustrated magazines and cinema had created new art forms with a vast and varied audience. Two cultures had evolved-highbrow and lowbrow, elitist and popular. Hitler looked back admiringly on a pre-twentieth century world when high culture was effectively the predominant art form and when cultivated patrons and a cultural elite dictated taste. By the 1930’s those days had passed forever. This he could not accept. Consequently a great contradiction lay at the heart of his cultural policies. On the one hand he admonished artists to make their art accessible to the public. On the other he wanted the public to enjoy the sort of art he himself enjoyed. And so for the remainder of his life it was his aesthetic ideals and taste that he sought to impose on the German people, whether or not they shared them.’

    Sorry for the long quote, but it’s a fascinating book.

    As for America, I think at 1900, we tried for a high, European culture in our arts and public works…what is called the American Renaissance…and it was vital for a while; its architecture still gives our cities a stately dignity, but it was overtaken by the mass movement of the 1920’s, and the attempt to keep a classical culture was derided by the Jazz Age. Compare, for example, the dignified artistic work of Edith Wharton with Hemingway.

    • Hitler was a modernist though. The Gestamkunstwerk of the rally, the beetle, the uniforms, the cool flag, the slick weapons… Absolutely modern design and praxis. He just cut the Jews out of the profits.

  4. Another brilliant essay. You are doing amazing work by digging deep into the tracings of our present. I wonder if in the end you will conclude that there is a way forward in turning around and heading backward or if we are now on the inevitable road to mental breakdown as a society. For my part I see modernity as the natural and logical result of liberalism’s foundational principles. We were doomed from the outset it was only a matter of time. On the other hand I am hopeful that you may find a way out of this because I want to believe in a positive future. Hoping also that you draw some value conclusions between European thought and traditional American thought. Have you ever considered publishing a list of recommended readings that might help those of us desiring to do what you are doing to deepen our connections to our historic thought and our American heritage. Also would find it incredibly interesting to understand your assessment of Traditional American art, music and literature and maybe even a discussion of how it might draw us together Keep up the good work. To me personally and I think it true for the country in total you are doing valuable work. You are the one site I actually look forward to reading even though I vociferously disagree with your assessment of Trump.

    • Senhorbotero,

      I am sorry for taking so long to thank you for your kind comment a month or so ago. I am not allowed by father to comment here but I received permission to thank you. I had to push with respect to do this but I had the aid of a little sister who is the favorite.

      If you respond I cannot comment of course. This is a fascinating website is it not? My older sister says I am an Occidental Dissent addict.

  5. In reading the foreword of The End of American Innocence, which you linked and with which I was not familiar, I was struck by the following:

    “[The End of American Innocence] travelled comfortably from The Saturday Evening Post to the most radical and fly-by-night of the ‘little magazines’ published in Greenwich Village.”

    The Saturday Evening Post versus Greenwich Village. That encapsulates the culture war.

    Along Pennsylvania Route 73, which is one of, say, four main roads that run westward from Philadelphia’s northeastern wing (where I live) and out across the Piedmont, are the former estates of Cyrus H. K. Curtis and George Horace Lorimer, publisher and editor, respectively, of the Saturday Evening Post, which was published in Philadelphia. When I tell you that Curtis was from New England and Lorimer from Kentucky, you’ll understand why the above-quoted sentence, from that foreword, connected, in my mind, with your present post’s following statement:

    “Even during the War Between the States, the two sides engaged in combat over the preservation of the Union and slavery were both Anglos and evangelical Protestants and republicans. They even celebrated the same holidays. Reunion was possible because of the overwhelming similarities between North and South.”

    I’m struck now, by the way, by Lorimer’s middle name: Horace. There, apparently, is that Southern classicism, not then-yet dead. It was Lorimer, not incidentally, who, in 1916, I think, hired Norman Rockwell to do illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post. Note that this is after the start of the First World War but before America’s entry into it.

  6. While Pound is regarded as a prototypical modernist, a detailed look at his biography (failings as a father notwothstanding) and his worm shows that while his methods may have been novel he was an unadulterated Romantic through and through. By all rights Pound deserves to be America’s poet laureat in perpetuity.

  7. O/T: I’m continually impressed by the high level of historical analysis in the articles here, and the (mostly) erudite commenters. I learn a lot of interesting info here, whether or not I agree with what’s presented.

  8. “It is the entire genre of science fiction.”

    I don’t know where you got your idea of science fiction from, but it’s a very broad genre that’s been tackled by many different people all over the world for many different purposes, in literature, movies, television shows and video games. I don’t think it generally focuses on interior experiences, and it’s not like stories about them are automatically pushing some modernist agenda (see Stalker and Blade Runner for example).

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  1. The Origins of the Modern Left – Occidental Dissent
  2. Practical Applications – Occidental Dissent
  3. “Ethan Is Supreme” Has Died Of a Drug Overdose – Occidental Dissent
  4. The Rise of Modernism – Occidental Dissent

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