Wednesday, December 21, 2011

American Nations makes The New Republic's Best Books of 2011

I am very pleased to see that the editor's of The New Republic have included American Nations in their Best Books of 2011 list.

"Woodard persuasively argues that the origins, spread, and clash of “Yankeedom,” “Borderlanders,” and the “Midlands,” along with eight other regional “nations” that he identifies, explain a great deal about how we arrived at our current pass and raise serious questions about our union’s future prospects," writes TNR senior editor Alec MacGillis, who was assigned to review the book for the Washington Post.

The book is in good company. The TNR list also includes the new titles from Adam Hochschild, Michael Kazin, Jeffrey Eugenides, and the late Ellen Willis. Thanks again, TNR.

A reminder for those of you in midcoast Maine: I'll be meeting readers and signing books in Boothbay Harbor this evening from 5:30 to 7:30. The event is at Studio 53; come by if you can.


  1. Great book!! How can one get a wall-size copy of the county-based map, The American Nations Today?

  2. Hi Geo - It's not available in this form right now, but given this is the second request I've received this week, I might have to consider producing one! (A market research question: are you wanting one for teaching purposes?)

  3. Well written and timely book. I'm about halfway through. I noticed that you mentioned Kevin Phillips and Irving Kristol almost back to back in the opening chapter. Is this a coincidence? (I've got this theory that these two guys are responsible for the movement conservative populism that we have today--even more than W.F. Buckley.)

    --Jon Winsor, Boston MA (formerly Portland, ME)

  4. Jon - Thanks much. It was, in fact, a coincidence, but it's an intriguing theory. But isn't Phillips horrified by the current state of conservatism, as per American Theocracy, etc.?

  5. As an amateur history buff (albeit studying since elementary school :), i find American Nations the best history perspective I have ever read! The concept is a truth of north American history. Combined with 1491 (Mann ) and you can truly understand where we have come from, who we are and a truer sense of where we are going! I look forward to seeing thie evolution of the ethnoregional history of our continent. Thank you for your service!

  6. Yes, Phillips was a moderate--as Nixon's policies were moderate in a lot of cases. I think Phillips jumped ship sometime during the 80's-- and now he thinks the movement is off the rails.

    But check out this discussion of "Country and Western Marxism" in EJ Dionne's book Souled Out. Irving Kristol's New Class is really the sequel to Kevin Phillips' "Toryhood of change." And Phillips even contributed a piece to a neoconservative book on the New Class. Their ideas are completely related and intertwined.

    EJ Dionne writes that Kristol was inspired by Milan Djilas, but I think Sam Tanenhaus makes a pretty good case that Kristol's inspiration was actually James Burnham (if you have the patience to listen through this 2007 AEI speech by Tanenhaus, it yields a *ton* or rewards--I think it predicts the Tea Party before anyone even heard of Sarah Palin).

    Also, as Nathan Glazer wrote in TNR, Irving Kristol was one of the only intellectuals in his circle with a passion for electoral politics. There are a number of interests and preoccupations Phillips and Kristol have in common.

    A great quote from William Baroody at AEI where Kristol worked "The sophisticated ability to relate ideology to constituencies is what counts." The constituencies they were probably *least* interested in were Yankeedom and the northeast in general. Their goal was to generate antipathy toward those constituencies and their ideology and political leaders.

    Check out this David Brooks column from a while ago where he talks about running against the "Accela Corridor":

    It sounds like Brooks thinks the Phillips strategy has reached the point of absurdity. But in this column, he obviously thinks it could work with Perry. And he's in the unaccustomed position of sweating over a potential GOP victory. It's like they rode the tiger of resentment against the northeast for a while, but now it's gotten away from them and look out...

  7. Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it...

  8. Jon - As an old Balkan hand who was living in Eastern Europe in 1989 and covered the nasty aftermath in Yugoslavia, you had me hooked at "Milovan Djilas." I'd no idea there was an argument for the "liberal elite" archetype having been borrowed from Djilas' "New Class." Let me get my head around that before I move on to your counter-argument.

    You'll have to le tme digest some of the material you link to, as you have me at a disadvantage in this segment of intellectual history, and thanks for introducing it. More in a few days.....

  9. Definitely listen to Tanenhaus's talk. I'm not sure what the direct evidence is that Burnham was an inspiration for Kristol, but it makes sense. They were both New York Trotskyists, both became part of the anti-communist right, and Kristol wouldn't have wanted to emphasize an American Trotskyist as his inspiration (he wanted that to be all in the past). Also, Djilas himself may have been influenced by Burnham--it looks like these "managerial elite"/"New Class" ideas were floating around heterodox marxist circles for a while.

    It has a bit of an axe to grind, but check out this piece from an Australian journal that goes into some of the history:

    (I think Sam Tanenhaus's talk is a lot better at giving the American flavor than this last piece, but it still has a lot of useful background.)

    Also, check out this 2009 piece by Bush speechwriter David Frum, where he's basically validating a lot of the things that Sam Tanenhaus talks about: