Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bowling Alone and White Identity

To expand on the last paragraph of my post yesterday, which read: "Another note--it seems to me in the 1950's older people had firmer identities--they were Catholics or Methodists, union or management, Italian or Slovak.  Those identities have faded now, leaving only whiteness and politics."

Putnam's "Bowling Alone" and other books have noted the decline of organizations.  When I was growing up, one's identity was Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, etc., which was reinforced by organizations associated with the church--Knights of Columbus.  For many whose parents or grandparents had immigrated to the US in the last of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, their identity was hyphenated: Italian-American, Irish-American etc. (I was German-American but the two world wars essentially suppressed the German-American identity.) For others unions provided an identity--coal miner, steel worker, autoworker, longshoreman, etc.  If you weren't in a union, likely your employer was an identity, as IBM and EJ were identities in my area. And still others had an identity based on military service and participation in American Legion or VFW. 

Compare that with today: unions are in decline, as are the mainline churches. Veterans organizations are diffused and losing membership.  Ethnicity has declined as the passage of time means people never knew their immigrant ancestors.

What we have now is the general "white identity", education, class, and the general "(white) evangelical" religion.

No comments: