To: Darell Fields
From: George Thrush
Darell, I hope this article ("Defining Deviancy Up: The New Assault on Bourgeois Life," by Charles Krauthammer) in the most recent issue of The New Republic (November, 22 1993) is of interest to you. If my wholehearted sentiments qualify me as a reactionary thug, then I guess I must deny the fact no longer. This article, coupled with the Daniel Patrick Moynihan article referred to herein, is as relevant to your magazine's agenda as anything I might write.
The question is, would the publishing of such work lose you and your fellow editors credibility among the very redefiners of "deviancy" that you hope to impress! You and I both know the braver and riskier stance to take on this question within our profession.
Thank you for your recent fax. I follow the logic of this and Senator Moynihan's position regarding deviancy. However, it seems to me that the article in question is more about political constituencies and ideology rather than deviance. The issue is who is defining what, how, when, and where, rather than nudging the morality/deviancy line one way or another.
In fact, one must understand the historical application of this or that ideology before one can even get into "abstract" concepts such as morality or deviance. If bourgeois life is under assault, it is interesting to note that the tactics that have been used to subject--or, if you prefer, edify--a particular class, morality, sexuality, or set of "family values" are now turning the bourgeois lifestyle inside out. It is also important to realize that this is a bourgeois argument deployed by bourgeois conservatives on the one hand, and by bourgeois liberals on the other. This argument, it seems to me, is internal to bourgeois life (including both left and right ideologies), and Krauthammer's is yet another manifestation of constructing deviancy from within the "reality" of bourgeois ideology.
This is a very old and singular argument (much longer than thirty years), and I doubt seriously that positions "within" this argument can be defined as "reactionary." It seems to me that you are defining reactionary "up"--reactionaries in the '60s were met with dogs, clubs, and bullets rather than a mere loss of "credibility" relative to one's colleagues in this or that profession (the implication being that there is more at stake with respect to one's colleagues than with real threats or real out- siders).
People tend to see what they want to see and hear what they want to
hear. Regardless of the various positions or ideologies of the editors,
nothing (and certainly not a discussion of deviance) will change that.
As for the profession, it's all too bourgeois. What does it have (or want)
to do with me?
Thanks for your prompt reply. Needless to say, I couldn't very well
read such an article and not pass it on. But let me be clear. I do so because
I really do see this question of "deviance" (and its unspoken partner:
normality, dominant culture, hegemony, etc.) and related matters as being
at the heart of our cultural problems.
But your allusion to "dogs, clubs, and bullets" concerns me for the very reason that Krauthammer cites: it smacks of the bizarre moral equivalence that distorts the ethical judgment of our generation's best and brightest. I know that Krauthammer would join me in vociferously rejecting the violent racist past to which "dogs, clubs, and bullets" alludes. However, is it not possible to endorse bourgeois life as the middle-class objective--indeed, the norm that repressed people have been prevented from attaining--toward which our more progressive, liberal government proponents point, without including Bill Conner in the mix! Is it impossible to unheroically transform society piece by piece? And yes, this argument is old. The conflict between radicals and liberals is as old as the hills, but it is nonetheless quite relevant here.
The bottom line is this: from what are you proposing to deviate? I am almost embarrassed to say that I dont't appreciate the useful difference between what you call "constituencies and ideology" and "deviance." What Krauthammer and Moynihan are saying is that we have been wilfully denying the price to be paid for our deviance from the path of endorsing bourgeois life as the objective of our government's efforts. If you are proposing a different kind of deviance ( I thought you were proposing to deviate from the previous deviation), I am curious to know what it is.
Inasmuch as I consider myself a "progressive" person, I presume that what I am progressing toward is a world in which more of my fellow citizens have access to my bourgeiois life. Am I wrong?