30 Mar 2021

Fueling my ruminations about liberal and fascist forms of social & political order in familial relation, lately, has been Robert Elder’s new biography of John C. Calhoun (1782 – 1850) of South Carolina. Reading the book itself will have to wait, in my case, sadly. Till then, getting to know Elder’s subject and thesis a bit in his own words isn’t hard to do.

I first learned about the book from Elder’s friend and mine, my Solidarity Hall associate Elias Crim. One of the links below is Elder’s conversation with Elias and co-host Pete Davis for Solidarity Hall’s Dorothy’s Place podcast. It’s good.

Until pretty recently, the conventional story about slavery and the states in accelerating conflict in America’s 19th century has set an industrially and societally progress-oriented North opposite a tradition-anchored agrarian South in relatively tidy contrast. That story is itself increasingly folded into subsequent period history now, a new consensus view replacing it. Elder’s Calhoun develops this view and offers, among other things, a sharpened picture of the U.S. alongside its variously urgently-modernizing European sister polities.

Calhoun’s America is a large subject, needless to say. Each conversation here draws out something different in Elder’s approach to it.

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