In the post on Genosha below, there's a lot of talk in comments analogizing the South with feudal Europe. I intentionally avoided any mention of feudalism. I don't reject the argument out of hand, but long time readers know that I am deeply suspicious of arguments that hinge on analogy. Much of the work of writing is not so much assembling the right words, but assembling the right thoughts to precisely describe something. I think sometimes we're too quick to employ analogies as a short-cut, as a way to sub for the hard, grinding work of attempting to name exactly what we're looking at, in all its horror, beauty and complexity.
"The Old South=Feudalism" argument is unavoidable for anyone who spends time thinking about the Civil War .I've only found it to be illustrative on the most basic of levels. It's the sort of thing you throw out at a cocktail party, or a dorm-room and people, on some vague, get what you mean. It also traps you in someone else's debate. I hope to be informed by the work of professional history, but I don't want to answer for it, nor do I hope to parrot it.
I don't want to come down on my commenters here. Most of this is about my own thinking, and me pushing myself a bit more. I've made this argument before in regards to gay marriage
. I think that when you hinge an argument on an analogy, you almost disrespect the original thing. I don't reject analogies on the whole, so much as I think they need to be seen as part of the palate, not the palate itself. For me, "like" is a tool. It can never be a foundation.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power