The Way We Live

"Self, self, has half filled Hell."
—Scottish Proverb

James Lincoln Collier is the descendant of well-to-do New Englanders, mill-owners "who lived in a grand house on a hill, overlooking a row of . . . the cottages of the- workers [they] . . . employed." Nevertheless, his new book—which could as well be called The Rise of the Techno-Industrial Megastate in America—is in many respects a restatement, from a different perspective, of the case against modern, nontraditional society made by a group of disaffected Southern agrarians back in 1930: a profoundly reactionary book with a liberal coda added on. Its thesis is nothing less than the basic and complete unworkability, in human terms, of the mass industrial society that has engorged America since Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.

The Puritanism of 17th-century America began to dissipate almost at once, Mr. Collier tells us, and by the beginning of the 18th century it was scarcely more than a memory. In the Enlightenment, as in the first decades of the 19th century, standards of sexual morality were lax, extramarital and premarital sex having become common; dancing and drinking were favorite pastimes; and church attendance was low. Then in the third decade of the 1800's, "Victorianism" asserted itself in reaction to what Collier calls the "18th-Century Debauch"...

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