Commonplace

by zunguzungu

Sometimes the best kind of bad writing is a well crafted undoing:

“We might all take pause from the accumulation of studies that employ some variant of an equation between social change and acute anxiety to explain human behavior in almost every decade from the middle of the 17th to the late 20th century. The history of a paranoid society? I believe that adjective and its near relations have lost their analytical value. To say of the early 19th century that Americans were participating in patterns of change that they did not understand simply consigns them to the human condition. To say that they tried to salvage values from the past implies that they might otherwise have cut loose from history and floated freely in the present, or perhaps selected values through a foreknowledge of the future. To say that with only fragments of information they envisaged groups of people scheming to aggrandize wealth and power suggests, on balance, that they understood their world reasonably well.”

Robert Wiebe, The Opening of American Society: From the Adoption of the Constitution to the Eve of Disunion (1984), xiii-xiv.