It is out of fashion in these days to look backward rather than forward. About the only American given to it is the Southerner, who persists in his regard for a certain terrain, a certain history, and a certain inherited way of living. He is punished as his crime deserves. He feels himself in the American scene as an anachronism, and knows he is felt by his neighbors as a reproach.

Of course, he is a tolerably harmless reproach. He is like some quaint local character of eccentric but fixed principles who is thoroughly and almost pridefully accepted by the village as a rare exhibit in the antique kind. His position is secure from the interference of the police, but it is of a rather ambiguous dignity.

These opening paragraphs are taken from John Crowe Ransom's "Reconstructed But Unregenerate" included in I'll Take My Stand by Twelve Agrarians. He is referring to the Southerner, but it would be a close step to replace Southerner with working class white today. This exercise of replacement is not appropriate throughout the entire piece, as I would not argue that working class whites wish to reestablish a more European system, yet the idea of how one cultural group with different belief systems operates within the larger American social structure is handled in a manner that is insightful and surprisingly accurate even today.

Ransom argues that "Progress never defines its ultimate objective"(8). This American mainstream characteristic has permeated the personality of America. The ideal American is always someone searching forward, changing, inventing and progressing. Yet this is not at the core of the working class whites system of values. Their system is one of stability, adaption to natural environs and the existence of moral absolutes. The progressive life is one that is constantly fluid, where all is relative and there is little time for community, kinship and loyalty.

This progressive system is not desirable within the paradigm of the working class white. And the fact is, mainstream Americans doubt the value of the progressive system as well. The world of "white trash" or "good country folk" is alternately used by outsiders as one of derision or nostalgia. As we have seen in the media section, the mainstream often looks to the working white culture when it begins to have doubts about the present state of society. Particularly when government appears to make immoral choice (during the Nixon era and the Vietnam war), there is a desire to reassure the goodness of Americans by characterizing working class whites as the backbone of the country, with honest, simple values.

America is quickly losing the regional distinctiveness of the South through their race for progress. Society is demoralizing the working man through typecasting as rednecks and hillbilly's. Yet America may be destroying a part of itself that should have been explored and listened to. The man who represents lack of formal education, hard physical labor, kinship loyalty and traditional lifestyles is being trampled upon because of the guilt and questioning which his existence creates in the world of progress, business and affluence that America is now so committed to.

Ransom describes the battle between agrarian and industrial thus:

The industrialists have a doctrine which is monstrous, but they are not monsters personally; they are forward-lookers with nice manners, and no American progressivist is against them. The farmers are boorish and inarticulate by comparison. Progressivism is against them in their fight, though their traditional status is still so strong that soft words are still spoken to them. All the solutions recommended for their difficulties are really enticements held out to them to become a little more cooperative, more mechanical, more mobile--in short, a little more industrialized. But the farmer who is not a mere laborer...is necessarily among the more stable and less progressive elements of society. He refuses to mobilize himself and become a unit in the industrial army, because he does not approve of army life.

This is a model of the relationship still functioning today between the mainstream of American society and working class white culture. Though most are no longer farmers, they retain a sense of rural values. And to complicate the matter further, the rural ideal is often the dream of the working class white. They do not desire to be partners in a law firm, or to obtain a graduate school education; they would like to own land, not always live hand to mouth, have security in health care and be out of the cities and factories. Much of their frustration and anger comes from the fact that this is seldom an option. There is only so much land available, and it is outrageously priced. There are only so many jobs in agriculture, wildlife and fisheries, or ranching; and these now require college degrees.

So those working class whites who do not own land within their families are forced by progress, industrialization, and the incorporation of America into the most dehumanizing of jobs -- mill workers, unions, factories, refineries and the service industry. It is this situation that results in many of the typical characteristics of the angry white male.