Luddite Trump is Trying to Turn Back the Clock


Alan McIntyre in The Scottish Review:

So why has Trump latched onto the idea that coal mining is an industry that must be saved at all costs? It's for the same reason that he pedals the fantasy of bringing steel mills back to Ohio – a nostalgia for an industrial America that shaped and supported working-class communities and which technological progress is inexorably erasing. The truth, whether it's miners in West Virginia or shipyard workers on the Clyde, is that hard physical work in homogenous communities created social bonds and social capital that isn't easily replaced. Whether those communities are in the remote valleys of Appalachia or the somewhat less remote valleys of South Wales, the closing of a mine wreaks social havoc.

Thirty years on from Arthur Scargill's failed strike, the parallels are clear. It wasn't just about jobs and economics, it was about trying to protect a way of life that, while dirty and dangerous, was also unique. The jobs may eventually be replaced, but loose networks of Uber drivers are unlikely to spawn many male voice choirs, world-class brass bands, or the social and cultural corona that surrounded the pits. A key insight from J D Vance's recent award-winning Appalachian family history, 'Hillbilly Elegy', is that when the social capital anchored in a concentration of traditional jobs gets eroded, whole communities can descend into a purposeless existence in which drug abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence find fertile ground.

The political current that Trump has expertly tapped into is the need for 'meaningful work' rather than just a job.

More here.