Kulturkampf, Value and National Providentialism (VIAL)

On Wednesday I said that the United States is at war. Not only in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, and Somalia (among other locales where the US military now engages its enemies) but in the United States itself. This war is a “cold” war, a culture war, what is called kulturkampf.

In a posthumously published study of warfare titled Vom Kriege (On War) Carl von Clauswitz famously asserted that “War is politics by other means” (he actually wrote that “War is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means,” but we won’t let that detain us further).

The same can be said of culture: culture is politics by other means, and Culture War is the quintessence of politics.

Values in American Life entered the curriculum at San Francisco State University in part as a response to a situation of national kulturkampf. As we saw on Friday, some of its elements– specifically the notion of “national providentialism”– have deep roots. As an intrinsic value, providentialism establishes a foundation for the ideology of American Exceptionalism. On Monday we wil begin to examine these themes from a different perspective, using the autobiography and abolitionist tract by Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative, as a point of departure.