I'm struck by how many commentators these days see neo-conservatism as a foreign policy framework, when its roots are really in a right-tilting critique of urban policy and of urbanism itself. So many of neo-conservatism's founding fathers, arrayed around the journal, The Public Interest, cut their teeth writing diatribes against 60s-style urban policy and against cities themselves. Edward Banfield's The Unheavenly City was a rallying point. It included an incredulous chapter called (I kid you not) "Rioting for Fun and Profit." The Public Interest published infamous articles like "The City as a Reservation," and "The City as a Sandbox," which argued that cities had become places where the poor and marginalized should be wharehoused. Others offered prescriptions of "benign neglect," arguing that cities would come back only after prolonged disinvestment. Current day neo-con anti-urbanism runs the gamut - from the Manhattan Institute, its City Journal, and the diatribes of Steven Malanga; to the back-to-basics style neo-conservatism of Fred Siegel and Joel Kotkin, who take it upon themselves to regularly bash some of America's best urban mayors and blame "yuppies, sophistos, trendoids and gays" for exacerbating social cleavages, to the more sophisticated "suburbs are where the action is" musings of David Brooks.
A new essay by Jeremy Adam Smith outlines what he calls, "The Right's Vision of an America without Cities."
"Millions of rural people have come to reject the larger framework of urban life," writes Brian Mann ... "They despise the liberal modernism that shaped metro culture in the twentieth century and see it as an ideology that is every bit as foreign and threatening as communism." ... Antagonism towards cities ... is an under-recognized, under-analyzed factor in right-wing organizing.... Mann coins the term "homelander" to describe largely white, anti-urban conservatives, including those whose country life exists only in their imagination. ..."It's important to understand that we metros are the ones who have changed - and with remarkable speed," Mann writes, referring to egalitarian families, gay and lesbian relationships, and other practices that are a part of everyday urban life. " On a wide range of social questions, homelanders ... believe that their way of life and their set of values offer a real alternative for the future." Read the whole thing here.