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romantic cachet could be converted into cash, affording some women an opportunity to wield new influence and others an opportunity to gain badly needed income. But New England's craft revival faded just as Appalachian began to thrive— Yankees dethroned in favor of Mountaineers as our Quintessential Americans. Why and how that happened and just when it did is not yet clear. Jane Becker's thorough and thoughtful study suppUes part of the answer, and provides a valuable model for new investigations that explore intersections of tradition and commerce, nostalgia and amnesia, in other times and places. Indeed, we are stiU witnessing variations on the phenomena Becker so ably describes, though in this global age the aUen cultures being made safe for middle-class consumption tend to be those of developing countries whose populations are Ukewise aUegedly buoyed by the marketing oftraditional handcraft. Historical perspective is particularly valuable in an era that celebrates Guatemalan-woven textiles and handknitted sweaters from Ecuador as enduring crafts ofan international folk culture. In Selling Tradition, Becker cautions us never to be complacent, even when we wrap ourselves in the warm comfort of a moss green coverlet. A Fabric of Defeat The PoUtics of South CaroUna Millhands, 1910—1948 By Bryant Simon University ofNorth CaroUna Press, 1998 345 pp. Cloth $49.95; paper $19.95 Reviewed by ??ß? Uchtenstoin, associate professor ofhistory at Florida International University and the author of Twice the Work ofFree Labor: The PoliticalEconomy ofConvict Labor in the New South, from Verso Books, 1996. In his 1964 essay, "The Southern Mystique," radical historian Howard Zinn insisted that whüe the white southerner "cares about segregation, there are things he cares about mote."A Fabric ofDefeat, Bryant Simon's fascinating history ofthe poUtical consciousness of South CaroUna textile workers, puts that proposition to the test. Focusing on the period 1910—1948, Simon charts the rise and faU of mülworker class consciousness through three distinct phases. He begins widi the 82 southern cultures, Winter 1999 : Reviews years in which South CaroUna poütics were dominated by the mülhands' champion , Cole Blease. Radier than merely writing off Blease as a racial demagogue who easüy preyed on the simple minds of his cracker audience, Simon far more subdy accounts for "Coley's" appeal by tracing a crisis of mascuUnity within the southern white working class. As industriaUzation dissolved the bonds of the patriarchal household and male self-sufficiency, white male miUworkers resisted any efforts on the part of Progressive reformers to undermine further their autonomy and control over their households. Shorn of its nineteenth-century basis in the ownership ofproductive property, the modern ideology ofmascuUnity staked its claim ever more deeply on the grounds of whiteness and patriarchy. Blease, tapping the anxieties of these men, rode a tide of class resentment to power in Progressive-era South CaroUna. StiU, despite Simon's welcome focus on gender in A Fabric ofDefeat, the "poUtics" of South CaroUna mülhands remain predominandy male in his account. One wonders how women responded to Bleasism, pitched as it was to threatened mascuUnity. Perhaps, indeed, this explains some of Blease's post-suffrage decUne in the 1920s. By the early 1930s many miUworkers had been weaned from Bleasism. Increased wages and expanded consumption during the 1920s shifted the priorities of male miUworkers, who had less invested in the poUtics of personal independence and more at stake in their paycheck. But the highly competitive structure of the textile industry eventuaUy led to the hated stretch-out, as textile firms sought to increase production without expanding their work force. Coupled with a growing labor surplus, the new shop-floor regime generated an increased class consciousness among miUworkers. Their class anger, no longer directed at middle -class reformers, found itselfdisplaced onto the mülowners who imposed the new killing pace ofwork and replaced them with strikebreakers if they objected. With the initial faüure of United Textile Workers (utw) union drives, mülhands turned to government for succor, leaving Blease out in the cold, and setting the stage for the poUtical emergence of one-time miUhand OUnJohnston. In die early Depression years, South Carolina mülhands pressed for a state law restricting the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 82-85
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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