The Four American Factions - According to George Packer

(posted 6/20/2021) - This article is long (about 40 pages) but it is thoughtful and not at all polemic. I gradually came around to George Packer's point of view by the time I'd finished reading. It is a history lesson, social study, political analysis, and commentary on human nature.

Here is a concluding excerpt that I found striking:

(Begin quote) All four of the narratives I've described emerged from America's failure to sustain and enlarge the middle-class democracy of the postwar years. They all respond to real problems. Each offers a value that the others need and lacks ones that the others have. Free America celebrates the energy of the unencumbered individual. Smart America respects intelligence and welcomes change. Real America commits itself to a place and has a sense of limits. Just America demands a confrontation with what the others want to avoid. They rise from a single society, and even in one as polarized as ours they continually shape, absorb, and morph into one another. But their tendency is also to divide us, pitting tribe against tribe. These divisions impoverish each narrative into a cramped and ever more extreme version of itself.

All four narratives are also driven by a competition for status that generates fierce anxiety and resentment. They all anoint winners and losers. In Free America, the winners are the makers, and the losers are the takers who want to drag the rest down in perpetual dependency on a smothering government. In Smart America, the winners are the credentialed meritocrats, and the losers are the poorly educated who want to resist inevitable progress. In Real America, the winners are the hardworking folk of the white Christian heartland, and the losers are treacherous elites and contaminating others who want to destroy the country. In Just America, the winners are the marginalized groups, and the losers are the dominant groups that want to go on dominating.

I don't much want to live in the republic of any of them. (End quote)

Packer spends the almost 40 pages building his case for the existence of these narrative visions. Here is the link to the article in The Atlantic. It is worth reading if only to help gain perspective of where we've been and where we are likely heading as a society.