Weekly Digest: What Happens to People When Work Disappears
Welcome to the weekly digest for January 7, 2022.
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I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2022.
What Happens to People When Work Disappears?
New York Times reporter Farah Stockman was assigned to cover the closure and relocation to Mexico of a Rexnord bearing plant in Indianapolis after Donald Trump tweeted about it in 2016.
She turned her reporting into a compelling book called American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears? It’s an insightful and moving account of the lives of three employees at the plant, and what happened to them before, during, and after the closure.
Sadly, the stories of Shannon, Wally, and John, the subjects of her account, are all too common. They represent the norm rather than the exception for people in the blue collar world in America.
I wrote an overview and review of the book for American Compass. Here’s an excerpt:
As the lives of Shannon, Wally, and John attest, life was not perfect in Indianapolis before Rexnord closed. A growing regional population, downtown revitalization, and emerging tech startup cluster disguised the extent to which much of the economy remained fundamentally working class and distressed. The base of large, established manufacturers that had provided a solid middle-class life had been disappearing for decades. By 2016, decent-paying, union jobs like those at Rexnord—$25 an hour with full benefits and a pension—had disappeared from Indianapolis plant by plant, never to return: Western Electric, RCA, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Navistar, and others. The new normal for Indianapolis was lower-paying, less secure jobs in sectors like warehousing and tourism…….
American Made excels at capturing glimpses of the instability and chaos of working-class America today—from dropping out of school and entering precarious employment, to the parade of partners and kids shuffled between homes, to chronic health issues and premature death. Shannon has one boyfriend who is physically abusive while another has an affair with a woman down the street. A stranger steals her beagle and trades it for drugs. Wally has a parade of girlfriends, never able to find a durable relationship. Robbed of economic security and social stability, these Americans sense a need to rely on, and sometimes grift from, peers and family just to get by. The sorts of actions that would represent a major breach of trust in middle-class America—like paying someone less than promised for a job, as someone did to Wally at a barbecue catering event—are simply an accepted part of life in this world.
Click over to read the whole thing.
More Articles from the Past Week
I wrote a piece examining from themes from Tim Keller’s How to Reach the West Again.
I followed that up with a second piece with some commentary on a few specific points from Kellers piece (Subscriber Only).
In Governing magazine, I wrote about how we are a suburban nation and that’s not going to change.
At American Reformer, Miles Smith writes about White Evangelical Christian Nationalist Abolitionists.
And Brad Littlejohn wrote about about Reimagining a Christian America.
The Aaron Renn Show
If you missed it, you can check out my interview with Sean Clifford on fighting back against pornography. Clifford is the CEO of anti-porn software company Canopy.
My interview with Christian artist Arthur Kwon Lee continues to get great feedback - people are still emailing me about it.
I’ve also done a few solo podcasts since I last sent out the digest:
I took a critical look at Catholic integralism, which seems to be a gigantic distraction.
I talked again about passing on our patrimony, this time focusing on American patriotic and folk songs.
And I shared some thoughts on how to start creating a productive urban household.
You can listen to my podcast on Apple, Google, or YouTube.
Please subscribe to get the full experience. Subscribers get exclusive content, transcripts of podcasts and interviews, and can share comments here on Substack.
Aaron Renn In the News
A few recent articles mentioned me and my work.
My blockbuster American Affairs piece on Indiana under Republican rule created a major stir in the state. Local journalist Adam Wren, who publishes a political newsletter called Importantville, described it as “blowing up” in Republican circles. The governor of the state was even forced to defend his record. Indiana columnist John Krull wrote about it. And Joy Pullman at the Federalist used it as the basis of a nice writeup. There were other mentions as well.
Miles Smith also has an interesting piece in the American Conservative called Raising Republican Men that includes a mention of me.
Best of the Web
Here are some interesting links I found over the last couple weeks.
The Hungarian Conservative has an essay by the French philosopher Chantal Delsol on the end of Christianity. It’s thought provoking and very much worth reading and pondering.
Many of you know Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. An article in City Journal reflects on his work as he turns 90.
The Social Pathologist has some interesting thoughts on George Bailey and Protestantism.
The New Republic writes on the life coaches shaping the ex-evangelical movement. This is more proof that nobody actually leaves evangelicalism.
WSJ: On how churches are using big data and social media analytics to target potential new members.
The New York Times writes about the anti-feminist movement in South Korea.
The great journalist Joan Didion recently passed away. She was something of a conservative in her earlier years, more from her keen observational abilities than any political philosophy. She actually wrote for National Review at times, something airbrushed out of most discussions about her. He article anthologies like Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album are still worth reading. She wrote the granddaddy of all leaving New York essays, “Goodbye to All That” and also a famous piece from the New York Times in 1972 on “The Women’s Movement”that’s very worth reading.
Regarding the “cancellation” of Norman Mailer and critiques of his personal life, Joyce Carol Oates wrote this insightful observation:
"Bad husband" to whom? Like many oft-married men Norman Mailer wound up finally with a much younger, adoring, and altogether quite wonderful wife (Norris Church) whom everyone liked. Womanizers all eventually wear out. It just takes time, and if you're lucky, you are the last wife.