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(Clyde Wilson, Abbeville Institute) It’s hard to believe, but John Shelton Reed’s classic sociological study The Enduring South was first published a half century ago. I long ago gave my copy to a student, but, as I remember, Reed’s findings pointed to a persistent identification of a great many people as Southerners by use of various opinion surveys.
Persistent peculiar Southern aspects of behaviour were noted by Reed in three areas that differed quantitatively if not qualitatively from the “American” norm. 1)Significantly higher Christian orthodoxy, even higher than in Northern Catholic areas. 2) A more family and locally centered attention and set of values. (For instance, Southerners were more likely to name children after family members than celebrities, and remembered the War between the States as family history rather than a phony abstract theory about freeing slaves.) 3) A different dividing line between the personal and the public. (Southerners were more likely to deal with an affront in person instead of calling the police and less likely to justify interfering with other people’s family and business.)
A new set of sociologists, Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knox, have taken on Reed’s question in The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
The good news is that self-identification as Southern is still very powerful. Interestingly, it has even increased some lately, especially among the younger and better educated and among…We’re Still Here – Abbeville Institute