Yankee Hegemony, or Obliteration by Incorporation (pace R.K. Merton)

“We youngsters did not articulate the social ideas we learned in the Back Bay. Had we done so, they might have sounded something like this: “We are a group, the Yankees, and we are different from other ethnic groups. Not only are we different, we are better than the others, especially in a lingering respect for intellectual attainments even on the part of those of us who have not acquired them. We are perhaps worse than other groups in our reluctance to fight. Yet is our betterness really a betterness when it has done us so little good? We have lost political power in Boston and even our control of the State House is in jeopardy. It is only a question of time before we lose our other superiorities. Our financial power may be the last to go. Nor is it merely a question of our superiority: our very identity is at stake. We are a great group with a great history, but we are bound to disappear as surely as Cooper’s Mohicans.” We had also learned not to be quite so sentimental about the proletariat as some of our later, Marxist, friends affected to be. After all we had suffered at its hands.

My later experience has reversed some of these inarticulate judgements. How could we have been so worried? In a strange way we Yankees have won, not lost, and won in a way I never conceived in my youth. Who would have believed then that parochial schools would be closing , not opening, that the once-conquering Catholic Church would be hard put to fill her seminaries, that her newer churches would look for all the world like colonial meetinghouses, and that in them the priests would repeat the Mass— which I bet will soon be called Holy Communion— in English and facing the congregation? Of course it is our culture not our numbers that has won. It is not the old Yankee culture, but then that too had been changing and was bound in any event to change further. Still, it is a descendent whose cultural genes have more Yankee in them than anything else. In the process much has been lost. For instance, the Irish have given up their lovely brogue for the most nasal of Yankee dialects. Perhaps all I am saying is that I should never have believed that we would all become so American, though our convergence still has far to go.”

George Homans, sociologist. Protege of Lawrence Henderson and colleague of Elton Mayo. Author of Management and the Worker