The California Republic: Institutions, Statesmanship, and Policies by Brian P. Janiskee, Ken Masugi (Rowman & Littlefield) This collection has its origins in a scholarly conference and has been enhanced with more recent contributions. The Claremont Institute celebrated California's one hundred fiftieth anniversary of its birth by hosting "Democracy in California: Sesquicentennial Reflections on Equality and Liberty in the Golden State," October 27-28, 2000. The editors of Nexus, the law and policy journal of the Chapman University School of Law, graciously offered an issue of their journal for the revised papers from the conference. Many of the articles in this volume first appeared in Nexus. We thank them for their generosity, especially editor-in-chief professor Hugh Hewitt, professor John Eastman, and managing editor Jeanette Lee.
The essays presented a political and legal history of the development of a Progressive regime and its conditions of freedom. To this end, the conference sought to emphasize the themes of political philosophers such as Aristotle and Alexis de Tocqueville and the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln and thus help foster a new generation of scholarship on California. We later obtained the participation of not only established scholars of California but also others whose expertise would profitably be directed to California issues. Obviously, the essays could not cover every important element of its culture or politics, yet we hope nonetheless this collection might guide serious students in the way they study this vital state.
Often lauded as having the fifth (or sixth or seventh, depending on what measure one uses) largest economy in the world, California seems to lead the nation in other measures as well—particularly cultural and political trends. But were it an independent state, it would be one of the world's strangest democracies. Understanding this strangeness, this exoticism, was our task. Even before its national preeminence, and well before the staggering budget crisis, the need to understand California as a necessary part of understanding America was abundantly clear. In order to understand, to quote Abraham Lincoln, "where we are and whither we are tending," we were forced to reexamine the political principles of the Compromise of 1850, of the early state constitutions, and of the American founding, just as we must keep in mind the mores and practices of American citizenship. The essays strive to make these connections and thus lead us to self-knowledge. They had been organized into four themes: the conditions of democratic statehood; Progressivism and its statesmen; mores, multiculturalism, and citizenship; and the future of Progressive democracy.
FROM WEST TO EAST: California and the Making of the American Mind by Stephen Schwartz ($30.00, hardcover, 56p pages, bibliography, index, Free Press, ISBN: 0-684-83134-1)|/big>
This major revisioning of the meaning of California is a landmark of the cultural geography of the State. Schwartz offers a strikingly readable history, a cultural revision of the myths that embody the place of the California dream. He realizes that California is more a state of mind than a State of the Union. By placing the genesis of California from the deep utopian dreams of Spanish explorers, Schwartz manages to begin the deeper work of reintegration of Californian Hispanic heritage, a heritage that will become incontrovertible in the opening decades of the next century. He is also sensitive to other marginal and silenced aspects of the California story. His linking of Amerindian use of the datura and styles of shamanism to the visionary alternatives of the 60s counterculture, His strong feeling for labor history as it created a proletarian culture that has been so often down played in most cultural histories of the State.
Schwartz in many ways integrates the political culture with the literary and cultural, especially poetic enterprise as embodied in the San Francisco Renaissance. By showing how California culture has a greater cosmopolitan depth than the Eastern Establishment has usually allowed, being swept up in its own ethnocentric and Eurocentric biases. In many ways following Schwartz’s riveting arguments, California is truly more cosmopolitan and multicultural than has been realized. It is the future of the American dream. It provides a unique panorama of the political poetics of California. We are treated to a better account of the communist influences on culture than has usually been admitted. Schwartz has mastered an immense amount of material, much of it never before integrated into the cultural history of the State.
This mastery of several languages and an transnational poetic idiom helps to make this study one of the most vibrant and controversial cultural histories to appear in years. Schwartz’s well written saga is one of the best revisionist histories that reinvents many of the terms and characters of the cultural politics and poetics of the State. It is a postmodernist epic history that does more to invent the future than it does by rediscovering a neglected past.
Since the 1920s it has been commonplace to call California more than just a state, but also a state of mind. In FROM WEST TO EAST San Francisco Chronicle writer Stephen Schwartz explains the origin of this state of mind as a phenomenon of world history, not merely of local history. He argues that California’s culture must be understood in its own terms, rather than as an outcome of US expansion into the West.
The "cutting-edge" nature of California society had long been explained by the state’s location at the far end of America, suggesting that it had become populated by misfits, nonconformists, and adventurers ill-at-ease in the established society of Atlantic America. Yet Washington state, Hawaii, and Arizona, no less than Ohio, Wisconsin, and Kansas, all held such a position at various times in American history without ever producing the massive complex of cultural innovation visible in California.
California history is different from Kansas or Connecticut history. To paraphrase California’s great turn-of-the-century author, Frank Norris, San Francisco and Los Angeles, like New Orleans, are "story cities" in which great and amazing adventures are assumed to be a common feature of life. Nobody, even today, would call Cincinnati or Buffalo a story city.
California produced three of the most important phenomena in modern history, in terms of the world impact of American culture: Hollywood, the Beat movement in literature, and Silicon Valley. FROM WEST TO EAST is not a history of those particular revolutions, although it deals with the origin of the Beats. Rather, it is an examination of the unique cultural context that made such developments possible.
Given that American and world culture have, since the 1960s, increasingly been determined by California Culture, Schwartz argues that it is time to present a history of California from its own vantage point. He shows that:
• California was multicultural from the outset; a further subtext presents California as Mediterranean, while the rest of theUS is Anglo-Saxon in its cultural foundations.
FROM WEST TO EAST is a book for those who want to understand California from an original, sophisticated historical and philosophical perspective.
Simultaneously with the arrival of Henry Miller in Big Sur, a new intellectual tendency had emerged in Berkeley, in a little magazine called Circle. Edited by George Leite, who became one of Miller’s associates, Circle produced ten issues beginning in 1944, with what Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Nancy Peters described as 11 antiwar, anarchist, or antiauthoritarian, civil libertarian attitudes, coupled with a new experimentation in the arts.
Henry Miller appeared in its first number; later contributors included Anas Nin, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, the composers Harry Partch and Darius Milhaud, and such nationally known poets as William Carlos Williams. Circle also published William Everson (still in the Oregon camp for conscientious objectors), along with the Nebraska modernist poet Weldon Kees, and other experimental writers such as Thomas Parkinson, Judson Crews, and Gil Orlovitz.
The first issues of Circle were mimeographed, but George Leite soon Secured a letterpress contract with Jack Werner Stauffacher, a printer then in his early twenties. Stauffacher had founded The Greenwood Press on his family property in San Mateo in 1934 at age 13. He was on his way to becoming a leading figure in West Coast fine printing, but with the coming of the war he, like the rest of his peers, found his assumptions about the world profoundly shaken. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers, but contracted pleurisy and was discharged. He later recalled, "my age of innocence was somehow broken.… We were trying to find some answers.… Somehow I met George Leite, maybe through Henry Miller."
Circle’s second mimeographed issue had included work by a San Franciscan, Philip Lamantia, then only 16. Lamantia was a Surrealist, an authentic one, rather than an imitator who had been published in 1943 in VVV, an annual printed in New York under the sponsorship of the war exiled French Surrealist poet and theoretician Andre Breton. (Breton himself came as far west as Reno, but seems never to have visited San Francisco.) The son of a Sicilian-American businessman, Lamantia grew up in the Outer Mission district of San Francisco, an early refuge of gentility for successful Italian-Americans fleeing their traditional quarter of North Beach. Lamantia’s verse was brilliant, romantic, and erotic; one of his most important poems begins,
I am following her to the wavering moon
to a bridge by the long waterfront …
Some thirty years later, Kenneth Rexroth described Philip Lamantia as the best of the third generation of [international] surrealists.… I have never known anyone else who started out, without preliminaries, with no five finger exercises or scales, as an achieved poet," he added. Lamantia had been sent to Rexroth by "Someone I didn’t know who was an English teacher" at Balboa High School, where young Philip was enrolled. Marilyn Zito, daughter of Carmelo Zito the editor of Il Corriere del Popolo, was in the same class at Balboa High. She later recalled that Philip Lamantia’s father had gone to Carmelo Zito and asked Zito to speak to his son about the latter’s increasingly perturbing behavior. Marilyn recalls that her father came away from the meeting with Lamantia dismayed, for something was going an with the young author that was beyond the understanding of most of the older generation, even a radical like the Corriere editor. The meeting of Carmelo Zito and Philip Lamantia took place across a widening cultural gap. For an intellectual revolution indeed, the long-awaited California literary revolution had begun, with consequences beyond all expectation.
Lamantia was, like Rexroth, a pacifist; indeed, Rexroth was the first individual granted conscientious-objector status on appeal in San Francisco and Lamantia was the second. Lamantia, Duncan, who had been discharged from the Army as a homosexual, and other new voices associated with Circle had something else in common beside their opposition to war: according to Rexroth, "one of the characteristics of all these new people was, to put it bluntly, mysticism." Rexroth’s own poetry was increasingly concerned with occult matters as he read, for example, the seventeenth-century German shoemaker Jakob Boehme’s Signature of All Things (De Signatura rerum, 1622). Henry Miller, now the leader of a recognized local literary movement, had also plunged into esoteric study, including Boehme. Lamantia wrote in a poetic homage to Miller,
just when my head is swimming in a pyramid in Mexico
just at that time you crawl forth
The appearance of Circle marked the beginning of the overt phase of the California literary revolution. As Rexroth recalled, "the ideological foundations of the San Francisco Renaissance had been laid poetry of direct speech of I to Thou, personalism, anarchism." Soon an antistatist Libertarian Circle, led by Rexroth, Lamantia, Duncan, Everson (after he left Waldport), and friends, was holding meetings, literary seminars, and dances with the support of a few surviving Italian and Spanish anarchists, and furnishing a challenge, however minor at first, to Communist domination over California radicals.
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ was born in Ohio but has lived since infancy in the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He was active in the radical left until the early 80s, when he joined the freemarket Institute for Contemporary Studies. Since then, he has published several major studies in political history. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and publishes widely in the Hispanic world. In 1989, he joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a staff writer. He also contributes frequently to the Wall Street Journal and other national periodicals.
CONTESTED EDEN: California before the Gold Rush, edited by Raymon A. Gutierrez and Richard J. Orsi ($60.00 cloth, ISBN: 0520212738, $27.50 PAPERBACK, ISBN: 0520212746, 395 pages, 13 color photographs, 76 b/w photographs, 5 maps, notes, bibliography, index, California History Sesquicentennial Series, University of California Press)
CONTESTED EDEN combines topics of interest to scholars and armchair historians alike foreign exploration, the Mexican-American war, the missions, immigration, and the economy with essays on newer areas of inquiry-environmental issues and the experiences of women and American Indians. Accompanied by 89 black-and-white and color illustrations, some never published before, CONTESTED EDEN celebrates California by offering a fresh perspective on the forces of long ago that shaped the state into what it is today.
Contributors: M. Kat Anderson, Michael G. Barbour, Antonia I. Castaneda, Iris H. W Engstran, Michael J. Gonalez, Lisbeth Haas, Steven W Hackel, Anthony Kirk, Douglas Monroy, Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., William Preston, James A. Sandos, William S. Simmons, Valerie Whitworth.
Ramon A. Gutierrez is Professor of Ethnic Studies and History at the University of Callfornia San Diego. Richard J. Orsi is Professor of History at California State University, Hayward, and editor of the journal California History.
PARADISE LOST: California's Experience, America's
Future by Peter Schrag ($25.00, hardcover, 344 pages, New Press, ISBN: 1565843576)
In the years after World War II, California, always regarded as an experiment for the American future, became an encouraging model for the nation. It was admired and envied for the quality of its education system, its environment, and its progressive social outlook. However, beginning with the passage of the tax-cutting Proposition 13 in 1978, and continuing through a barrage of voter initiatives, the state has pursued a determined course of retrenchment and reaction, sending it tumbling to the bottom of the nation’s "quality of life" rankings.
In PARADISE LOST , Peter Schrag examines the relationship between the politics of that retrenchment and the great demographic changes of recent decades. His book makes a powerful case for reinvigorating our traditional structures of representative government against the increasing power of a "populism" that is often disdainful of minority rights and interests. It shows that California is still a test for the nation, and a frightening indicator of our society’s readiness to assimilate and serve its new citizens. More focused upon the current political economy of the State Schrag shows the cleavages of conflict between ethnic groups and established segments of privilege.
Peter Schrag was for nineteen years the editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee. He is the author of many books, and is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
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