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« Back to the Salt Mine | Main | Pre-Revolutionary Russian Art and Culture »

October 16, 2009

Replacing California

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I recently wrote that California's time as national lodestar might have passed.

If that assessment is correct, then what areas might replace California as America's goto place (figuratively and maybe even literally)?

Perhaps there's no single replacement area. As observers such as Terry Teachout have been noting, culture in the USA is becoming increasingly decentralized.

(It's possible that American culture was never as centralized as it might have retrospectively seemed. For example, during the first third or so of the 20th century there were many "regional" novelists (Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, Booth Tarkington and so forth), artists (Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton) and even radio networks (Yankee network, Don Lee network). This is an interesting topic we might revisit another time.)

On the other hand, there are parts of the country that consistently tend to rate highly as places to live. One might think that such areas eventually would attract a "critical mass" of cultural and intellectual talent to create cultural vanguard locales.

Examples that come to my mind are the Seattle and Portland areas on the west coast along with the Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Austin, Texas areas elsewhere.

But I could be wrong. Any other suggestions?



posted by Donald at October 16, 2009


All those places are full of SWPLs - they're SWPL magnets, and ordinary America doesn't particularly want to move there in the way that ordinary America wanted to move to Socal in the 1960s

Posted by: sam on October 16, 2009 1:09 AM

Almost all the places listed are university towns. Perhaps the answer isn't one specific place, but one specific type of place.

Posted by: Ted Craig on October 16, 2009 7:07 AM

The inter-mountain West is an attractive area. Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana still evoke a frontier feeling. There's still some exuberance out there. You just have to look harder.

The South remains a place apart. You would be surprised at the level of artistic and technical talent that is scattered around the small towns of this area. I am constantly amazed at what turns up at local art fairs.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 16, 2009 9:15 AM

California as a national influence isn't going anywhere any time soon. The movie and music industry still wields a HUGE influence on pop culture, for better or worse, and those industries, even with the decentralizing force of the internet, are still centered in California.

As much as many people are loathe to admit, California will also continue to lead in alternative energy development. California is almost always first in this arena, and much of the rest of the country tends to follow eventually.

And of course, the tech industry is still centered in the Golden State and the R&D aspect of that isn't moving. Almost everything computer-related is developed in California, and that is probably the biggest influence of all.

California has a shit-ton of problems, but for whatever reasons, cultural and technological innovation ain't one of them.

Posted by: JV on October 16, 2009 11:51 AM

Now that Obama is President, I hear Detroit and New Orleans are poised for booms.

Posted by: Professor Hale on October 19, 2009 12:10 PM

Ted Craig: Austin has U. of Texas, Mpls-StPl has U of Minnesota, but what major colleges are in Denver, Portland, or Seattle?

Donald: Yes, U.S. culture was more decentralized, but also more centralized. In 1940, one American in eight lived in metro New York.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on October 19, 2009 11:08 PM

Seattle has the University of Washington and the University of Colorado is a jump, hop, and skip from Denver.

Posted by: Trumwill on October 20, 2009 12:19 AM

Seattle is lovely, but too small of a population and geographically isolated (as is Minneapolis, Denver).

I really think too many people over praise university towns.

My guess: Texas. I know the argument has been made many times. But the state seems to be producing an attractive alternative to California. Hispanics and Caucasians seem to genuinely get a long due to several historical reasons. Cost of living is cheap compared to California and much of the country. With air conditioning, the heat doesn't matter.

Posted by: thehova on October 20, 2009 5:03 AM

The unfortunate thing is that S. California has the best climate in the US. How sad that anglos can no longer feel comfortable there. Leaving for Las Vegas and Boise is a real loss. Hispanics have "won".

It's the same as having to move out of beautiful cities which concentrate the productivity of generations of anglos ... and then they just have to give up these jewels of their civilization.

Posted by: Robert Hume on October 22, 2009 4:22 PM

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