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One key concept presented in The Mind of the South was the capacity of the (white) Southerner to believe in fantasies. In the article that Cash eventually expanded into the book The Mind of the South, Cash calls this the "magnificent incapacity for the real, a Brobdingnagian capacity for the fantastic." Southerners idealized their past and their present, a tendency that enabled them to look past the injustices in their own midst. Cash even sees the roots of Jim Crow in this, suggesting that whites made blacks into mythic enemies who had to be resisted. Cash wrote in the aftermath of labor disputes in Southern textile mills, and even wrote disparagingly about striking whites, who he saw as proceeding from a lazy, shiftless heritage. They struck, he argued, not for better working conditions, but out of a romantic desire to tilt at a windmill. Southern elites, meanwhile, could overlook the brutality with which the strikes were crushed by simply moving on to another topic in conversation. In his book by the same title, Cash expands on these attributes and links them to the historical foundations of the South, and particularly to the institution of slavery and cash crop agriculture. In short, Cash doubts that a better New South is in the making, due to the intransigent and unrealistic character of the southern people themselves. This pessimism is the predominant theme of The Mind of the South. A society has developed that embraces ignorance and glorifies the virtues of social stratification while simultaneously rejecting anything resembling a work ethic.
Source: Wilbur J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1941).
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