A book-length essay about the recent resurgence of swing dancing and the supposed implications of its renaissance.
In the opening pages of his broadside disguised as paean, New York Press writer Judge comes clean about his youthful radicalism and his turn from it, but even someone incapable of reading between the lines could determine that his was a simple case of teenage antiauthoritarianism followed by the gradual onset of maturity. Abruptly compelled by the work of the historian and social critic Christopher Lasch (in particular, by a reading of The Culture of Narcissism), Judge, like a heathen on the low road to Tarsus, abandoned his leftist “ideology of compassion” and proceeded to apply Lasch’s post-Freudian interpretation of individual development to society as a whole. American society is missing discipline, community, and a healthy sense of play, he declares. He then argues that the recent rebirth of swing dancing has provided exactly the sort of structured and civilized interaction that has been missing from contemporary American civilization for many years now. It is an interesting notion that, with a less Pauline, reactionary tilt (and a touch of wit or a bit less self-consciousness), might seem convincing to those who are not as dour in their view of modern society as Judge, and it would seem a matter of simple common sense to those who participate in similar activities with similar, positive aspects. But Judge’s study lacks the open naïveté and amusement of Jedediah Purdy’s recent For Common Things; in trying to explain the collapse of morality and cultural integrity since the end of WWII, he roams through a catholic range of references, but his argument has a tone of moral penitence and self-righteousness. In the end, his diatribe comes to resemble a rant.
Ambitious pop-cult criticism that fails because of its single-mindedness and humorlessness.