The Bread of the Strong: Lacouturisme and the Folly of the Cross, 1910-1985

By Jack Lee Downey | Go to book overview

4 Mackerel Snappers in the
US Industrial Era

The real danger for the established system is not the abolition of labor
but the possibility of nonalienated labor as the basis of the reproduc-
tion of society. Not that people are no longer compelled to work, but
that they might be compelled to work for a very different life and in
very different relations, that they might be given very different goals
and values, that they might have to live with a very different morality—
this is the “definite negation” of the established system, the liberating
alternative.

—Herbert Marcuse, “Aggressiveness in Advanced Industrial Society,” in
Negations: Essays in Critical Theory

Onésime Lacouture’s ascetic, mystical antimodernism found a receptive audience among enthusiastic vowed religious whose dormant restlessness at Catholic accommodation to secularism was primed. Lacouturite theology was intentionally countercultural and carried a strong indictment of secular proliferation, based on an extreme distinction between sacred and profane spheres of existence.1 Although Lacouturisme was stamped out in its home province of Québec, it migrated southward and enculturated its analysis to mirror its new host. While Lacouturite rhetoric spilled a disproportionate amount of ink condemning particular secular practices, like smoking, its root focus was the holistic conversion of souls to the Sermon on the Mount’s inverted theology.2 During the interwar period, the collective trauma of World War I and the Great Depression gutted the once-ascendant liberal Protestant confidence in progress and threw an at least temporary monkey wrench into the American affliction of resilient positivity that conditions a belief that structural inequality may simply be overcome by a positive attitude and sufficient elbow grease.3 American cultural disillusionment was met by Christian

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