Nilsson, “Conserving the American Dream: Faith and Politics in the U.S. Heartland”

Nilsson, Erik (2012) “Conserving the American Dream: Faith and Politics in the U.S. Heartland.” Stockholm studies in social anthropology. Stockholm, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis.

Publisher’s Description: Recent decades have seen substantial changes in the U.S. political landscape. One particularly significant development has been the growing influence of a conservative coalition encompassing evangelical Christianity, interventionist foreign policy and neoliberal reform. This study explores the force and internal dynamics of this political assemblage. Based on fieldwork among conservative voters, volunteers and candidates in a small city in northwestern Ohio during a midterm election year, it probes the energy of conservative politics, its modes of attachment and influence, and the organizational forms through which it circulates. Contemporary conservative politics are shown to be centered on a particular epistemological intuition: that to be able to act, one must believe in something. This intuition implies an actively affirmative stance toward “beliefs” and “values.” The study also addresses methodological and analytical challenges that conservative politics pose for anthropological inquiry. It develops a “conversational” analytical attitude, arguing that in order to understand the lasting influence conservatism one has to take seriously the problems that it is oriented toward.