Modes of Existence
Adam Shatz · Tanenhaus on Franzen
Sam Tanenhaus, reviewing Jonathan Franzen's Freedom in the New York Times Book Review, writes:
Liberals, no less than conservatives — and for that matter revolutionaries and reactionaries; in other words, all of us — believe some modes of existence are superior to others. But only the liberal, committed to a vision of harmonious communal pluralism, is unsettled by this truth. This is why a Ramsey Hill pioneer like Patty Berglund [one of Franzen's characters] will suffer torments of indecision when thinking how best to “respond when a poor person of color accused you of destroying her neighborhood.”
If Tanenhaus weren't the editor of the Book Review, you'd wonder how this got past the editor. Never mind the confusion between liberalism and relativism. Is he really suggesting that a middle-class white person's 'mode of existence' is ‘superior' to that of a poor person of colour, and that the gentrifier's rights trump those of a slum dweller by virtue of that superiority?