The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Who Needs Social Scientists When We Have the Onion?

February 24, 2011

 Many scholars consider “prediction” to be the goal of social science. They deploy fancy statistical techniques to create complex models that, if they’re really good, reach the Olympian heights of 47% accuracy rates.

Then there’s the Onion, who makes all of those technowizards with their “R” and their “LaTeX” look like a bunch of coin flippers.

Consider the its scarily accurate 17 January 2001 headline, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'”.

So when I read its 2004 article, “National Museum Of The Middle Class Opens In Schaumburg, IL”, I laugh and I cry, but mostly I just want to drink until I pass out.

“The splendid and intriguing middle class may be gone, but it will never be forgotten,” said Harold Greeley, curator of the exhibit titled “Where The Streets Had Trees’ Names.” “From their weekend barbecues at homes with backyards to their outdated belief in social mobility, the middle class will forever be remembered as an important part of American history.” […]
 “No one predicted the disappearance of the middle class,” said Dr. Bradford Elsby, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “The danger of eliminating workers’ unions, which had protected the middle class from its natural predators for years, was severely underestimated. We believe that removal of the social safety net, combined with rapid political-climate changes, made life very difficult for the middle class, and eventually eradicated it altogether.” 

One of the 15 permanent exhibits, titled “Working For ‘The Weekend,'” examines the routines of middle-class wage-earners, who labored for roughly eight hours a day, five days a week. In return, they were afforded leisure time on Saturdays and Sundays. According to many anthropologists, these “weekends” were often spent taking “day trips,”eating at chain family restaurants, or watching “baseball” with the nuclear family. 

“Unlike members of the lower class, middle-class people earned enough money in five days to take two days off to ‘hang out,'” said Benson Watercross, who took a private jet from his home in Aspen to visit the museum. “Their adequate wages provided a level of comfort and stability, and allowed them to enjoy diversions or purchase goods, thereby briefly escaping the mundanity.”


website | + posts

Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.