The usefulness of “whiteness,” however, from a propagandist’s point of view, is that a skilled manipulator of the jargon can purport to demonstrate that Donald Trump—or, indeed, anyone else—is a white supremacist merely by being (a) white (though even this requirement may be waived for those who only “act white”) and (b) in favor of one or more of the things that the mostly white middle classes used to be in favor of, irrespective of one’s actual views on race. Wuthnow, by de-demonizing the middle class without ignoring its actual tendency to exclude the morally (or mannerly) marginal, gains some credibility on behalf of progressive social science, making it at least potentially something more than a hunt for new classes of victims of “bourgeois culture” (or “whiteness” or “imperialism” or “capitalism” or what have you).

Wuthnow’s argument about the marginal communities calls the whole idea of “othering” into, well, if not doubt then banality. For doesn’t the social marginalization of certain groups, including the greedy, corrupt, and pleasure-seeking rich, merely show that it is inherent in the very idea of morality that it will somehow exclude those who do not behave according to its strictures? And aren’t the academics who are protesting against even a sympathetic account of bourgeois values every bit as much in the exclusion business as those they so disapprove of?