We’re halfway through one of those most noble of life’s rituals–helping a family member move, in this case, my sister to Minnesota–and we spent this morning at what I would argue is the most bourgeois place on Earth: the Mall of America.

Modernity’s critics and hipsters dislike malls because they don’t really like commerce. The Mall of America is, for lack of a better phrase, a temple of commerce. Virtually every square inch is devoted to bringing together willing buyers with willing sellers. It’s also a microcosm of how services like sanitation and security can be provided privately.

As an undergrad, I took an interesting introductory American Studies course. During one lecture, the Professor lamented the fact that elderly men now gather at shopping malls where elderly men of previous generations would gather in front of the courthouse. I think this is a sign of progress. As symbolic spaces go, courthouses are emblems of conflict. Malls are emblems of cooperation. That modern life’s dominant public space is a house of commerce rather than a house of conflict is something to be celebrated, not lamented.