What is the Lost Cause School?

People throw around the term “Lost Cause” as a label to cover what I assume are a set of tenets, arguments, and assumptions that frame a particular perspective about the Civil War era.  Clearly not all people agree what it means or what it covers: while Joan Waugh labeled William A. Dunning a Lost Cause historian, most Reconstruction historians (including me) see what is called “the Dunning school” as distinct from the Lost Cause (and limited to Reconstruction).  However, one thing that has been characteristic of Reconstruction historiography is that quite often any overview of Reconstruction starts by outlining “the Dunning school” in order to refute it (this “school” is now a century old, and I wonder how many Reconstruction scholars have actually read Dunning).

What does “the Lost Cause School” mean to you?  What are its fundamental principles, its bedrock beliefs?  How has it shaped the writing of American history?  Or are we simply creating another Other, a straw man of sorts, grounded in reality but assumed to be so much more, as a way to discount scholarship simply by giving it a name and then referring to it in disparaging terms?