Saturday, 13 October 2018

The identity problem

"Populist nationalism is a symptom, not a cause of the disorder of liberal societies."

One of the two most important themes of our time is the current surge of nationalist populism (the other is climate change), which will have a strong influence upon culture and how it is perceived. The idea of a cosmopolitcan, liberal and democratic civilization, which is now under threat, is a result of the rationalistic component of the Enlightenment, stressing universal values of humanity across cultural differences. This leaves some emotional needs of the human being in the darkness of isolation, uprootedness, alienation and loneliness, especially the people who don't share in the assets and advantages of cosmopolitism which are mainly material. This flaw of modern, democratic liberal societies is the cause of populism, which is an instinctive reaction now that those flaws have become more visible than ever. The challenge consists in finding a way of channelling the emotional drives that erupt in primitive attacks upon the very institutions that are supposed to protect freedoms and the rule of law.

Very interesting article by John Gray, a review of two books on the subject:

The implications of the current identity debates for culture are hughe, since the arts are, to a great extent, symbols of cultural identity. Nothing demonstrates the dangers of materialist emptiness and nihilism - result of an exaggerated, perverted modern version of Enlightenment values - better than the establishment of the modern art world, with its absurd objects being sold for absurd prices to absurd people.

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