Saturday, April 09, 2005

BlogClip: Miscellaneous Asides About Modernism


David Brin offers some fascinating insights on the revolt against modernism (as always, Brin is interesting whether one agrees with him or not).

Of particular interest to me is his theory on the shift in literature from the fantastic to the mundane. He associates it with a polarity reversal, beginning circa 1600 with the Enlightenment, in what one might think of as risk assessment as it relates to the individual and to society. As it happens, this tracks closely with the birth and growth of the modern state as well ... and with my own recent thinking on the genesis of the anarchist movement and the reaction to it, which occurred about the same time the literary shift became evident.

To put it a different way, as pure skylark hypothesis:

- The birth of liberalism was a feature of the Enlightenment, but the growth of the state was a reaction to the uncertainties produced by liberalism's radical changes.

- The trend away from speculation and toward fascination with the now in literature, and the trend toward increased state power as a tool of fending off uncertainty about the future, were manifestations of the same phenomenon.

- The birth of anarchism (and other utopian ideas) as political philosophy was in turn a reaction to the increasingly stifling environment produced by these "fear of the future" movements. In other words, it's no coincidence that Jane Austen and William Godwin were roughly contemporaries.

Like I said, purely spitballing here, but it's something I plan to explore pursuant to a paper I'm writing for a new anarchist project that you'll be hearing about soon.


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