Saturday 30 September 2023

Liquid modernity

I'd heard of Zygmunt Bauman but he hadn't registered with me until today. I have just read two essays talking about him.

This is from Mark Lilla's essay on Ukraine on November 5, 2022, which I read today:

It seems to me that the ultimate source of democratic erosion is the fact that our societies have become more liquid and less solid, to adopt the terms of the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Bauman’s use of the term “liquid” was an oblique reference to The Communist Manifesto, in which Marx and Engels declared that under capitalism, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”.
The so-called “national conservative” activists who gather in Budapest these days to hear the gospel of Christian integrism are children of liquid societies. Whatever their nostalgic fantasies about a world they’ve never known, and never existed in the form they imagine, their psychological outlook presumes liquidity, movement, independence. They are bees who were born outside a hive — like the rest of us. They are not built to live in even a hive as inviting to them as a fully “integrated” Catholic nation.

And this from Bill Bishop in the Washington Post, a paper I avoid as it's mostly disinformation, quoted in his newsletter today by Rod Dreher:

We have become, in Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s description, “artists of our own lives,” ignoring authorities and booting traditions while turning power over to the self. The shift in outlook has been all-encompassing. It has changed the purpose of marriage (once a practical arrangement, now a means of personal fulfillment). It has altered the relationship between citizens and the state (an all-volunteer fighting force replacing the military draft). It has transformed the understanding of art (craftsmanship and assessment are out; free-range creativity and self-promotion are in). It has even inverted the orders of humanity and divinity (instead of obeying a god, now we choose one).

People enjoy their freedoms. There’s no clamoring for a return to gray flannel suits and deferential housewives. Constant social retooling and choice come with costs, however. Without the authority and guidance of institutions to help order their lives, many people feel overwhelmed and adrift. “Depression is truly our modern illness,” writes French sociologist Alain Ehrenberg, with rates 20 to 30 times what they were just two generations ago.
Rod Dreher says Bishop "explained back then that you can’t simply blame Vietnam, Watergate, “the Sixties,” or other discrete events for this loss of trust. It’s liquid modernity itself."

Marc Lilla quotes with approval neo-con David Brooks, whom he call
s "one of the most sober political journalists in the United States" (that's like praising Victoria Nuland or her husband Robert Kagan), in another disinformative paper, The New York Times:

The war in Ukraine is not only a military event; it’s an intellectual event. The Ukrainians are winning not only because of the superiority of their troops. They are winning because they are fighting for a superior idea.” For Brooks, that idea is liberal nationalism. He believes that Ukraine is teaching us that a feeling of national belonging need not contradict a commitment to individual liberty. On the contrary: liberalism can ennoble nationalism, teaching it to be generous.
David Brooks is entirely wrong, of course, and it scares me that he can think such an idiotic thing. The Ukrainians are not fighting for any idea but for their country. And the people who are doing the fighting, whether they speak Ukrainian or Russian, are fighting for it - they are probably what Brooks disapproves of, ethnic nationalists. 

I don't know how many ethnic Russians are fighting for Ukraine. Ethnic Russians in the Donbass are fighting on Putin's side.

From which we conclude that people like David Brooks and Mark Lilla don't much like nations. They like internationalism and what they call.civic nationalism, or in other words abstractions not organic communities, in Europe at least linked by that messy thing blood.

Rod Dreher says this.

It is in no way to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to wonder why farm boys from Nebraska should get their heads blown off to repel Russians from Donbas. What kind of social and cultural order would we be defending? The sacrality of transgenders? A social order that institutionalizes a racial spoils system, in which 94 percent of the new hires in 2021 were non-whites, despite whites still being a majority of the US population?

Who wants to defend a social order that is busy destroying the integrity of its normative institutions to implement a radical left ideology that has captured the elites? An order that denies and stigmatizes facts that hurt the feelings of politically preferred minorities? A political order that lacks the will to defend the borders of its nations, both in the US and in Europe? An order that believes sexually mutilating its own children can be a very good thing, and that traditional Christians are the enemies of progress?

The kind of young Americans who might have been persuaded to defend this order are precisely the ones who are being demonized by our military leadership today. The kind of young Americans they want to sign up aren’t going to do it, because they’ve been persuaded by years of left-wing classroom propaganda that America and the West are nothing more than racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic exploiters.

1 comment:

  1. I think the allusion to Marx might be more to the idea of creative destruction, Others have talked about industrialisation as a permanent state of change, in contrast to the very slowly changing centuries that preceded it. Laslett is very eloquent about the pre-industrial world, *The World We Have Lost*.