Tuesday, February 13, 2007

infantilisation plus psychotherapy

Reviews of "Where have all the intellectuals gone?" by Frank Furedi

I read all the reviews but haven't read the book.

Furedi is arguing that we languish in an anti intellectual cultural malaise and the main reason for this is the politics of inclusion. From the Terry Eagleton review:
Furedi, interestingly, does not see market forces or the growth of professionalism as the chief villains in this sorry story. For him, the main factor is the politics of inclusion, which in his view belittles the capacities of the very people it purports to serve. It implies in its pessimistic way that excellence and popular participation are bound to be opposites
There was no mention of the blogosphere which seems to me to be the new breeding ground for radical contrarian intellectuals.

My general feeling is that post modernism is on the decline. When people meet in forums they just talk about the issues and try to figure things out, in practice they forget the weird notion that truth doesn't really exist. Yes, there is ongoing philosophical war against the notion of truth but I don't see it as being all that successful. Whenever someone really tries to get at the truth they do attract a lot of positive attention.

Kelly Jane Torrance points out that the actual content of ideas is still rather important. Something worth remembering at a time when some people are claiming that connection is far more important than content:
One cannot even rely on the supposed guardians of culture to, well, guard it any longer. "There is a new breed of university managers, museum and gallery directors, and 'knowledge' entrepreneurs who regard the content of culture and ideas with indifference," Furedi notes. "Their concern is to use culture to achieve an objective that is quite separate from its inner content."
The risk free society idea is a real problem. Parents want their children to be safe so this taps into a real fear. The media taps into this fear consistently and successfully, eg. by promoting moral panic about pedophiles and bullying on the internet. This seems to be a consistent theme in Furedi's writings if you look at his other titles: Politics of Fear, Culture of Fear, Therapy Culture and Paranoid Parenting.

Treating everyone, including adults, like children is part of this. Dumbing down. I liked this part from Theodore Dalrymple's review:
Our current cultural policies are therefore a cross between infantilisation and psychotherapy: infantilisation to ensure that nothing is beyond the grasp of anyone, and psychotherapy to make everyone feel good about himself
Roger Scruton says that the strength of the book is that it draws connections between a number of social phenomenon: the decline of truth seeking, the retreat from risk taking, hostility towards science and the dumbing down of school curriculum. It's useful to point out the synergystic effects of this combination

Some of the reviews say that Furedi attacks the notion of making things relevant as contributing to the dumbing down process. I think the reality is that people will only tackle hard issues when they find them relevant.

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