Age of Fundamentalism

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Age of Fundamentalism

Postby maxjasper » Wed Jun 22, 2005 8:34 am

Age of Fundamentalism

In April 1995, the New York Times invited its readers to send in suggestions for names characterizing the age in which we live. Common offerings were what one might expect:
  • the Age of Anxiety,
  • the Age of Uncertainty,
  • the Age of Fragmentation,
  • the Age of (Great and Failed) Expectations,
  • the Age of Disillusion (and Dissolution),
  • the Age of Tribalism,
  • the Age of Fundamentalism,
  • the Age of Deconstruction,
  • the Age of Greed,
and approximately twenty variations on the Millennial or Messianic Age. Editors reported that the word "global" was very common in entries as were the Prefixes "dis," or, "post," "cyber," and "finde." The Transnational Era and the Age of Kakistocracy (government by the worst people) were other names reflecting readers' preoccupations.1 On a more scholarly level, eminent historian Eric Hobsbawm titled his history of the twentieth century, published in 1995, Age of Extremes. The book's first major section, covering the years 1914 to 1945, is "The Age of Catastrophe," while the final section, covering the last two decades, is "The Landslide."

Such descriptions indicate the deep scepticism and pessimism with which our age is generally regarded. They reflect, too, upon the issue of identity: how we see ourselves as individual citizens and as a society. As Hobsbawm puts it, "Since the middle of the century...the branch of [the old civilization has begun] to crack and break....The old maps and charts which guided human beings, singly and collectively, through life no longer represent the landscape through which we move, the sea on which we sail....We do not know where our journey is taking us, or even ought to take Us."2

  • some sort of political organization beyond national boundaries will be necessary to deal effectively with a world in which global economic integration is taking place

Hobsbawm, as an historian rather than a futurist, does not offer many specific suggestions for the direction of humanity's journey at either the individual or the collective level, but he does advance the idea that some sort of political organization beyond national boundaries will be necessary to deal effectively with a world in which global economic integration is taking place. At the same time, he recognizes that strong forces are at work against such integration. Benjamin R. Barber also treats this subject in his 1995 volume Jihad Vs. McWorld, characterizing the struggle as one between an emerging globalism characterized by uniformity ("McWorld," or rampant, unregulated Western consumerism) and its opponents ("Jihad," or "violent and dogmatic particularism").

A chief characteristic of the individual living in McWorld is encapsulated in the following passage from Charles Durning's How Much Is Enough: The Consumer Society and the Future of Earth, a report for the WorldWatch Institute. Durning makes the observation that "the words 'consumer' and 'person' have become virtual synonyms" and that such identification has serious implications for individuals and their society. He continues, "The world economy is currently organized to furnish 1.1 billion people with a consumer life-style long on things but short on time." Such an economy, he points out, is not concerned with matters of social justice, with issues of unemployment or of povelty.3

more...: Identity Values Governance
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