FGF E-Package
View From The North
August 5, 2008

The Crisis of Late Modernity in the West: A Précis
by Mark Wegierski

Persons whose perspective extends far and deep into an undemonized past are those who can best assess the extent of current-day society's near-dystopic nature. Explored below are some of the salient aspects of life in many Western societies in this period of "late modernity."

News and Information
The electronic media, as well as the print media (including most mass-circulation newspapers, newsmagazines, and popular books), create a realm of almost-impermeable virtual reality, in which no serious ground is offered for viewpoints antedating, say, 1965. Everything "before the Sixties" appears to be consigned to a cauldron of darkness.

The electronic, film, and print media create a "carnival culture" centered on violence, vulgar sex, and cheap thrills, and rank sentimentalism. This new culture — expressed primarily through the Hollywood, rock and rap music, sports, fashion, "art," and pornography worlds — results in the atrophy of both genuine high-culture and authentic popular culture.

The "new economy" is heavily media-driven and based on the artificial stimulation of consumer demand leading to commodity-fetishism. At the same time, huge layoffs, particularly in the private sector — often driven by cheap immigrant labor and outsourcing — affect the core of the workforce.

It is possible that the corporate sphere of economic rationalism and the cultural sphere of antinomian pop culture together constitute a tightly interlocking grid, two extremities that feed off of each other at the expense of a rooted ideational center. As the eminent Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant has written, "... [T]he directors of General Motors and the followers of Professor [Herbert} Marcuse sail down the same river in different boats."

Social Issues
Family life is falling apart, nearly half of marriages end in divorce, abortion is rampant, and traditional gender roles and the maintenance of family-discipline are under relentless assault. The birth rate has fallen below replacement levels, there is a burgeoning "culture of death," and increasingly aging societies are challenged by nations with far greater vitality.

Political Climate
The political context is moving toward a situation where the managerial-therapeutic regime attempts to force its re-educative, "therapeutic" projects onto the majority "victimizers," while showering the official leaderships of recognized, victimological minorities with jobs and benefits.

Additionally, well-organized, special-interest group cadres are richly endowed with resources from both public and private sources to propagandize for their causes and keep up the pressure for social change — which can only go in one direction.

Part of the attempt to encourage "therapeutic" tendencies (because the resulting social frictions have to be mediated by the regime) involves the encouragement of massive, dissimilar immigration. The new immigrants provide business with a source of cheap labor and tend to give their votes to parties most supportive of the managerial-therapeutic regime. There is now no serious effort to control a country's borders against illegal immigration.

One also sees the vast realm of education, from daycare to universities, brought under the ideological hegemony of therapeutic experts and strategies. Most of the books produced by academic publishing houses in the humanities and social sciences tend toward a stridently politically correct and deconstructive mode.

Legal Milieu
The prevalent mode of political governance becomes juridical legalism, amounting to what critics have termed "judicial usurpation." Unabashedly progressive-minded judges rewrite the laws as they see fit, guided by a rights-dogmatism that deliberately sets aside humanity's longstanding social and historical experience.

The tendency begins to emerge in the justice system — especially in some of the Canadian jurisdictions — where real crime is to a large extent no longer effectively punished, as criminals are often seen as "victims of society" who must be given special consideration. As a result, a secure, quiet life becomes ever more difficult, especially in the big cities.

At the same time, new categories of what are effectively political crimes are created outside of normal judicial tradition, for example, by the human rights commissions in Canada. Indeed, a situation emerges where the definition of what constitutes "hate," "hate speech," or implied "discrimination" is progressively widened to include virtually any kind of meaningful dissent against the prevalent regime.

What could be called "Goldsteinism" was described in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The continual evocation of a bogeyman becomes the main approach to dealing with alternative viewpoints. As Orwell wrote: "The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live forever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon — and yet they will always survive."

The result of these combined tendencies is effectively the creation of a new, largely nonviolent, but nevertheless thoroughgoing, "sub rosa social totalitarianism" — based mostly on normative and utilitarian, rather than coercive, controls. It is the unchecked reign of "political correctness" with no real countervailing social forces or institutions. Managerial, consumptionist capitalism and therapeutic left-liberalism lock together to exclude alternative visions.

Today, people in a country like Canada can go through their whole lives without reading, seeing, or hearing any viewpoint antedating 1965 or so seriously presented and argued for. Those persons who have somehow emerged with alternative viewpoints are given very little scope for their expression. They are rarely given access to "mainstream," "recognized" forums, no matter how subtly they frame their arguments. If they should ever reach the point of intelligent self-consciousness, their journalistic, academic, or political ascent is frequently stymied.

So how can persons of differing social and political outlooks possibly hope to make an impact, when they are to a large extent confined to private conversations? Their opponents can trumpet their ideologies daily in a million public school textbooks or hundreds of university lecture halls, and nightly across a million television screens.

Although some have placed hope in the Internet as a vehicle for alternative views, a few resisting websites usually lack what is considered to be significant authority in society. It is debatable whether they can ever grow to constitute a basis for obtaining real power, income, or infrastructural weight in society. It should also be remembered that the Internet arose after more than three to four decades of intensive media and educational saturation.

What all this amounts to is a massive, world-historical crisis for many Western societies, a huge world-historical impasse. It is far easier to describe the problems than to conceive of possible solutions and how they might be effected in the real world. Acknowledging the grave nature of the aforementioned crises may be the first positive step that can be taken.

Back to View From The North archives

View From The North is copyright © 2008 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved. Please forward this copyright info and links when sending to friends and colleagues.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer, social critic, and historical researcher and is published in major Canadian newspapers, as well as in U.S. scholarly journals such as Humanitas, Review of Metaphysics, and Telos, and in U.S. magazines such as Chronicles and The World & I. His writing has also appeared in Polish, British, and German publications.

See author's bio and other articles.

To subscribe, renew, or contribute, please send a tax-deductible donation to the:
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
P.O. Box 1383
Vienna,VA 22183
or donate online.

© 2008 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation