Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: David Brooks and the "new" shame culture

David Brooks, in today's New York Times, writes of a "new" shame culture that has allegedly taken over college campuses since the eighties:
Many people carefully guard their words, afraid they might transgress one of the norms that have come into existence. Those accused of incorrect thought face ruinous consequences. When a moral crusade spreads across campus, many students feel compelled to post in support of it on Facebook within minutes. If they do not post, they will be noticed and condemned.

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[E]verybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.

Brooks is so close and yet so far. Apart from the references to social media, he accurately describes the culture of political correctness, on campuses and elsewhere, that I experienced in the eighties. So much for the newness of the new, post-eighties shame culture.

Brooks also writes that the "new" shame culture "might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomizing thrust of the past 50 years." In a culture in which so many people are obsessed with identity categories, what "individualistic, atomizing thrust" is that?

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