Last week, I read Martin Gurri's book The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium. It was great; one of the best I read this year. It gave me thoughts for three different blog posts. So I e-mailed myself these notes.
- Annihilism and Martin Gurri, p. 203
- Anthrotheism and Martin Gurri, p. 248
- Gurri, Jedediah Purdy, hipsters, irony: negation from ironic detachment if government is powerless to produce change
Then, like the jackass I am, I returned the book to the library before writing any of these posts. What was on pages 203 and 248? No idea. And I can't just go check the book out again because I had to get it through Inter-Library Loan from a place 200 miles away. Argh.
Here are my guesses at what I was going to say. Firstly, Gurri's thesis is that modern liberal democracies have overpromised and necessarily have underperformed because they've promised the impossible. Citizens then lose trust in liberal democracy and this opens the door for sympathy to other, less liberal structures. He writes a lot about the trend towards nihilism among today's discontents, in that destruction without a clear picture of what will replace what's destroyed is motivating much public action. (Gurri wrote this is 2014 with a new conclusion in 2017, but it's not hard to see that 2020's "defund the police" fits this exactly.) This reminded me of what I called annihilism back in 2013, which is nihilism that has gone beyond destruction of the other and has turned into destruction of the self. Nihilism says capitalism shouldn't be privileged above the environment, which annihilism wants to end capitalism to protect the environment by leading to the death of most humans. Human extinction isn't a bug of annihilism; it's a feature.
Secondly, I'm pretty sure I was going to say something about the modern habit of assuming Godlike powers reside in government, and my contention that post-God society has elevated humanity to the role of God, which I call anthrotheism. If there's no longer any God to do these impossible things, then government needs to.
Thirdly, I can do a little better of a job with this one, because my note was a little more informative. My point is that Gurri's thesis that public loss of trust in government drives the politics of negation (wanting to end things without a concern for what the replacement might be), has a connection to Jedediah Purdy's thesis in his 1999 book For Common Things that modern ironic detachment is fueled by a desire to not be seen trying to do something that we can't do. Irony gave us hipsters, and hipsters want to negate anything that has a perceived flaw.
Anyway, this could have been three semi-good posts, but my foolishness turned it into one sub-par post.