The patterns set in motion a century ago – the imperative of leaving the past behind, the constant fetishisation of change, the tendency to represent previous forms of socialisation as obsolete – continue to reinforce the perception of culture as discontinuous. This condition of cultural discontinuity is constantly reproduced by the perception of rapid change. The constant references to rapid change over the past 150 years indicate that this perception has acquired a life of its own and, as Bell pointed out, ‘overshadows the dimensions of actual change’.735 The consciousness that corresponds to this sensibility assumes that the new necessarily represents an improvement over the old. This attitude is not only attached to technologies and their products but also to values. What follows is ‘ceaseless searching for a new sensibility’.736
The discontinuity of culture coexists with the loss of the sense of the past. The loss of this sensibility has had an unsettling effect on culture itself and has deprived it of moral depth. A consciousness of culture as unsettled and discontinuous renders it volatile. Inner tensions within culture are refracted through what Trilling characterised as the ‘acculturation of the anti-cultural’.737 Acculturation refers to the transfer and adoption of values and hints at the transient and fragile status of prevailing norms.
In 1961, when he penned these words, Trilling’s remarks were directed at the uncritical cultural criticism that prevailed among his university students. Today, the acculturation of the anti-cultural exercises a powerful role over the imagination of western society. Culture is frequently framed in instrumental and pragmatic terms and rarely perceived as a system of norms that endow human life with meaning. Culture has become a shallow construct to be disposed of or changed. Calls for ‘changing culture’ are casually and regularly echoed in management circles and by policy makers. ‘The fastest way to change a culture’, advises a commentator in Forbes.738 With the exception of references to aboriginal exoticised people, culture tends be a target of change rather than preservation.
One of the by-products of the cultural turn was a redefinition of culture itself. It has become downgraded, rendered shallow and deprived of normative content. Phrases like a ‘culture of bullying’, ‘negative organisation culture’, ‘toxic work culture’ or a ‘canteen culture’ both trivialise and render culture meaningless. Typically, this usage of the term ‘culture’ serves as an invitation to changing it to, for example, a ‘culture of learning’ or an ‘inclusive workplace culture’. The acculturation of the anti-cultural and the spirit of the counter-culture are integral features of the contemporary zeitgeist. Cultural norms and attitudes that emerged as a reaction to those of the past soon suffer the same fate and are cast aside by the latest version of adversary culture. Bell observed;
Today, each new generation, starting off at the benchmarks attained by the adversary culture of its cultural parents, declares in sweeping fashion that the status quo represents backward conservatism or repression, so that, in a widening gyre, new and fresh assaults on the social structure are mounted.739
An illustration of this trend is the reaction of different waves of feminism to one another, in particular the tension between the second and fourth waves of feminism.740
Even though what was once described as adversary culture has acquired a hegemonic status, it continues to search for adversaries. It finds it easier to question, condemn and disparage than to offer a positive account of itself. Identities mirror this trend, continually creating a demand for new ones and attempting to assert themselves, often at the expense of other identities.
The main achievement of the acculturation of the anti-cultural was to detach values from normativity. In this way culture serves as an object of competitive claims making. Cultural norms are continually tested by competing claims based on the needs of identity, self-fulfilment and the supposed evidence of science. In this way, culture itself becomes a permanent site of conflict; a never-ending process of attempting to secure moral authority through pathologising supposedly outdated cultural practices. Individuals are condemned for their outdated behaviour or language. As I write, I hear of a local councillor in Bolton apologising for using ‘outdated language’ to describe disabled people.741 His cultural crime was to use the term ‘invalid carriages’ in a newsletter.
The greatest impact of the cultural turn was on the norms and customs that prevailed in the pre-political sphere. The decades-long targeting of socialisation, parental authority and taken-for-granted customs has had a significant impact on people’s personal lives. The weakening of adult authority and the new regime of socialisation led to the explosion of identity consciousness and crisis, which in turn found expression in the politicisation of the person. What lent this development a momentous quality was that it coincided with the growing awareness that the classical ideologies had become exhausted and that mainstream political movements struggled to motivate the public.
The precondition for the explosion of identity consciousness and the disputes surrounding it was the ‘end of ideology’ and the politicisation of the self.
The end of ideology also provided an opportunity for a science- and expertise-informed form of technocratic governance to gain extraordinary influence.
Back in 1969 Habermas observed that, in the post-war period, technology and science worked as a quasi-ideology: he wrote of the ‘scientization of political power’ and argued that politicians had become increasingly dependent on professionals.742
Since the late 1960s the scientisation of political power has continued to expand, leading to the consolidation of technocratic governance. Technocratic governance draws on the legitimacy of science and the authority of expertise. It seeks to justify itself on the basis of expertise and process rather than political vision. It self-consciously eschews politics and attempts to de-politicise controversial issues by outsourcing their management and decision making to expert institutions, courts and international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund. Except in unusual circumstances, such as during the coronavirus pandemic, when politicians explicitly gave way to scientists, technocratic governance rarely exists in a pure form. And with good reason: on its own, technocratic governance cannot motivate or inspire people. This is why a technocracy relies for its credibility on policies and ideals that are external to itself.
Technocratic governance, with its reliance on the authority of science and expertise, lacks the moral depth required to motivate citizens. From time to time it attempts to harness the motivating power of other causes, such as that of environmentalism. But the most important supplement to its form of governance is provided by the therapeutic ethos. The use of psychology and mass therapy for legitimating authority was forcefully promoted by Parsons. He sought to harness the potential of the therapeutic relationship for validating authority in a wider social setting.743
For Parsons, professionalism, with its moral connotation of a calling and its promotion of the public good, provided technocratic expertise with a moral dimension. Reconciling scientific rationality with the moral was at the heart of his project of promoting therapeutic authority of the professional. After noting that ‘it is essential to establish a position of impersonal authority’, Parsons stated that in the case of medicine this ‘involves primarily two elements, technical competence and moral integrity’.744 It is significant that his model was the therapist, not the scientist or the administrator. Therapy, with its promise to connect with the public’s emotion, validate it and gain its trust, appeared to Parsons to be the most promising medium for gaining authoritative influence over individual behaviour. This synthesis of professional expertise with therapeutic guidance turned out to be the most effective form of moral engineering.
Technocratic governance has mobilised the techniques of validation developed by institutions of socialisation for supporting policies oriented towards identity management. The reorientation of the state towards the management of individual well-being is one of the most important developments in recent times. Technocratic governance draws on the contemporary version of personhood as one that is defined by its fragility and vulnerability. Its policies are justified on the ground that the fragility of personhood demands the ‘support’ of officialdom and the state.
In effect, technocratic governance has embraced a synthesis of the therapeutic ethos and identity politics to help manage and engineer public opinion. It offers an institutional response to the quest for identity. Policies directed at offering recognition and validation of identities aim to provide officialdom with authority and responsibility for managing the psychological and identity-related concerns of citizens. This orientation towards policy making in the sphere of the personal is underwritten by the internalisation of a synthesis of therapeutic ethos and identity politics by the key institutions of western society.
The coexistence of technocratic governance and the cultural politics of identity is most dramatically expressed through the legal and quasi-legal recognition of identity groups. The promotion of identity-related interests has led to its pursuit through groups which are affirmed and recognised by the state. Consequently, when rules are enacted and discussed in areas like education, social policy and health their implication for different identity groups invariably comes to the fore. As technocratic governance has become more and more involved in supporting group aspirations, it has become more active in the informal and pre-political domain of life. In the UK, it has developed the legal concept of protected characteristics, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone whose characteristic is protected.745 In this way human relations have become increasingly formalised and subjected to a technocratic disciplinary regime.
In light of the developments discussed in the previous chapters, the reorientation of the institutions of the state towards the repair of psychical injury and related therapeutic functions represents an attempt to contain the effect of the unravelling of moral authority. The politics of recognition attempts to offer a provisional solution to the disassociation of identity from normativity. It does so by offering recognition and validation in exchange for the adoption of new forms of psychologically informed, evidence-based behaviour.
In the current era, moral engineering is principally promoted through the politics of behaviour.746 The politics of behaviour is based on the assumption that people’s emotional lives, lifestyles, private conduct and relationships are legitimate objects of policy making, which can and must be reformed through the benevolent application of social engineering. That personal issues such as loneliness, happiness, well-being, sexual satisfaction, self-esteem and parental values have become the target of government policy illustrates the extent to which officialdom has become intertwined with the management of private affairs. For example, in early 2018 the British Conservative Government decided to devote its attention to dealing with what it characterised as an epidemic of loneliness by appointing the world’s first Minister of Loneliness. The official ‘loneliness strategy’ promised to link up lonely and isolated people with support groups and welfare organisations.747 The document outlining this strategy stated that the government would be ‘incorporating loneliness into ongoing policy decisions with a view to a loneliness “policy test” being included in departments’ plans’, and approvingly cited a comment made by one of its advisors:
This is a serious strategy that’s not only going to help people feel more connected in their everyday lives but is also inspiring other Governments and communities around the world to see loneliness for what it is: a heart-breaking emotion and a major public health issue.748
The young Werther’s terrible emptiness and loneliness is today a potential target of state intervention. As Goethe so eloquently reminded readers, loneliness is heartbreaking. But since when has people’s existential pain become the business of government? And if a Werther’s emotional life becomes reframed as a public health issue, are any important matters left for private decision making?
Paternalistic techniques of behaviour management are promoted by officialdom as solutions to people’s emotional needs. So-called ‘happiness experts’ insist that public policy should shift its emphasis from economics and wealth creation towards a strategy that enhances the happiness of the population. Like officialdom’s objective of tackling loneliness, policies that attempt to increase the state of individual happiness are mental health interventions targeting citizens’ internal lives. Promoters of the politics of happiness claim that ‘governments could have more success in improving people’s lives if they prioritised improving mental health over traditional top goals such as boosting economic growth’.749 This point was echoed by former British Prime Minister David Cameron, when he stated that ‘we should be thinking not what is good for putting money in people’s pockets but what is good for putting joy in people’s hearts’.750 For Cameron, happiness was nothing less than a central goal of government.751
Policies directed at governing people’s emotions are not simply about making people feel good about themselves. The policy of instrumentalising happiness implicitly conveys a narrative about how people should behave, encouraging them to adopt attitudes that conform to specific public norms and ideals. Such policies de-personalise feelings and reframe them as emotionally correct public attitudes. Consequently, the instrumentalisation of happiness leads to fashioning this emotion as a political resource. At a 2016 conference organised by the London School of Economics, the OECD and the Paris School of Economics, Gus O’Donnell, the former UK Head of civil service, argued that embedding happiness in public policy would reduce the electoral appeal of populism. O’Donnell stated that both the victory for Brexit in Britain’s EU referendum and Donald Trump’s success in the US Presidential elections could be ‘explained by an analysis of people’s wellbeing’: the implication being that if people had felt happier they would have voted to stay in the EU and elected Hillary Clinton as President.752
Within the parameter of technocratic governance, social engineering has acquired unprecedented significance. It was explicitly pursued by David Cameron during his tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. Cameron helped set up the Behavioural Insight Team in 2010, which was charged with the task of developing policies that could shape people’s thoughts, choices and actions. This team, known as the ‘Nudge Unit’, operated on the assumption that attempting to convince the electorate of government policies is pointless; subliminal psychological techniques and manipulation were considered more effective than democratic debate and argument. When Britain’s former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg casually remarked that the Nudge Unit ‘could change the way citizens think’, he spoke a language usually associated with a totalitarian propaganda agency.753
Nudge-like classical forms of social engineering are justified on the assumption that the expert knows best. In Law and Leviathan two prominent American supporters of Nudge and of expert authority insist that administrative technocrats must be trusted since they personify the binding law of morality. Their re-engineered form of instrumental morality is realised through rule making.754 From their standpoint, morality is reduced to obedience to the law.
The displacement of moral norms by psychological and other types of administratively produced values has been integral to the project of moral engineering for over a century. In its current form, it appears to be prepared to go beyond the traditional forms of moral engineering. It is not simply directed towards the objective of changing the way people to think but also to shape their moral values. Virtue engineering through technologies of moral enhancement constitutes the new frontier of moral engineering. Neuroenhancement to engineer morality is supported by so-called transhumanist lobby groups, like the World Transhumanist Association. Their leaders advocate ‘technoscientific means to achieve happiness, a total control of emotions, and an improvement of human character’.755 Moral neuroenhancement, unlike previous forms of moral engineering, ‘operates by altering brain states or processes directly’, through the application of drugs or the use of brain modulation techniques.756
Although occasionally there are outcries against the influence and power of experts, technocratic and therapeutic governance itself is rarely a focus of political dispute. During the coronavirus pandemic the different sides of the argument over the efficacy of lockdown and quarantine measures sought to legitimate their argument by justifying it on the ground of their mental health impact. All sides of the debate appeared to have internalised the fundamentals of the therapeutic ethos but drew different political conclusions from it.
The politics of behaviour resonates with the cultural confusions of our times. Socialisation has become even less devoted to the transmission of virtues than it was last century. The guidance offered to young people by institutions of socialisation are typically shallow and leave it up to them to make their way in the world. Lack of clarity about moral norms and on the conduct of human relationships has led to an explosion of rule making throughout society. The micro-management of relationships and conduct is most expansive in institutions of education and the public sector, but in recent years its usage has rapidly accelerated in the private sector.
The politics of behaviour and its proclivity for inventing new rules and procedures represents an attempt to provide an alternative to the moral guidance that is organic to community life. The invention of new rules and the impulse to moralise is most evident in relation to problems to do with cultural identity, emotions and lifestyles. In recent decades the politics of behaviour has shifted attention from poverty, exploitation and social equality to the moralisation of people’s lifestyles, sexuality, gender roles and identity.
The politics of behaviour does not simply demand good behaviour but the abandonment of what was previously held to be unexceptional and normal features of life. Behaviour managers renounce them as outdated and unhealthy customs and practices. As in the past with the re-engineering of socialisation, the politics of behaviour is as much about rendering unacceptable the norms of the past as it is about embracing new enlightened ones.
Psychology provides the medium through which the symbiotic relationship between moral engineering and the cultural politics of identity is forged. Though noisy advocates of identity causes inhabit a different world from no-nonsense technocrats, differences in their outlook are reconciled through their embrace of the politics of behaviour. The goal of managing attitudes and identities, promoting new forms of behaviour and cultures and validating them resonates with both sides of this unlikely alliance. Its demand that people ‘raise their awareness’ serves as the functional equivalent of a traditional political slogan.
The impulse fuelling the demand for awareness in the 21st century is not unlike the one that motivated the early generations of professional socialisers. In part it was the conviction that socialisation was far too complex a process to be left in the hands of the ‘unaware’ members of adult society that justified their project. In some instances – as in the case of Stanley Hall – raising awareness assumed the character of a quasi-religious mission.
At first sight Hall’s assertion in 1921 that the university was the ‘chief shrine’, the ‘new church of science’ and ‘powerhouse’ of the spirit of social engineering comes across as fanciful and widely utopian.757 As it turned out, the university lacked the moral authority to serve as the functional equivalent of a church of science. However, its institutional and cultural power has steadily expanded so that today it has become a formidable entity. It serves as the main source of cultural capital, both directly through its influence on pedagogy at all levels of education and also indirectly in shaping the outlook of all the main professions and the institutions they inhabit. Through its impact on millions of educated members of society it exercises a commanding influence on the media and popular culture. It has contributed to the fostering of a climate that is hospitable to the discrediting of ‘outdated’ ideas and embracing new ones. The emergence of identity politics, new social and cultural movements, and new speech codes all bear the imprint of campus culture.
Almost six decades after Hall’s call for a new church of science, the universities succeeded in assuming a pivotal role in the socialisation of young people. Gouldner highlighted the role played by what he called a ‘new class of intellectual and knowledge workers’ in distancing the younger generations from the value system of their elders.758 Contrary to Hall’s expectations, the university did not quite become a new church. Though it lacked a coherent dogma, it was sufficiently powerful to undermine long-standing norms and values and identities, and motivate generations of young people to interpret the world through therapeutic and counter-cultural terms.
Conservative critics of the university overlooked the connection between the decades-long tradition of socialisation by validation and its practice in higher education. They focused their concern on student militants, tenured radicals and political subversives. Some objected to the rise of groupthink and the exclusion of conservatives from academic positions. What these criticisms fail to grasp is that the defining feature of campus politics is not a commitment to a radical ideology or to a subversive cause but the conviction that its understanding of the world is far superior to that of normal citizens’, that it knows better than they do what is in their best interest, and that it has the right and duty to shape and reshape people’s minds.
A key cultural role of the university is to transmit the sensibility and value orientation of moral engineering. It has adopted a form of socialisation that aims to distance its subjects from the values of their parents and encourage them to adopt new, more enlightened ones. As in the past, it attempts to motivate the younger generation by denouncing the old and celebrating the new. What it offers is not an ideology as such, but something that approximates a l’esprit de corps. To idealist young people in search of meaning, it provides a common spirit of distinction and difference; a set of symbols and signals that serves to legitimate their identity.
Previously we noted that as identity permeates the world the appetite for differentiation becomes difficult to satisfy. Encouraging young people to adopt the perception that their values and behaviour are more enlightened than the rest feeds the craving for distinctiveness. It was this craving that motivated fans of Werther to adopt their tragic hero’s dress and mannerisms. They regarded themselves as possessing superior sensibilities to the conformist ways of others. Today, this sensibility is expressed through calls for ‘raising awareness’. The term ‘raising awarenewss’ implicitly draws attention to the superiority of people over those who are not aware. This distinction corresponds to the cleavage between past and present identity, discussed in the previous chapter. The state of being aware serves as a mark of cultural distinction connoting an identity of superiority towards those who are presumably unaware and still in the dark.
Justman wrote that awareness is a ‘good impossible to question and a power impossible to oppose’.759 Initiatives designed to raise awareness provide participants with virtues and moral qualities that distinguish them from those who do not see the light. The very gesture of ‘raising awareness’ thus involves the drawing of symbolic distinctions between those who possess this quality and those who do not. According to the OED, in recent decades the meaning of being aware has shifted from being on guard to becoming well informed. In its 2008 revision of the term, the OED added that being aware meant ‘generally concerned and well informed’ and being sensitive and ‘savvy’.
The imputation of intelligence, sensitivity, broadmindedness, sophistication and enlightenment ensure that campaigns oriented towards awareness raising provide an important cultural resource for their participants. Those who draw on these resources have every incentive to inflate the behavioural and cultural distinction between themselves and the rest of society. That is why awareness raisers are preoccupied with constructing lifestyles that contrast so sharply with those of their perceived inferiors.
Despite its innocuous and feel-good appearance, the word ‘awareness’ is a politically loaded one. To be aware is to be informed but it also signifies being watchful, vigilant, being on one’s guard. In its most neutral form, raising awareness can mean enhancing people’s consciousness of a problem. But in practice the call on someone to raise their awareness is a demand to adopt the awareness raiser’s outlook and values. Raising awareness targets outdated norms and values, customs and forms of behaviour, and claims to unmask prejudice and hurtful and dangerous assumptions. The possession of awareness is a marker of a superior status, while its absence represents moral inferiority. That is why the refusal to abide by the exhortation to ‘be aware’ invites the act of moral condemnation.
Raising awareness can be about anything that touches on people’s behaviour and lifestyle. In the UK and the US there are literally hundreds of different Health Awareness Days every year.760 It is a trope that is rooted in psychology and the therapeutic ethos. Unlike its 1960s predecessor of ‘raising consciousness’, it does not simply refer to what we do to ourselves but to others. Campaigns devoted to raising awareness are often focused on altering lifestyles and health-related behaviours. It can refer to changing the behaviour and practices of parents to demanding that a particular group’s hitherto unacknowledged issues should be recognised. It serves as an all-encompassing device for re-educating its target audience on a variety of disparate subjects. Unlike traditional methods of socialisation, its target audience is not confined to children and young people. Raising awareness need not be about a particular cause. It is represented as a value in its own right. As one higher education institute website declared, ‘both the Student’s Union and University will be looking to continue raising awareness’.761 The act of raising awareness is perceived as good in and of itself. Why? Because it signals an openness to change attitude and behaviour. In some instances it refers to the willingness to change oneself; in others it implies a commitment to help others to change the way they behave and think.762
Promoters of awareness frequently exhibit an enthusiasm not unlike that shown by zealous missionaries. Awareness entitles one to frame a problem in a manner that is not susceptible to discussion and debate. A narrative that attaches itself to being aware of a problem is not just a version of the truth, but truth itself. Frequently such truths claim to draw on the authority of science and assert that it is beyond dispute. The implicit intolerance towards dissident views shown by impatient awareness raisers is communicated in the recently invented put-down of choice, ‘Educate Yourself’. Educate Yourself does not mean go to a library and read some books. What it means is re-educate yourself and accept our values and outlook on the world. In many institutions in both the public and private sectors, educating yourself is not an option and people are instructed to attend awareness-raising courses, seminars, and workshops on a variety of subjects such as unconscious bias, gender sensitivity and consent.
Calls for raising awareness and to re-educate yourself represent a demand to re-socialise the person. In practice it represents the expansion of socialisation from the sphere of young people to that of adulthood. Since it calls for a change in behaviour, it is not surprising that its practice resembles those of social engineers. Technocratic-minded social engineers argue that since it is not enough to campaign to raise awareness their professional skills are essential for changing people’s behaviour. They contend;
Because abundant research shows that people who are simply given more information are unlikely to change their beliefs or behavior, it’s time for activists and organizations seeking to drive change in the public interest to move beyond just raising awareness. It wastes a lot of time and money for important causes that can’t afford to sacrifice either. Instead, social change activists need to use behavioral science to craft campaigns that use messaging and concrete calls to action that get people to change how they feel, think, or act, and as a result create long-lasting change.763
It is not evident whether or not behavioural science actually achieves its objective of ‘long-lasting change’. However, what is certain is that at the very least its project of re-socialisation unsettles prevailing cultural norms and practices.
Moral engineering is deeply implicated in the project of awareness raising. Technocrats are constantly asking the question ‘which nudging techniques can we use to further increase awareness?’764 They believe that through psychological manipulation they can create public awareness that ensures that ‘very large numbers of people form powerful groupings, like a “swarm”, to produce massive social outcomes’.765 The extensive use of nudging and behavioural economics during the coronavirus pandemic illustrates how the engineering of people’s ‘decision making’ rapidly displaced open politically informed guidance and leadership.
The ethos and practice of raising awareness is based on the unstated and often unacknowledged assumption that behavioural change is important for both the individual and for society. It is often devoted to gaining support for attitudes that as yet lack significant support in society. Awareness raising is not a response to a public demand for new ways of conducting life. On the contrary, its aim is to create a demand for social and cultural practices that a relatively small coterie of self-ascribed awareness raisers believe is good for its putative beneficiaries. Although its promoters perceive themselves as part of a movement to raise awareness it is far more accurate to characterise it as a top-down affair. It is also an activity that assists possessors of aware views to forge a sense of cohesion and group consciousness.
The cultivation of a l’espirit de corps through the attribution of a state of awareness endows its possessors with a group identity. Shared awareness allows those affiliated to the caste of awareness raisers to recognise one another.
Through the possession of aware attitudes people set themselves apart, reinforce their status and draw a moral contrast between their styles of life and those of others. Weber referred to this process of forging a distinctive pattern of living as the ‘stylisation of life’. The stylisation of life provides a group with status while highlighting the moral distinction between itself and others. As Pierre Bourdieu noted in his influential sociological essay, Distinction: ‘aversion to different life-styles is perhaps one of the strongest barriers between classes’. Struggles over the ‘art of living’ serve to draw lines between behaviour and attitudes considered legitimate and those deserving of moral condemnation.766
In recent times these struggles have led to an unprecedented degree of cultural polarisation. This trend is actively promoted by The Aware, which continually creates and inflates behavioural and cultural distinctions between itself and the rest of society. What is important about its lifestyle is not so much the values that it invokes, but that it is different in every detail from those obese, junk food-eating, gas-guzzling, gun-obsessed, emotionally illiterate fundamentalist Joe Sixpacks. The previous psychological contrast drawn between the traits associated with an authoritarian personality and those blessed with enlightened ones services identities consistent with awareness.
The cultural politics of the 21st century is inherently disposed towards struggles over the art of living. This trend is most strikingly expressed through conflicts over competing assertions of identity consciousness. Not infrequently, raising awareness leads to a conflict of cultural values. Such conflicts are immanent to the cultural politics of identity. As we pointed out earlier, identity’s claim for recognition can never be satisfied. The demand for identity is its own cause, and drawing attention to it often leads to new claims for recognition. The acculturation of the anti-cultural deprives the cultivation of selfhood of authoritative guidance. Lack of clarity about the moral values through which an identity is sustained creates a demand for external validation, which makes it susceptible to politicisation. Without the sustenance of moral clarity society will continue its self-inflicted crisis of identity. In these circumstances, the normative lag between the values of the ‘aware’ and those of common sense is likely to perpetuate itself into the future.
As we discussed in previous chapters, the demand for identity and its subsequent politicisation are neither the direct outcome of rapid socio-economic change nor of some inherent feature of the human condition. The crisis of identity emerged as an unintended consequence of moral engineering and in particular through its culture war against prevailing forms of socialisation. So long as society is prepared to live with its loss of the sense of the past and continues to neglect the positive legacy of the human experience, it will remain prisoner to a perpetual conflict of values. It is not possible to retrace our steps and retrieve what we left behind. But it is possible to take ourself more seriously, and challenge the childish demand to be validated. For that to occur we need to teach ourselves that the identity that really matters is the one that is the outcome of our achievement through work and action. This can all begin by socialising and educating the young for independence rather than training them to become recipients of validation.
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