Feedback on the New Enlightenment

Blog

One great thing about my job is the feedback I get from Fellows. I particularly enjoy being challenged. One of my fiercest critics has been Australian Fellow John Montgomery who thinks I am a soft headed, jargon spouting, leftie.

John and I have been sparring on and off since I joined the RSA. He has just sent me an essay entitled ‘A New Enlightenment’. It’s a powerful and basically reactionary piece (I say this not to be disparaging but because the central thrust is a call to react against modern ‘isms’ in favour of older certainties).

Sorry, John, but I can’t give you the full response the piece deserves (it’s the pressure of last minute work before my holiday).

However, the starting point for my disagreement is that the old truths haven’t simply been displaced by modern fashion but by more profound changes in the world and our understanding of it.

Globalisation, climate change, complexity, technology and the web, new science from quantum physics to neuroscience; these all challenge aspects of the Enlightenment world view.

Moreover the Enlightenment itself helped to unleash forces which have created a hollowed out sense of the good society and the good life, which would horrify the authors of the Enlightenment.

I wonder why right of centre thinkers like John want to lay so much blame for modern problems at the feet of a few French philosophers whose theories are unknown to the vast majority of citizens, and so little at the door of consumer capitalism and the hubristic myth of the separate autonomous self, all of which are ubiquitous aspects of modern life?

Be the first to write a comment

0 Comments

Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related articles

  • Local skills frameworks, levelling up and the future of work

    Fabian Wallace-Stephens (Foresight Lead)

    What mix of soft, technical, and digital skills will be needed in different sectors or local economies in the future?

  • Levelling up and participatory democracy

    Riley Thorold

    Riley Thorold explains how recent RSA work on public participation can inform this broader shift towards a more active and empowering democracy when levelling up.

  • Building a healthy economy

    Andy Haldane

    Complex interactions between health, economic and social outcomes are at the centre of health outcome inequalities. RSA Chief Executive Andy Haldane examines the interventions that could break this adverse health/economic cycle.