21 February 2007

Surviving in a mediocracy (part 1)

This blog is an outgrowth of a book on contemporary culture entitled Mediocracy. Some have assumed the title signifies the standard right-wing complaint that “things ain’t what they used to be”. It’s more complicated than that. There’s a constellation of cultural phenomena which are linked, though the nature of the link isn’t obvious. Dumbing down is part of it, but also gobbledygook, as well as: obsession with appearance; aggressiveness as a behavioural norm; the idea that reality is socially constructed; the dismantling of civil liberties.

I speculated that there was a single connecting theme, associated particularly with ideologies such as Blairism but by no means confined to the Left. A kind of anti-individualism masquerading as egalitarian, and justifying itself by reference to notions of “democratisation” and “fairness”, though in fact no less elitist than rival philosophies. With a tendency to redefine cultural concepts, à la 1984, to suit ideological objectives. For want of a better word, I called the connecting theme “mediocracy”.

The full article can be read here.

7 comments:

james higham said...

...Dumbing down is part of it, but also gobbledygook, as well as: obsession with appearance; aggressiveness as a behavioural norm...

Interesting that you should use those terms, Fabian, as I've just used the word gobbledygook and ran a series on 'dumbing down'.

The progressive mediocritization of everything in society is not accident, in my opinion.

surajsharma said...

It's about time someone said it, your book is currently on my "must read" list, but okay, maybe I'm just too much of a third-world citizen to understand what you're saying, but isn't this something like Tocqueville predicted?

Fabian Tassano said...

You're right, de Tocqueville predicted a lot of what we're getting now. E.g. dumbing down, tyranny of the majority.

What he didn't foresee was how the elite would both exploit and subvert democratisation, rather as happened under communism. I.e. superficial egalitarianism conceals an ethos that is hostile to the individual and uses culture to promote collectivist ideology. Which allows the elite to keep a much firmer hold on power.

Orwell got much nearer to anticipating how things would shape up, but then he had the benefit of seeing Stalinism in action.

Mistar Anonymous said...

I think Surajshama is a troll.

Fabian Tassano said...

Sometimes it takes a troll to make an interesting point.

Raoul said...

A few thoughts:
1. the elite (these fellows in charge in London, Brussels, ministers, living on tax money) are destroying whatever make us more than just barbarians: langage, art etc. Just read any interview of any modern art curator and you will see it is all about giving art back to the people, abolishing rules, killing taboos. By doing so they obviously consolidate their power. we are left to being creatures of instincts: consumerism suits their purpose as it is just about satisfying instincts. I have not read your book, yet, but I have read a few on the subject and most hint at that.
2. the elite are not what they used to be. By destroying culture, they are destroying the very ground on which they grow. But then so did the communist elite. The short term issues are all that matters: no perspective...
3. or maybe yes, some perspective: I dare say when one reads comments such as those posted today by Celia Green (thank you for this very valuable link) one is convinced they are up to more than just dumbing us down and humbug. I will not go further on this track today.
Thank you Fabian.

Fabian Tassano said...

Re de Tocqueville, two recent studies show how his criticisms of egalitarianism generate distinct ambivalence among contemporary historians. See Ferdinand Mount's review in this week's TLS.