Monday, September 15, 2008

The fragile existence of capitalism

Quote of the day (really, an excerpt)

One of my favorite books is Irrational Man, by William Barrett, a 1958 account of 'existentialism' as a philosophical mindset. The news yesterday that Lehman (158 years young) and Merrill Lynch (a mere 94 years young) are no longer with us reminded me of chapter two in Mr. Barrett's book. The chapter is titled 'The Encounter with Nothingness.'

No age has ever been so self-conscious as ours. At any rate, the quantity of journalism the modern age has turned out in the process of its own self-analysis already overflows our archives and, were it not that most of it is doomed to perish, would be a dull burden to hand down to our descendents. The task still goes on, as it indeed must, for the last word has not been spoken, and modern man seems even further from understanding himself than when he first began to question his own identity. Of documentation of external facts we have had enough and to spare, more than the squirrellike scholars will ever be able to piece together into a single whole, enough to keep the busy popularizers spouting in bright-eyed knowledgeability the rest of their days; but of the inner facts -- of what goes on at the center where the forces of our fate first announce themselves -- we are still pretty much in ignorance, and most of the contemporary world is caught up in an unconcious and gigantic conspiracy to run away from these facts. Hence the necessity of returning to a subject that only appears to be well worn. With civilizations, as with individuals, the outer fact is often merely the explosion resulting from accumulated inner tension, the signs of which were plentifully present, though none of the persons concerned chose to heed them.

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