A society that has made “nostalgia” a marketable commodity on the cultural exchange quickly repudiates the suggestion that life in the past was in any important way better than life today.
Once women begin to question the inevitability of their subordination and to reject the conventions formerly associated with it, they can no longer retreat to the safety of those conventions. The woman who rejects the stereotype of feminine weakness and dependence can no longer find much comfort in the cliche that all men are beasts. She has no choice except to believe, on the contrary, that men are human beings, and she finds it hard to forgive them when they act like animals.
Topics: Men and Women, Men & Women
It is a tribute to the peculiar horror of contemporary life that it makes the worst features of earlier times — the stupefaction of the masses, the obsessed and driven lives of the bourgeoisie — seem attractive by comparison.
We need to distinguish between nostalgia and the reassuring memory of happy times, which serves to link the present to the past and to provide a sense of continuity. The emotional appeal of happy memories does not depend on disparagement of the The Present hallmark of the nostalgic attitude. Nostalgia appeals to the feeling that the past offered delights no longer obtainable. Nostalgic representations of the past evoke a time irretrievably lost and for that reason timeless and unchanging. Strictly speaking, nostalgia does not entail the exercise of memory at all, since the past it idealizes stands outside time, frozen in unchanging perfection. Memory too may idealize the past, but not in order to condemn the present. It draws hope and comfort from the past in order to enrich the present and to face what comes with good cheer.
Topics: The Past
Information, usually seen as the precondition of debate, is better understood as its by-product.
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues French Moralist
- Jacques Barzun French-born American Historian
- Theodore H. White American Journalist
- Daniel J. Boorstin American Historian
- Will Durant American Historian
- James Truslow Adams American Historian
- David McCullough American Historian
- James Harvey Robinson American Historian
- Alfred Whitney Griswold American Historian
- Plutarch Greek Biographer