Everything's going to hell…

… and there's not much we can do about it, according to Richard Sennett's most recent book. Sennett, Richard. The Culture of the New Capitalism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006, argues that 3 values of the "old" capitalism are eroded or lost in the "new" and should be restored: narrative, the sense that one's life has a pattern & is going somewhere (impossible when companies outsource everything & everybody is freelance with no job rights or pension & the older they get, the less employable they become); usefulness, the sense that one's activity actually benefits somebody--now available only in low-status or volunteer service activities; & craftsmanship, the value of doing something well--eroded where youth, energy & obedience are rewarded and experience is not, which is almost everywhere these days. In his final sentence, Sennett proposes, "Perhaps, indeed, revolt against this enfeebled culture will constitute our next fresh page."

But in such a scenario of seamless gloom, where is revolt supposed to come from? Cheer up, Richard. It's not so seamless. In fact, as Ulrich Beck (see below) and many others have recognized, it's a chaos of opposing global forces out there (transnational businesses, states and combinations of states, and nongovernmental organizations of all kinds) and like any mêlée, it's bound to create new opportunities among the disasters. Political craftsmanship in such confusion will be rewarded, new narratives composed, and commitment (even if to an illusory cause) may prove as satisfying as real usefulness. It always has.

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