Just Merveilleux

Life at № 42

Lipovetsky on Lightness

lipov

I haven’t read it yet- but have read much about it, including a couple of the author’s interviews. The topic interests me. He discusses modern society and the new culture of lightness. Lightness meaning lacking substance. Or perhaps commitment. He doesn’t seem to want to convince the reader of what’s good or bad. I like that.

He explains how life used to be heavy. We didn’t have many choices. People got married, and if they were unhappy, that was it. Divorce wasn’t an option. Our roles in society were inherited. If your parents didn’t go to university, you probably wouldn’t either. Now everything is a choice. We’ve shifted from preparing children to endure hardship to simply wanting them to be happy. I find it particularly (and personally) interesting because my youth took place on the cusp of that shift. I got to see both techniques in action. In practice I was given much less choice than my brother (born just eight years after me).

Rules and social standards for boys born in the late 70’s were still very much rooted in classical patriarchy. The same standards that applied for most of the 20th century. The kind where men wore Brut or Old Spice, not frilly scents in girly bottles. There’s a whole terrible side to that- but then of course, there’s another. There’s the side of social responsibility, personal responsibility, familial commitment. I grew up with a clear vision of my place in the world. My path was going to be:

  1. education
  2. work
  3. marriage
  4. buy a house
  5. make a contribution to my community/society
  6. retire
  7. die.

Exactly in that order. No uncertainty.

I planned everything out, and did it. I’m currently at number five, trying to figure out how what we’ve got can benefit other people now and trying to decide what happens to it when we’re gone. I know some people may find that terrible. Nearly mechanical. But I see it as a perfectly reasonable trajectory (it suits my temperament. I have very good temperament 🙂 ). In fact, as I observe what goes on around us, I wonder what effect this enormous amount of lightness/choice has on children and young people? And how they’ll feel when they realise the world isn’t as welcoming or safe a place as some were led to believe? Or that there are consequences to their choices that they might not have considered? Are they prepared for failure? Rejection? Ridicule? Or are we heading in a direction where we end up living almost exclusively in virtual bubbles where we ban/block anything we don’t want to hear? Incapable of debate, negotiation and adaptation?

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28 comments on “Lipovetsky on Lightness

  1. A Silent Spectator
    October 21, 2016

    #deep👌

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dpmonahan
    October 21, 2016

    Your birth order may have had something to do with it. I’m the youngest of six, and while I had lots of support I never got any direction. I had to figure that out on my own and it took me much longer to settle on a career than my siblings.
    Maybe it is cyclical too: I have friends more or less the same age as me who had followed a similar meandering path, and they all swear they are going to push their kids into STEM tracks as early as possible. They look at their 20s as a lost decade and don’t want their kids to get the late start. In 30 years maybe those kids will be saying they will let their kids lead their own lives, etc.

    Like

  3. Godless Cranium
    October 21, 2016

    Certainly seems like that last part about blocking and banning is the direction we are headed but I’m an optimist who thinks free speech and intellectual honesty will win out in the end.

    Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. silenceofmind
    October 21, 2016

    I love your philosophy on how to live the good life, Mr. Merveilleux!

    Life doesn’t happen all by itself.

    You made it happen for you has much as possible.

    And that is very inspiring.

    Like

  5. Hariod Brawn
    October 21, 2016

    “The theme of lightness has always been familiar to men: it deals with games, dreams, it’s an anthropological dimension. Nowadays, lightness is no longer marginal: its logic can be found in all social and economic areas of our life. Just think about technology and nanotechnology, offering us more and more lightweight, almost invisible, equipment. These examples show us how lightness no longer belongs to the imaginary and to the myth but it has become reality, defining the digital and dematerialized world we live in.” – G.L.

    Sounds like he’s dealing with aesthetics and emotive impulses – no?

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s very concerned with aesthetics in general. It’s a recurring theme in a number of his books. He does seem to look at the concept of lightness on various different levels. In the interview I saw he used it in the context of social media. Superficial relationships, moving from one app to the next when one is tired or gets bored.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sirius Bizinus
    October 21, 2016

    Maybe it’s just change, Pink. People are going to find a new ladder to climb, a new way of ordering things. Humans are remarkably adaptable like that.

    With regards to safety bubbles, that also might be a sign of change. To say that they’re a new phenomenon is a bit misleading. Take a look at the extreme examples of Trump supporters (and some Bernie supporters, while I’m being honest). They have existed for many years in their own worlds, carefully being able to prevent contrary information and unwanted speech from crossing their intellectual thresholds.

    Liked by 2 people

    • But how much of it is progress? Extremists have indeed always existed, but wasn’t there a social requirement that everyone needed to learn how to operate within a social structure?
      And is that not what’s being set aside right now?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sirius Bizinus
        October 21, 2016

        I don’t know if it’s progress. It depends on how people measure it, I suppose. For example, switching from nobility-based societies to labor-oriented ones happened with a little bit of chaos (and maybe some bloodshed). Compared to that, having an artificial landscape dotted with people ignoring each other might be quite progressive.

        What if we’re just in a quieter, more tame social revolution that seems disorderly because people haven’t agreed on the place settings yet?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Possibly. I suppose I’m wondering if we’re moving from something that didn’t work very well to something else that also doesn’t seem to work very well. All without much thought or discussion. Just going with the flow. Shouldn’t we be talking place settings? How to balance (and fulfil) the needs of individuals and those of the group?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sirius Bizinus
        October 22, 2016

        It’s a tough question to answer. Balancing the needs of the individual with the group has always been a moral conundrum. This kind of thing almost by necessity has to be informal. Doing it formally leads to pitting groups of people against each other, and that leads to the losers getting the shitty life trajectories.

        It doesn’t make much sense.

        Like

  7. Cara
    October 21, 2016

    Very deep indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. john zande
    October 21, 2016

    Somewhat ironically, the over-abundance of choice we have today produces, in some people more than others, anxiety. It’s called the paradox of choice.

    Liked by 3 people

    • agrudzinsky
      October 21, 2016

      I find decision making (a.k.a. choice) to be the most stressful activity in my life. Especially when I have to make a choice from unknown options based on unknown criteria. I have this anxiety every time I stand in an aisle of a hardware store choosing the right part to fix a faucet. I just space out. My teenage son has this look on his face continuously. Perhaps, the addiction to Internet is a way to escape these choices.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s precisely Lipovetsky’s position.

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        October 21, 2016

        ‘Perhaps, the addiction to Internet is a way to escape these choices.’
        I disagree, sort of. I think the internet offers escape by fostering a semblance of /control/.

        My perspective may be skewed because I’m a gamer, but most of the players I know want a control over their digital lives they [probably] lack in RL [the real world].

        Like

      • Can’t it be both?

        Like

      • acflory
        October 21, 2016

        Yes, but to me escape implies running /from/. Control, on the other hand implies running /to/. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • agrudzinsky
        October 22, 2016

        I think the internet offers escape by fostering a semblance of /control/.

        That’s what I meant. It’s an escape from the uncertainty and ambiguity of the RL. Until you find out that your favorite game does not run well on your graphics card and you find yourself comparing the specs, driver compatibility, and prices of a dozen different cards. There is no escape. Reality must be embraced and accepted.

        Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        October 23, 2016

        lmao! Oh, you’re telling the story of my life! And then there are scheduled maintenance days….

        Liked by 1 person

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