Notes on the (apparent) exhaustion of the Western mind.

Ross Douthat:

But as with other areas of Western life I think the left is a little too focused on accelerating forces in capitalism when recent deceleration is also such an important fact. Both the 19th and 20th centuries offered ample proof that arts and ideas could flourish amid creative and not-so-creative destruction — could thrive despite yawning inequities whose scale dwarfs on our own — could coexist, however uneasily, with industrialization and consumerism and mass democracy and all manner of technological change. So the shift to intellectual stagnation over the last half-century has to be more multi-dimensional than a simple “capitalism dunnit.”

My own favored explanation, in The Decadent Society, is adapted from Robert Nisbet’s arguments about how cultural golden ages hold traditional and novel forces in creative tension: The problem, as I see it, is that this tension snapped during the revolutions of the 1960s, when the Baby Boomers (and the pre-Boomer innovators they followed) were too culturally triumphant and their elders put up too little resistance, such that the fruitful tension between innovation and tradition gave way to confusion, mediocrity, sterility.