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The Rise of Cultural Despair in Politics: A Dangerous Path

 
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Exploring the dangerous implications of cultural pessimism in modern politics.

description: an anonymous image of a political rally with banners and flags bearing nationalist symbols, with a crowd of people cheering and waving enthusiastically. the atmosphere is charged with a sense of fervor and unity, as the speaker on stage delivers a fiery speech advocating for exclusionary policies and a return to traditional values.

As our empire implodes, and with it social cohesion, as the earth increasingly punishes us for our refusal to honor and protect the systems that have sustained us, we find ourselves in a state of cultural despair. This despair manifests itself in various forms, from a rejection of democratic values to a resurgence of myth and ethnic community as the foundation for political action. At its heart, it is a Heimat-und-Kultur philosophy that is interested in myth and ethnic community and that has little time for democratic principles. This shift towards cultural despair in politics is a dangerous path that threatens to undermine the foundations of our society.

In December 2021, the podcast “Know Your Enemy” — billed as a leftist's guide to the conservative movement — welcomed Nate Hochman, a young conservative writer, to discuss the rise of cultural despair within right-wing circles. Hochman highlighted the appeal of cultural pessimism to disillusioned and marginalized individuals who feel disconnected from mainstream society. This sense of alienation has fueled a resurgence of nationalist and ethnocentric ideologies that seek to preserve a perceived cultural identity under threat.

Fritz Stern, who has died aged 90, was one of a remarkable generation of German-Jewish exiles from Nazi Germany who rose to become leading scholars of European history. Stern's work on the dangers of cultural despair in politics, particularly in the context of Weimar Germany, serves as a cautionary tale for our own times. He warned of the consequences of allowing nationalist and xenophobic sentiments to take hold, leading to the rise of authoritarian regimes and the erosion of democratic norms.

Cultural pessimism is widespread, fueled by economic uncertainty, social unrest, and a sense of loss of traditional values. This sense of despair has been exploited by populist leaders who promise to restore a sense of order and security through exclusionary policies and divisive rhetoric. However, the solutions offered by these leaders often exacerbate the very problems they claim to address, further deepening the sense of cultural despair among the population.

Almost a year into the pandemic, the Do-It-Yourself dreams still linger, hazy and shimmering with promise. There's an ineffable satisfaction in reclaiming agency over our lives, in creating our own narratives and communities outside the traditional structures of power. However, this sense of empowerment can also be co-opted by those seeking to exploit cultural despair for their own gains, leading to a dangerous convergence of DIY culture and extremist ideologies.

On Dec. 31, 1999, Anne Applebaum and her husband threw a New Year's Eve party in rural Poland. In attendance were international journalists, artists, and intellectuals, discussing the rise of cultural despair in post-communist Eastern Europe. The collapse of traditional institutions and the erosion of social cohesion had created fertile ground for the resurgence of nationalist and ethnocentric movements, threatening the fragile democratic gains of the region.

On March 9, Foreign Policy at Brookings will host German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and a panel discussion in honor of the launch of the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group. The event will explore the implications of cultural despair on transatlantic relations and the challenges posed by the rise of nationalist and authoritarian movements in Europe and the United States. Maas will highlight the importance of defending democratic values and promoting international cooperation in the face of growing threats to liberal democracy.

First, it carefully considers the preservation of Breivik's alleged constituency through the employment of only low-yield warheads. Second, the proliferation of cultural despair in politics threatens to undermine the very foundations of our society, leading to a dangerous erosion of democratic norms and values. It is crucial to address the root causes of cultural pessimism and to counter the narratives of fear and division that fuel extremist ideologies.

Labels:
cultural despairpoliticsnationalismdemocracyauthoritarianismsocial cohesionmythethnic communityheimat-und-kulturexclusionary policiespopulist leadersextremist ideologiesdiy culturetransatlantic relationsliberal democracyxenophobiaeconomic uncertaintytraditional valuesagencyempowerment

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