Desire and Alienation.
DG: .. perhaps what’s new with modernity is that people feel they shouldn’t be alienated. Colin Campbell wrote a book called The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism , in which he argued that modernity has introduced a genuinely new form of hedonism. Hedonism is no longer just getting the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll or whatever but it’s become a matter of selling new fantasies so that you’re always imagining the thing you want. The object of desire is just an excuse, a pretext, and that’s why you’re always disappointed when you get it.
Campbell’s argument makes total sense when you first read it. But in fact, again, it’s backward. If you look at history—at, say, medieval theories of desire—it’s utterly assumed that what you desire is—
DG: Or courtly love, yes. But whatever it ultimately is, the idea that by seizing the object of your desire you would resolve the issue was actually considered a symptom of melancholia. The fantasies themselves are the realization of desire. So by that logic, what Campbell describes is not a new idea. What’s actually new is the notion that you should be able to resolve desire by attaining the object. Perhaps what’s new is the fact that we think there’s something wrong with alienation, not that we experience it.
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