Comments on “How meaning fell apart”


Spiral Dynamics—commercial pseudoscience hype?

Thanks for letting me know!

I read the Wikipedia deletion discussion. The consensus was that Spiral Dynamics is commercial pseudoscience hype, and therefore shouldn’t be in the Wikipedia. I don’t really agree, but I have to say that when I googled to find an alternative page to link to, everything looked like commercial pseudoscience hype. I think there’s probably a core of real insight, but I’m not sure I’d want to endorse even that.

So anyway, I’ve changed the link to point to another place on this site where I’ve discussed it in slightly more detail.

Countercultures in Europe

It seems to me that the description of the countercultures is specific for the US. While something like counterculture also existed in Germany, for example, beginning, I would say, with the 1968 student movement, the specific forms it took seem different. There is nothing like the dualist counterculture. Evangelical Christians are largely absent, so there was no basis for that. The other counterculture took a more political form, I think (with environmental, anti-nuclear-movement, peace movement etc., and leading eventually to the formation of the Green party). I would say the Hippie movement here was never a counterculture but was a subculture current of that left/green counterculture.

There seem to be some counterculture-like currents in Germany much earlier already. Starting in the late 19th century, there was a current of movements of “Lebensreform”, there was Anthroposophy, etc., leading to a lot of different sub-cultures in the 1920s, including several youth-movements. Some of these movements where then either destroyed by the Nazis or driven into exile, where, I guess, some people from the Lebensreform movements contributed to the rise of the Hippies. Others were rightwing and fed into the emergence of the Nazis or were absorbed into the Nazi-movement in what was called “Gleichschaltung”). Maybe the term subculture can already be applied to some of the movements of the 1880s to 1920s. See for some hints in this direction. You may assign this to the “systems in crisis” stage, but at the same time, a counterculture and subculture stage seems to be present already in the 1920s.

Different in Europe (and elsewhere)

It seems to me that the description of the countercultures is specific for the US.

Yes, that’s right! As I noted in the page defining countercultures:

The discussion here is America-centric, because that’s what I know best. Much of it applies to other countries, but details differ.

I would say the Hippie movement here was never a counterculture but was a subculture current of that left/green counterculture.

That fits the little I know, yes.

There seem to be some counterculture-like currents in Germany much earlier already.

Yes, I read about this while researching the history of the hippie movement. Extremely interesting!

More generally, both American countercultures, but especially the monist/hippie one, drew heavily on German Romanticism from a hundred years before the Lebensreform and Wandervogel movements. And, maybe the hippie ethos could be traced back through history much further. It has a compelling internal logic to it, so it keeps being rediscovered/reinvented as a solution to excessive regimentation.

(For Americans, reading that organic farming is associated with the German far right will come as a surprise… it’s a sacred symbol for the American left.)

I suggest later that Islamic fundamentalism is also a counterculture, fitting the same definition as the two American ones (and probably the German student movement of the ’60s too).

Quo vadis?

Ben's picture

Please pardon my presumptuousness, but I perceive that you have more difficulty with this topic than with most on this excellent site.

Firstly, I feel that your historical review is generally accurate but incomplete. I think there is a common thread to this progression that deserves a lot of attention: the growth of global communication. It’s difficult to maintain any fixed point of view when airplanes, telephones, televisions, and the internet bring you countless other points of view. I may be oversimplifying, but I think that the recent changes you describe can pretty much all be chalked up to this.

Secondly, I wonder how we might get past atomization. I mean, I like your proposed “fluidity”, but the societal forces at work don’t seem to aim in that direction. Can you describe some general cultural trends that might give one hope that we’ll move away from atomization? I fear that random individuals groping at fluidity are effectively atomized (if I’m using your terminology correctly).

shift in focus

Ben's picture

Having read further, I see a mistake I made in my earlier comment. Your history is quite complete as you proceed. What threw me is that you seem approach this section differently from the earlier sections. I suppose it’s difficult to present a concise intro to all this.

Spelling Mistakes (I think)

Since none of the modes is fully functional, none constitutes straightforward progress. I’m sympathetic to the conservative impulse to resist these changes and stick with a mode that seems to mostly work. Later in this section, I’ll write about the risks and costs of too-fast change. However, I believe the only way out is through. And, I hope that the fluid mode will be able to incorporate the valuable aspects of all the others.

“Since none of the modes [are] fully functional”

“is” –> “are,” unless I’m reading it wrong, haha.

However, I believe the only way out is through.

I feel like something is off here, but I might just be misunderstanding. “…the only way out is through [change?].”

None is vs are

Thank you very much for pointing out these issues! I appreciate it any time someone gets nitpicky about the language.

I wasn’t sure about “none is” vs “none are,” and did a little googling. Both are correct, apparently, and there isn’t a definite rule about when to use which. Generally, it seems if there’s something singular floating around nearby, you want to use “is,” and “are” if there’s something plural. In this case, in the next clause, “none constitutes” is singular. I guess it could change to plural, but the sense is “not even one,” so I’m going to leave it as-is.

“The only way out is through” is an idiom. Apparently it comes from a Robert Frost poem. It means “this sucks, but it’s better to deal with it head-on and get through it than to cower and hope it somehow goes away.”

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