Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Dangers of Neo-Edwardianism

Majikthise makes some good points about the fact that excising the remnants of Victorian and Gilded Age elitist culture from American society is a good thing. However, we still have to be on guard for trending too far in the opposite direction. About a year ago, right before I started blogging, I posted on a subject related to this. In the post, I compare the youth or “Hook-up” (as it was dubbed in a NYT magazine article Yglesias pointed to) culture to the Edwardian culture of Gilded age Britain.

The intricate etiquette of Edwardian Britain is inverted in many ways, but just as strictly enforced, among the neo-Edwardian MTV generation as both cultures seek to maximize the utility of interaction with others. As Edwardian etiquette dictated that one must dress so as not to offend the sensibilities of others, neo-Edwardian etiquette suggests one must not dress as to give the impression that one would be offended at the appearance of others: one must appear to put no effort into one's appearance. As Edwardian etiquette dictates that banal and sexual language is to be avoided in order to give companions opportunity to exercise their higher faculties, neo-Edwardian sensibilities mandate that only banal and sexual conversation is permissible in order to minimize alienation due to incomprehension. What is missing in each case is a genuine interest in the humanity of one's companions. Whereas Edwardians used companions for stimulation and entertainment, neo-Edwardians use companions as endless fonts of approval and affirmation. This objectification is the problem with hook-up culture, not its polyamorous nature.
If you’re interested, read the whole thing. I try to blame Utilitarian philosophy, at least partially, and get into an argument about it in the responses.


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