In this translation from his recent book, L'Instant éternel: Le retour du tragique dans les sociétés postmodernes, Michel Maffesol develops a diagnosis of the present that draws on the earlier arguments of The Shadow of Dionysus, The Time of the Tribes, and other works. According to Maffesoli, the project of modernity, defined as a future-oriented faith in individual development and political transformation, is reaching its end. Against those who lament this sign of the apathy of the young or mourn the loss of history in the society of the spectacle, he argues that we need to take seriously the current transvaluation of cultural values. An orientation to the future is giving way to an immersion in the present; individual existence is replaced by affiliation with the group (the postmodern tribe); there is a wide-spread fascination w ith religiosity, mysticism, myth, the supernatural (the "New Age") as well as with violence, excess, and the glamor of self-destruction, whether simulated or real. These cultural symptoms point to a wide-spread resurgence of the tragic in its Nietzschean sense; living for the moment, recognizing the precariousnesss and vulnerability of existence and the limits of human agency, and yet affirming life in the face of death with exuberance and passion. Maffesoli's provocative recasting of the idea of the tragic invites us to look not to high art but rather to much-maligned aspects of popular culture--rock concerts, senseless violence, the worship of celebrities-for the true reincarnation of the spirit of Dionysus.


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pp. 133-149
Launched on MUSE
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