Notes about literature, art, and the importance of critical thinking in times of crisis.
Written by Francesco Erspamer.
To resist the cultural hegemony of capitalistic realism, that is, the assumption that what matters are only money, success, and the market, a counter-ideology is not enough. First, one needs criticism—in its etymological sense, that implies the notion of crisis. Both criticism and crisis come from the Greek krino, ‘to evaluate, to judge:’ they are moments in which a decision cannot be reached automatically and elegantly, conforming to precedents, conventions, or instructions. In those moments we have to think differently, out of the box—of any box. We have to take personal and collective risks, question our methods and reassuring beliefs, and abandon mental habits and familiar patterns. The way of addressing a crisis is then very similar to the creation of art and to the fruition of beauty. In the beginning there is always wonder, surprise, uneasiness: there are ideas that cannot explain themselves—yet. Inelegant thoughts help us move on, challenge our certitudes, and cut the knots that prevent us from pursuing happiness, justice, equality.
Francesco Erspamer is professor of Italian studies and Romance languages and literatures at Harvard University. His most recent books are La creazione del passato. Sulla modernità culturale [The Creation of the Past: On Cultural Modernity] and Paura di cambiare. Crisi e critica del concetto di cultura [Fear of Change: Crisis and Criticism of the Concept of Culture]. His other blogs are Counter-analysis, dedicated to politics (mostly Italian and American), Il regime dei media (on media disinformation), Italians 101, and Soccer studies.