Friday, January 13, 2017
This discussion contributes to the book’s central philosophical theme: how concepts like "experience" — also "health," "youth," and "happiness" — have come to ensnare us in a "new unfreedom." Greif unspools the same sad story again and again: In the more privileged parts of the developed West, we have largely emancipated ourselves from biological necessities (hunger, disease) and even from moral ones (God, the old taboos), but, perplexed by our unprecedented liberty, we have fabricated a new set of necessities to take their place. We no longer suffer from food scarcity, so we devise a baroque maze of taboos regarding what we can consume. We no longer prohibit any one form of sex, and yet, in making sex an all-important component of our self-esteem, we bow down to a new set of norms (namely, that we should always want sex, and with different partners) nearly as coercive as the old. We squander our "free time," a relatively recent gift of history, at the gym, in ridiculous outfits, on primitive machines, in order that we may have a little more free time to spend in a future that perpetually recedes.