Saturday, May 22, 2010

Schama on Popular Rage

Historian and TV celebrity Simon Schama, my former colleague, foresees an explosion of popular rage and invokes 1789:

Whether in 1789 or now, an incoming regime riding the storm gets a fleeting moment to try to contain calamity. If it is seen to be straining every muscle to put things right it can, for a while, generate provisional legitimacy. Act two is trickier. Objectively, economic conditions might be improving, but perceptions are everything and a breathing space gives room for a dangerously alienated public to take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations. What happened to the march of income, the acquisition of property, the truism that the next generation will live better than the last? The full impact of the overthrow of these assumptions sinks in and engenders a sense of grievance that “Someone Else” must have engineered the common misfortune.

This strikes me as rather simplistic for historical theory but not inaccurate as regards smoldering emotions in the United States and Europe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Someone else DID engineer the common misfortune. But it's nice to know that Schama is on hand to soothe any guilt the readers of the Financial Times might have about their role in the economic crisis.