Self-Reflective Talk and Modern Anxiety

Ethical Perspectives 5 (2):144-154 (1998)
CONCLUSION :Whoever wants to pursue just social reforms, breathe new life into political democracy, and improve the welfare of the weak will have to do more than convince people to speak differently about themselves. The first ailment that must be cured is not an improper use of language, but the anxiety that gives rise to that language.Anxiety cannot be removed by socially uninspired philosophies. Anxiety is not a problem of individuals but of society’s consciousness. The individualistic attitude of the dominant group of Anglo-Saxon thinkers has hitherto hindered any consideration of group mentality. There is too little known about the processes at work in this trans-individual domain.If people felt that they were being respected concerning their meaning, then they would probably be easier to reconcile with their finitude and the finitude of those around them. They would be more willing to think about the welfare of the community. Respect, however, is not manipulable like an object that one can give and take. Respect only exists in a context of participation. Improving the quality of that context implies not only that people pay more attention to an honest use of language, but also to craftsmanship, art and culture. If there is anything that allows people to go on in spite of anxiety, it is their participation in the community that gives them courage, whose patterns of expectation give everyone a feeling of self-respect and whose internal solidarity curbs the economic sufferings of backward social groups.I had the impression while writing this that Bellah would agree with many points. Although some of his texts argue that social change will only be achieved through a return to biblical and republican narratives, others seem to indicate that he has a better sense than most Americans of how strong the pre-reflexive influence of the social temperament can be
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DOI 10.2143/EP.5.2.563095
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