Sub­texts Bill Ivey’s new book

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER - — Jen­nifer Levin

The age of un­en­light­en­ment: Bill Ivey’s new book

In re­cent years, pub­lic ar­gu­ments have arisen over what it means to be a “real Amer­i­can.” Some see the United States as a safe haven that should — and his­tor­i­cally has — wel­comed im­mi­grants and refugees to its shores. Oth­ers de­sire a more ho­mo­ge­neous so­ci­ety that re­flects a nar­rowly de­fined Judeo-Chris­tian world­view. At the ex­treme end of the lat­ter spec­trum are neo-Nazis, white na­tion­al­ists, and oth­ers who do not want to live in a mul­ti­cul­tural, re­li­giously di­verse coun­try. In the even more re­cent past, we have seen cer­tain norms fall away, such as a gen­eral be­lief that govern­ment ser­vices are nec­es­sary to a func­tion­ing so­ci­ety; the be­lief that pres­i­dents and politi­cians should not openly twist truths to their own ends; and the main­stream­ing of sus­pi­cion to­ward mod­ern medicine and sci­en­tific knowl­edge. While some dif­fer­ences of opin­ion can be at­trib­uted to po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, some of these themes cross from right to left and back again. Folk­lore scholar Bill Ivey sees some­thing more pro­found in this grow­ing trib­al­ism than red ver­sus blue: He sees the end of the Age of En­light­en­ment.

In Re­build­ing an En­light­ened World: Folk­loriz­ing

Amer­ica, Ivey writes that “we are im­mersed in trans­for­ma­tion that ex­tends be­yond pol­i­tics and of­fi­cial power, and, like the Re­nais­sance, the Dark Ages, and the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, our age will one day have its own name. But that will take time. Now we must sim­ply do our best to un­der­stand where we are.” To that end, he has writ­ten a dense and provoca­tive book that delves into En­light­en­ment prin­ci­ples in­clud­ing lib­erty, tol­er­ance, fra­ter­nity, and the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state, while ex­plor­ing con­cepts of iden­tity, tra­di­tion, and the un­writ­ten norms that shape hu­man be­hav­ior.

Re­build­ing an En­light­ened World: Folk­loriz­ing Amer­ica by Bill Ivey is pub­lished by In­di­ana Univer­sity Press.

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