Tuesday, January 02, 2018


A Deep Suspicion of Change and the New

Guido Ruggiero, The Renaissance in Italy: A Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 6 (on Joachim of Fiore):
For all its strangeness to modern eyes, Joachim's prophesy was perhaps most strange to contemporaries for a claim that would go largely unnoted today — that this third age would be a new age and a better one because it was new. One of the deep differences that sets modern society and culture off from most others is that it tends to accept without question that the new is good. The premodern world, by contrast, had a deep suspicion of change and the new. In fact, in many ways it was enough to label a thing new or a change as an innovation to ensure that it would be seen as wrong and rejected. At one level there is a profound logic in this, for if one looks at the world around us, all things do seem to break down with time and change; thus, from that perspective, change over time, and the new, imply decay. In the best of worlds, then, the ideal would be to hold things as they are or, better yet, to return to their beginnings before change and decay set in, that is, return to when they were first made.

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