Damaged Life: The Crisis of the Modern Psyche

By Tod Sloan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1

Damaged goods: the modern problematic


Damaged goods
Send them back
I can’t work
I can’t achieve
Send me back

Damaged Goods, Gang of Four

(Warner Bros 1979)

The assembly line rolls along steadily. At one end, human infants are put on a conveyor belt. They come off the line at the other end when they are adults. There is no quality inspection. If there was, the majority of these products would have to be stamped DAMAGED GOODS.

What is the problem with modernity? Why do modern societies have such a hard time producing adults capable of intimacy, work, enjoyment and ethical living? Why is it that signs of damaged life are so prevalent?

These questions are frequently framed in terms that refer less explicitly to modernity: How can I know what to do with my life? What happened to morality? Why the senseless violence? Where is the foundation for faith? Is there life beyond consumerism? Each of these questions expresses a problematic aspect of contemporary social life. Obviously, I will not be able to address all such issues comprehensively in the context of this book, but I believe the book’s basic argument bears directly on a wide range of modern problems.

A feature of the modern social context is that we have become all too aware of the fact that a writer’s choices are informed by ideological perspectives, worldviews and personal concerns of which they are only partly conscious. The choice of a starting point for this book, for example, could be the subject of endless debate. In approaching modernity as a topic, one could choose to privilege specific historical developments, changes in social structure, shifts in cultural systems or new lifestyles and

-1-

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