February 19, 2010

Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short…


“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
       British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
       His famous description of life in pre-industrial societies 
       Leviathan (1651)


“Life under modernized conditions and under conditions moving in that direction is not likely to become solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. It is far more likely to become crowded, affluent, nasty, brutish, and long.”
       Marion Joseph Levy
       Modernization and the Structure of Societies (1996)


“Crime reporters look back to the murders of the fifties with profound nostalgia, an attitude captured in one reporter’s words: ‘Murder is not what it used to be…It is much more violent and quicker now — stabbing, shooting. Poisoning has almost disappeared.’”
       Steve Chibnall
       Law and Order News: Crime Reporting in the British Press (1977)


“Surveying the erosion of 1950s family patterns at the beginning of the 1970s, economist George Gilder warned that the decline in marriage rates threatened the stability of Western civilization: The single man ‘is disposed to criminality, drugs and violence. He is irresponsible about his debts, alcoholic, accident prone, and venereally diseased. Unless he can marry, he is often destined to a Hobbesian life — solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’”
       Stephanie Coontz
      The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (2000)

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