I’ve long believed Tom Wolfe has possessed an uncanny ability to predict the national zeitgeist in a ‘canary in the coalmine’ sort of way: from ‘radical chic’, to the ideological scientism of contemporary neuroscience, to fictional antecedents of the BLM madness we are currently witnessing, to his anticipation of Generation Tinder, to his salient prediction of skyrocketing (non-white) ethnic identity politics beginning to dominate (demographically) America, starting from the far coasts.
In “Mizzou and the Master of Our Universe”, Matthew Continetti explains “Why Tom Wolfe is the most important writer of the twenty-first century”.
This explosion of wealth not only improves human wellbeing. It expands and heightens status competition. There are more fields in which you can prove your virtue, your prowess, your strength, your virility. And there are more opportunities for sin and folly.
The Sun King was not only rich. He was decadent. The moral corruptions of the European aristocracy—these were now within reach of billions of human beasts. Life became so pampered, so squeaky clean, that practices and perversions that would have been dangerous and stigmatized and unthinkable before World War II were sterilized, imitated, normalized, glorified.
It is the interaction of this consumer society with post-orthodox America that so fascinates Wolfe. He cites Nietzsche, who after reporting the death of God in 1882 delivered a prophesy of the next 200 years. “He predicted,” said Wolfe in 1996, “that the twentieth century would be a century of ‘wars such as have never happened on earth,’ wars catastrophic beyond all imagining.” World War I, World War II, the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction—that crazy German had a point…
The total eclipse of all values, the great revaluation—hard to deny we are living through them both, with one-fifth of the population, including one-third of adults under 30, affiliating with no religion, with scientism and environmentalism and superstition encroaching on religious ground, with the collapse in the distinction between genders, the marginalization of traditional social roles, and the corresponding proliferation of reactionary movements seeking the authentic pasts of nation, of sect, of race, of tribe.
I can’t wait to see what Tom Wolfe writes next.