From Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God through Margaret Thatcher’s pronouncement that “there is no such thing as society” to Fukuyama’s “end of history” to the present, there is pretty much a straight line descent into nihilism, or “post-modern predicament” and post-modern chaos. Few people realise at all that Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society” follows logically from Nietzsche’s death of God (which he actually called “the murder” of God).

Once it is recognised that Thatcher’s pronouncement of the death of society follows logically from the death of God, then everything since follows logically and in due course as well. And what has followed Thatcher’s death of society is what we might call “spree”. Maybe we should call the post-modern condition “Age of Spree”.

“Spree” is, in any event, how prosecutors in Spain are today describing the kleptocracy of former IMF head and Spanish conservative politician Rodgrio Rato. (“Former IMF head Rodrigo Rato on trial over bankers’ luxury sprees“, The Guardian). Significantly, Rato was head of the IMF from 2004 to 2007. He and some 65 other former finance executives and politicians are facing charges of corruption in Spain, something that didn’t happen elsewhere after the market meltdown of 2007-2008.

“Spree” is very much what happened with the death of society — which, in my vocabulary means “neo-liberalism” — whether it is a criminal underclass or the criminal overclass of genteel kleptocrats. They certainly begin to resemble one another in their mutual orgy of spree. Let’s call them Scylla and Charybdis.

If society hasn’t completely dissolved into Macfarlane’s post-modern “mist” or chaos (the problem of atomisation and fragmentation), it’s probably only owing to the fact that certain individuals and groups take their social responsibilities and obligations seriously. They resemble, in that respect, the parable of the Little Dutch Boy who stuck his thumb into the leaking dike and saved Holland. The opposite act is called “opening the flood gates”, which is also another way of saying “spree”.

“Spree” is what some call “permissive individualism”, but which means, in normal terms, “irresponsible”. It should actually not be called “permissive individualism” but promiscuous individualism. And I think that “spree” is just the right word for this. The late Roman Empire was, of course, notable for its Age of Spree as well, but which we call “orgy” or “debauch”. And even while the ruling elite were preaching “austerity” to the masses, they were quite evidently given over to Spree.

When I think of the Little Dutch Boy, I think of the guy in Charlotte from the Free Hugs Project who inserted himself between the rioters and the police and tried to keep the thing from escalating out of control. But, I don’t know how long the Little Dutch Boy can keep his thumb in the dike (which is what I’ve been referring to as the prospect of “Peak Chaos”).

Shooting spree, crime spree, spending spree, shopping spree… spree generally is the state of affairs. “Age of Spree” is just the right name for this.

Spree might look like Free (it even sounds like Free), but that’s just a trick and a mirage.

3 responses to “Spree”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    All these trumped up towers
    Theyre just golden showers
    Where are people supposed to live?
    You can arm yourself, alarm yourself
    But theres nowhere you can run
    cause a man with a briefcase
    Can steal more money
    Than any man with a gun
    — Don Henley, “Gimme What You Got”

    Remarkable lyric isn’t it? “Trumped up towers”. I’m sure the allusion was intentional.

    Henley’s lyric occurred to me after I posted “Spree” mainly because it expresses the irony of a “unipolar world” in which the overclass and the underclass come to resemble each other, ie. both are anti-social. And in something as simple as this lyric I can read the breakdown of dialectical reason, inasmuch as the alleged “thesis” and “antithesis” become indistinguishable from one another in that sense.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    It is remarkable, yes there are people who know how to put their finger on the wound but alas they can not save the city like the dutch kid because the city have been brought up on the call for more,on take all and never give, as Don himself put it. I was listening to an elder of the old tribes of america saying america needs a bill of responsibility not a bill of right and would like to add that we need a bill of decent truthful speech and not a bill for freedom of speech irrespective and need to listen and not only talk, if we are serious to want to face the spree, the spree that is facing the whole world not just a part of it. This is the price we pay for obviating the divine cultural reference and get submerged in the other people cultural reference and get angry at those who remind us of such original cultural source.

  3. Charles Leiden says :

    I always did like Don Henley.

    I appreciate this observation from William I. Thompson:
    One can say almost anything about human culture now and it will be true, for everything is going on at once. (The Edge of History) There is a certain momentum to all the, should we say dominant trends, that really aren’t sustainable in any way. We might call the situation paradigm lost.

    you wrote

    it is quite clear that the “crisis”, as such, is not caused by externalities as much as it is an internal crisis of the consciousness structure and the modern personality.
    Fred Polak (below) “the primary forces in history are not propelled by a system of production, nor by by individual or military might but rather by the underlying ideas, ideals, values and norms that manage to achieve mass appeal.”

    The Image of The Future by Fred Polak – was insightful when it was first published years ago and still important. He writes:
    Every great thinker who has concerned himself with the historical
    process has speculated about the meaning of time and its flow in
    history….Social change will be viewed as a push-pull process in which a Society is at once pulled forward by its own magnetic images of an idealized
    future and pushed from behind by its realized past.
    1. Images of the future are always aristocratic in origin. The
    author of the image invariably belongs to the creative minority of a

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