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.