habits of the heart

I’m reading Habits of the Heart for the first time.

“In its own understanding, the expressive aspect of our culture exists for the liberation and fulfillment of the individual. Its genius is that it enables the individual to think of commitments–from marriage and work to political and religious involvement–as enhancements of the sense of individual well-being rather than moral imperatives…The expressive culture, now deeply allied with the utilitarian, reveals its difference from earlier patterns by its readiness to treat normative commitments as so many alternative strategies of self-fulfillment. What has dropped out are the old normative expectations of what makes life worth living. With the freedom to define oneself anew in the plethora of identities has also come an attenuation of those common understandings that enable us to recognize the virtues of the other. In fact, the new culture is deeply ambiguous. It represents both the easing of constraints and dogmatic prejudices about what others should be and an idealization of the cooly manipulative style of management. In our society, with its sharply divided spheres, it provides a way for the beleaguered individual to develop techniques for coping with the often-contradictory pressures of public and private life. Yet it does so by extending the calculating managerial style into intimacy, home, and community, areas of life formerly governed by the norms of a moral ecology” (47-48).

Lots to chew on.

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