Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

Today’s Counter-Enlightenment

Not long ago, one might have concluded that, at least in Europe, there were no taboos left. A process that had begun with the Enlightenment had now reached the point at which “anything goes.” Particularly in the arts, there were no apparent limits to showing what even a generation ago would have been regarded as highly offensive.

Two generations ago, most countries had censors who not only tried to prevent younger people from seeing certain films but who actually banned books. Since the 1960’s, such proscriptions have weakened until, in the end, explicit sexuality, violence, blasphemy – while upsetting to some people – were tolerated as a part of the enlightened world.

Or were they? Are there really no limits? Outside Europe, the “anything goes” attitude was never fully accepted. And there were limits in Europe, too. The historian David Irving is still in detention in Austria for the crime of Holocaust denial. This is, to be sure, a special case. The denial of a well-documented truth may lead to new crimes. But is the answer to the old question, “What is truth?” always so clear?

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;
  1. op_campanella7_Aurelien MeunierGetty Images_billgatesrichardbransonthumbsup Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

    Abolish the Billionaires?

    Edoardo Campanella

    Even many of the wealthiest Americans would agree that the United States needs to overhaul its tax policies to restore a sense of social justice. But, notes Edoardo Campanella, Future of the World Fellow at IE University's Center for the Governance of Change, such reforms would not be enough to restart the engines of social mobility and promote greater equality of opportunity.

  2. oneill69_Malte Mueller Getty Images_handholdingdollarsign Malte Mueller/Getty Images

    A Living Wage for Capitalism

    Jim O'Neill

    Higher nominal wages for low-paid workers can boost real earnings, increase consumer spending, and help make housing more affordable. And insofar as raising the minimum would increase companies’ wage bill, it would create a stronger incentive to replace labor with capital, which could lay the foundation for renewed productivity growth.