Saturday, May 05, 2007

An age of irrationality

I rarely read the Financial Times, but one of the peculiar things about living in Winter Park is that one finds papers like the FT abandoned on tables in my favorite coffee shop -- Palmano's. This says something I am not prepared to explore here about the particular mixture of acquisitive luxury that seems to be a feature of life in Winter Park.

Still I had left the Times at home, so I read the FT while enjoying my delicious cappuccino. This quote from an interview with Francois-Henri Pinault (owner of YSL, Gucci, et al.) caught my eye. "We are entering what I think is an age of irrationality." OK, I thought, this is going to be about fundamentalists, creationism, Al Qaeda, a retreat from science and the Enlightenment, or perhaps a comment upon a Presidential Debate in which someone can ask whether or not the candidates "believe" in evolution and be taken seriously! I expected Pinault to be against irrationality.

But I was wrong. Pinault continued, "and a return to luxury. We are at the beginning of a social trend, change in values that could go on for years -- the age of rationalisation, after all, lasted for more than a century. The question we all have to resolve is how big can these brands grow?"

So the previous century was the age of rationalization and is now over. We can now all return to the Gilded Age, or perhaps the Ancien Regime. How awful.

As someone who works in higher education, and libraries in particular, I am a big fan of reason.

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