Age of anxiety is a popular meme. A meme is an idea, belief or belief system or pattern that can be replicated. The word meme derives from the Greek word something imitated. Richard Dawkins the British evolutionary biologist coined the term on his book the Selfish Gene (1976) according to Wikipedia. Memes can be propagated in many ways. Malcolm Gladwell describes connectors, mavens, and sales men and women as vehicles of meme propagation in his book Tipping Point (2000). Today there is also the Internet meme
W.H. Auden, author of The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (1947) coined the phrase according to Wikipedia. Audenâ€™s Pulitzer Prize winning poem (1948) inspired a Leonard Bernstein symphony â€œAge of Anxiety by the same name and a Jerome Robbins ballet (1950). Alan Watts used this concept as the title of the first chapter of his book Wisdom of Insecurity (1951).
Clergy even examine this meme. Nancy E. Petty preached the sermon â€œThe Age of Anxietyâ€ with Matthew 6:24-34 as the text. It is easy to understand the rise of Christianity amidst an age of anxiety. Â M. Scott Peck used this meme in his book The Road Less Travelled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety.
For some anxiety is a psychological state. For instance Andrea Tone in her book The Age of Anxiety: A History of Americaâ€™s Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers.Â American Science in an Age of Anxiety by Jessica Ward,
You can look at this meme form the perspective of political science. Â Clarence A. Glasrud The Age of Anxiety published in 1960 by Houghton Mifflin was one of the earliest treatments. Â At the turn of the millennium Sarah Dunant and Roy Porter edited a collection of essays on the Age of Anxiety. Zero-Sum Future: American Power in and Age of Anxiety by Gideon RachmanÂ Â another political science approach is found in the work of Jane Parish and Martin Parker edited a collection of essays The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and Human Sciences. Hope in the Age of Anxiety: A Guide to Understanding and Strengthening Out Most Important Virtue by Anthony Scioli and Henry B. Biller, Haynes Johnson, The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism.
In future posts I will investigate what we mean when we say anxiety but for today I want to paraphrase Bowen and Friedman on anxiety. Friedman in his book, published posthumously A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix contends that the age of the quick fix is an expression of anxiety. Hence we might say that the age of the quick fix is also the age of anxiety according to Friedman.Â The book was edited by Margaret M. Treadwell and Edward W. Beal of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family.
Probably one of the most insightful plays on this â€œage of anxietyâ€ meme is Â a blog post by Michael Jinkins who compares this age to the years before the Protestant Reformation. I will recommend Jinkinsâ€™ The Church Faces Death: Ecclesiology in a Post-Modern Context which frames many of the same issues but form the perspective of the transitions from ecclesiastical life framed by modernity and the emerging post-modern horizons for the church.