The language of fear dominates the contemporary cultural
lexicon. People aren’t merely afraid of things anymore. Fear itself
has transmogrified into an entity of its own that is dissociated
from what really makes us quake in our shoes. Furedi writes about
fear as a social, rather than individual, problem. Contemporary
cultural politics is laden with the language of fear that is
‘promiscuously’ promoted by ‘fear entrepreneurs’ who have cashed in
on a powerful human emotion to wage political contests and to sell
products and services.
People have always feared, but the way in which we fear is now
different than it was in the past. In his brief account of the
history of fear, Furedi notes that ‘fear has lost its relationship
to experience.’ We are distracted by the climate of anxiety that
permeates contemporary politics so that fear itself has gained
independence from a direct experience that induces fear. While
Thomas Hobbes and Machiavelli noted the political importance of
responding to certain individuals and events with fear,
contemporary politicians thrive on the cultivation of fear
Fear is a problem in contemporary culture and that problem
emerges with many faces: the fear of terrorism, the fear of
impending pandemics, the fear of global warming, or
retrospectively, the fear of the Y2K bug. Politicians are less
concerned with alleviating the center of the most pressing
political and social concerns than they are with alleviating the
fear of these problems.
The politics of fear, thus far, has been enormously successful.
Furedi blames its success on the fact that people ‘are presented as
individuals who lack the emotional resources to cope with the
challenges of life.’ We believe we are vulnerable; therefore, we
fear. Because fear has such intense resonance in our society, it
doesn’t take much effort for fear entrepreneurs to exploit its
simple vocabulary and strike fear into our hearts.
— Rose Miller
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Market in Fear
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