Nihilism, to reflect the time

Le nihilisme pour réfléchir l’époque

Nihilism is often seen as a way of thinking completely negative, a mixture of pessimism and lack of belief. This concept, however, is much broader and can help us to navigate through a troubled period as the one we are experiencing currently, as demonstrated in the book “Think without the absolute: twelve essays on nihilism”.

“When one digs into the matter over history, one realizes that it is a term which has been taken in a negative sense, but also in a positive sense, especially by some of the currents the anarchists of the late Nineteenth century who wanted to make a radical critique of the civilization, the culture as it existed, to make room for something new, more egalitarian and more open,” explains Yves Couture, professor of political science at UQAM and co-editor of the book.

It is to highlight this variety that the book brings together twelve essays on issues as diverse as technology, education, patriarchy, and capitalism, but the thread always remains the nihilism and what it allows us to consider these issues from a new angle.

Global warming and coronavirus

Although the starting point of the book was the student strike of 2012, and its aftermath, often considered disappointing by those most concerned, its launch, first online and then in print version last month, arrives in a period for the less eloquent.

“The context is strange, then that the output of such a book occurs in a moment where one of the grounds, which are not new, but let’s say that we are reminded strongly: concern, for pandemics, for example, but also in relation to the environmental crisis that some relate to the pandemic,” says Yves Couture.

The period of disorder that is going through today may well give a renewed relevance to the nihilism and to what it refers, according to professor of political science.

“It is as if there was a civilization a little bit on the auto-pilot that continues as it has, with the productivism, growth, etc, and there is something that is often judged blindly in there. We did not ask more questions about the effects that it produces, but the machine turns on and the race to the continued growth,” he explains.

“And a crisis can produce the effect of a side step, a distance to reflect on it and ask: is it that there would not be something nihilistic in this blind pursuit, no goal, a little bit imposed by the logic of a system?” he adds.

The book “”Think without absolute: twelve essays on nihilism” is available in paper format since 26 may.

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