Tanner Greer has a fascinating new post
on what a contemporary history of the early 21st century might look like. I love the format he uses: rather than try to write a whole history in a blog post, he proposes a table of contents for a book-length treatment. This gives 50%+ of the flavour of what the book would be at (presumably) <5% of the work. (This reminds me of Borges’ technique of writing “book reviews” of imaginary books as a shortcut - e.g. Pierre Menard
Historians love the question of periodisation: when do eras begin and end? Greer opts to begin the story of the 21st century in 2004 - “the high tide of America’s unipolar moment” - though see David Auerbach’s response
for the case that it should start in 1994 with Newt Gingrich’s triumph in the midterms of Bill Clinton’s first term, and Winthrop Wickard’s
for the claim that you have to go all the way back to 1989.
For Greer, the last 15 years are a story of fragmentation and institutional decline. It’s striking that elites have become more pessimistic, even as they have become increasingly successful
. The end of the information monopolies of broadcast television and newspapers mean that there can no longer be narrative dominance for a particular “mood”. There will always be someone - indeed, millions - on Twitter who do not share your optimism/pessimism and can inject their dissent into the narrative. As Greer says:
One of the difficulties … is the growing awareness of how different things feel to people who do not share your class, race, religion, region, education, or twitter feed