In 2012, novelist and journalist Kurt Andersen published an article “You Say You Want a Devolution?” in the magazine Vanity Fair. This is though provoking essay about the unusual standstill in America’s cultural sphere in the past twenty years. The author made the assumption that change in culture has come to a stop and the current cultural situation shows the vivid signs of stagnation. Design and style during the twentieth century used to dramatically change every 20 years, so that anyone could instantly distinguish the images from any given period. In architecture, design, music, and cinema you would never mistake the styles of 1930s for the styles of the 1950s or the1970s. However, says Andersen, since 1992 this evolution has stopped, “the appearance of the world has changes hardly at all” despite the greatest break-through in the world of technology during the same 20 years. The production of new cultural aesthetics offered nothing new, all appeared in the cultural sphere during this period are just the ghosts from the past, the same styles and revised trends from the past.
I can only agree with the observations of the author: people prefer wearing the same casual uniform consisting of blue jeans, T-shirts and sneakers; Lady Gaga has replaced Madonna, music bands are performing their greatest old songs and albums or featuring the cover versions of them; most blockbuster films these days are remakes or sequels of “iconic” movies from the past. Even cars made in the early 1990s don’t look old-fashioned.
Andersen says that “now that we have instant universal access to every old image and recorded sound, the future has arrived and it’s all about dreaming of the past”, which means that the new technologies are partly responsible for this failure to progress.
I support this idea of over-nostalgia which caused by overload in technological development. We're living in the most accelerated time of technological boom. Besides it, rapid changes in other spheres of life like economy and politics severe disrupt people’s life so that they feel like to find comfort in traditional styles and in the world that looks familiar.
The start of the 21st century was not great in America: natural disasters, terrorist attacks and huge financial and economic problems. People regard everything new as a source of troubles, as usually scary and horrible; at the same time consider comforting a look back to what was in vogue when things were "working". I agree with the opinion that until it feels like things are going to get better it'll be hard to look forward to innovations in culture right now. I also support the economic part of the explanation: any capitalist sector, including the new style industry seeks stability and predictability. Innovation goes along with permanent creative destruction, but nobody wants their business to be the one creatively destroyed. Nowadays when a lot of multi-billion-dollar enterprises have grown together with style businesses and vice versa, their aspiration for innovation and change may have a very high price. Big capitalistic corporations now profit from this steady stylistic demands without fear of getting “creatively destroyed” (Andersen).
I find all Andersen’s claims certainly true though the question still remains “What can we change?”
Andersen, Kurt. “You Say You Want a Devolution?” Vanity Fair. Condé Nast, 31 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 January 2016. <http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2012/01/prisoners-of-style-201201>.