Arthur Miller: “An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted”

Arthur Miller

On the brink of 1975, New York Magazine devoted an issue to a look at the year 1949. A canonical playwright Arthur Miller contributed to this issue an essay on “the state of New York mind in that year” through his own reflections. This shrewd quote tackles the big, national and global, events of that period. Well, times and protagonists have changed since then, but you remember what Hegel said about what we learn from history.

An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted… A retreat began from the old confidence in reason itself; nothing any longer could be what it seemed… A sort of political surrealism came dancing through the ruins of what had nearly been a beautifully moral and rational world… The whole place was becoming inhuman, not only because an unaccustomed fear was spreading so fast, but more because nobody would admit to being afraid.” (Miller 1974: 30, 32, 36)

Miller, Arthur. 1974. “The Year it Came Apart.” New York Magazine, 30 December 1974 – 6 January 1975, 8 (1): 30-44.

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