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‘Personality’ and the Making of Twentieth-Century Culture

Published onJan 01, 1984
‘Personality’ and the Making of Twentieth-Century Culture
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ONE OF THE things that make the modern world “modern” is the development of consciousness of self. The European world that produced the Reformation, the new capitalist order, and the growing system of nation-states also gave us a new vocabulary that revealed a new vision of the self. “Consciousness” became a key word in the seventeenth century; the new language of self announced what Owen Barfield has called “the shifting of the centre of gravity of consciousness from the cosmos around him into the personal human being himself.”1 The results of such a shift were significant. Impulses that control human behavior and destiny were felt to arise more and more within the individual at the very time that the laws governing the world were seen as more and more impersonal. Not only was it more difficult to feel spiritual life and activity immanent in the world outside the self; as the rituals of the external church grew feebler, the needs of inner self grew also stronger.

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‘Personality’ and the Making of Twentieth-Century Culture(Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century, New York: Pantheon, 1984)

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