Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this interesting Spiked review of the book Ribbon Culture, by Sarah Moore, which looks at the "the relentless rise of awareness-raising ribbons—kitsch fashion items that express the wearer's fear of disease or empathy with victims."
In seeking to understand why the individuals she interviewed wear the ribbons or wristbands that they do, Moore's account stands out through her refusal to pander to the rhetoric of ribbon culture, which emphasises 'awareness', 'caring' and engagement with a cause. In reality, these positive rhetorical sentiments mask an anxious, self-obsessed, depoliticised culture….
The increasing orientation towards the self has been theorised by several influential thinkers, including Christopher Lasch in The Culture of Narcissism (1979), Anthony Giddens in Modernity and Self-Identity (1991), Ulrich Beck in Risk Society (1992) and Frank Furedi in Therapy Culture (2004). It is understood to be a product of the breakdown of traditional institutions and relations of solidarity, which lead to a more fragmented, risk-conscious society, in which the quest for meaning takes on a more individualised, uncertain form. Critics such as Lasch and Furedi view this process as a predominantly negative one, leading to a fearful, isolated outlook that rests on a diminished sense of the individual and society, while the Giddens school of thought presents it in a rather more positive, liberatory light.
Put me in the Giddens school to the extent that I think the breakdown of traditional institutions is both overstated and generally liberatory and the turn toward the individual to be a good thing. I find Lasch generally unpersuasive as a social critic and am a disagreeing admirer of Furedi's work. But the review (and I presume the book it's based on) is certainly worth checking out.