In Folklore, Bill Ivey, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, argues that the world today is being reshaped by the end of the Enlightenment. In the 18th and 19th century, imperialism and colonialism spread Enlightenment values around the world. Through the 20th century, civilization believed this universal commitment to human rights would be permanent. Today that assumption is under threat everywhere. Contemporary public intellectuals have entirely missed this truth, leading them to offer incomplete or unhelpful analyses of the current global situation, and inadequate prescriptions for a way forward. In truth, at the Enlightenment's end, ISIS, the Taliban, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump are linked—science is denigrated, tribal resentments come to the fore, religious fundamentalism shapes belief and action, and social justice, women's rights, and democracy itself are threatened. Ivey argues that in the United States folklore scholars have spent the past 150 years observing, documenting, and seeking to understand the communities and community life that support the artistry, tradition, beliefs, and values that sustained mankind for centuries before the Enlightenment advanced a new vision of humanity, one that brought all people into the mainstream of history. Through their observational and nuanced research, folklorists have come to understand the complex borderland separating the literacy, manners, sophistication, and politics of civilization from the world of orality, tradition, tribe, and ethnicity. If leaders wish to nurture a world order that again places overarching, universal human rights at the center of international affairs, we must advance enlightened policy from a new perspective, grounding ideas and action in the hard-won insights of folklorists, honoring a new, vitalized respect for the habits and traditions that sustain ordinary people.
"An erudite, insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to our national dialogue in this current 'Age of Trump' with its resurgence of racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and the rise of a self-acknowledged sexual predator to the presidency of the United States, Rebuilding an Enlightened World: Folklorizing America should have as wide a readership as possible."~Midwest Book Review
[Ivey] has written a dense and provocative book that delves into Enlightenment principles including liberty, tolerance, fraternity, and the separation of church and state, while exploring concepts of identity, tradition, and the unwritten norms that shape human behavior." ~Santa Fe New Mexican Pasatiempo
"Ivey's book stands out as an all-too-rare connection of folkloristic perspectives to worldview, ethical philosophy, and political action."~Journal of Folklore Research
"Rebuilding an Enlightened World: Folklorizing America, offers hope and solutions for those worried about the future."" ~WSMV
"An erudite, insightful, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to our national dialogue in this current 'Age of Trump' with its resurgence of racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and the rise of a self-acknowledged sexual predator to the presidency of the United States, "Rebuilding an Enlightened World: Folklorizing America" should have as wide a readership as possible."" ~MBR Bookwatch
""This important book explores our modern moment, skillfully examining the journey that brought us to this precipice.""~Chapter 16
Ivey makes a compelling case that without understanding both the stories and traditions of everyday folk and the power of informal culture in everyday life, our analyses and prescriptions are at best missing the mark and at worst creating deep social scars. The stance of folklore studies, for Ivey a discipline of deep listening, can provide powerful tools for reimagining the way we inhabit a world of constant change. A sweeping analysis of contemporary culture and politics." ~Steven Tepper, Dean, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University
Bill Ivey has written a book with two unusual, provocative and relevant big ideas—one, that the current debasement of society emanates not from the current occupant of the White House or from politics at all, but from a long-devolving cultural process in which we lost our shared values; and two, that we might be able to repair the damage if we engage in an inclusive, grass-roots listening campaign, of the sort folklorists deploy, to hear and appreciate our differences and learn how to accommodate them. You would be hard put to find a better place to begin our cultural debate than here." ~Neal Gabler, journalist, historian and film critic
"" ~Neera Tanden, President and CEO, Center for American Progress
Rebuilding an Enlightened Worldpresents progressives in America with an invaluable vision on how we can defeat the rising forces of authoritarianism and tribalism by relying on our reason and our shared values. Bill Ivey's powerful book lays out a path for drawing upon our traditions, customs, and rich cultural heritage to help forge a brighter future—for our own country, and for people across the globe.