Why Are We All So Restless?

Jan 13, 2022 by

by Andrew Wilson, TGC:

Review: ‘Why We Are Restless’ by Benjamin Storey & Jenna Silber Storey.

Few writers can capture the spirit of a society in a single paragraph. Even fewer can do it in ways that remain painfully insightful 200 years later. That is what makes Alexis de Tocqueville’s comment on the United States in the 1830s so striking:

It is a strange thing to see with what sort of feverish ardour Americans pursue well-being and how they show themselves constantly tormented by a vague fear of not having chosen the shortest route that can lead to it. The inhabitant of the United States attaches himself to the goods of this world as if he were assured of not dying, and he rushes so precipitately to grasp those that pass within his reach that one would say he fears at each instant he will cease to live before he has enjoyed them. He grasps them all but without clutching them, and he soon allows them to escape from his hands so as to run after new enjoyments. . . . Death finally comes, and it stops him before he has grown weary of this useless pursuit of a complete felicity that always flees from him. (511–14)

The restlessness of Americans fascinated Tocqueville. This vast continent of abundance, in which virtually everyone seemed to be middle class, was nevertheless characterized by a feverish, impatient, anxious, tormented, and grasping spirit. It was as if consumption did not actually bring contentment, as many confidently assumed that it would, and riches did not bring rest. Two centuries on, Tocqueville’s diagnosis still applies—and not just in America, but throughout the Western world.

Read here


Related Posts


Share This