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The Age of Angst & The Case for a New Enlightenment

Updated: May 13

The title of this article is also the title of a programme of eighteen dialogues starting on Monday May 15th, and they relate to the book I am currently working on. It also has the same title.

The term, "the age of angst," is not one that I coined, but I think it describes perfectly the feeling of many people in many countries. I first heard the term used in an article for Project Syndicate magazine, written by Elif Shafak. She described it as, “An era of anger, apprehension, fear, confusion, polarization, and an increasing distrust and distain for institutions.”

Powerful institutions such as the United Nations acknowledge the situation. “Uncertain times, unsettled lives” is the title of the title of their Human Development Report for 2021/2. It notes that “Layers of uncertainty are stacking up and interacting to unsettle our lives in unprecedented ways” and we must address “complex, interacting sources of uncertainty for the world and everyone in it.”

The secretary general of the United Nations also said, “we are at an inflection point in history. In our biggest shared test since the Second World War, humanity faces a stark and urgent choice: a breakdown or a breakthrough.” It is important to note, “the confluence of destabilizing planetary pressures with growing inequalities, sweeping societal transformations to ease those pressures and widespread polarization” makes this situation unique in human history," he argued.

In my opinion, we are yet to fully comprehend the scale of the inflection, a transition from an industrial to a post-industrial era, made worse because nations around the world are at various stages in the process. The implications are even less well understood. And the need for coordinated transnational efforts to address the issues may be acknowledged but is not happening. In fact cooperation is declining.

Some will continue to choose wilful blindness if we let them. Some will talk of change but not act, or not act fast enough. The wise will recognise we need a New Enlightenment to bring about change at the scale and speed it is needed.

The New Enlightenment needs to be on the same scale as the 18th century Enlightenment, which sparked the Industrial Revolution. And the New Enlightenment must spark the post-industrial revolution. The spirit of the enlightenment will be necessary to change mindsets and behaviours. And the benefits must be widely shared to encourage support for the transformation. Failure is not an option we can afford to contemplate.

The New Enlightenment needs to be different from the first one in very fundamental ways, I will argue. I cannot go into that in detail now, but I can give you a sense of what I will advocate.

Let me remind you that the first Enlightenment is referred to as "the age of reason." I propose the New Enlightenment must be "the age of meaning."

In many ways the first enlightenment, with a focus on the pure sciences, and the Scientific Method was somewhat dehumanising. It produced the 'machine age' and mechanistic thinking. Whilst it generated massive improvements in material wealth. It was concerned with the performance, efficiency and control as 'the means' of achieving progress, but it paid much less attention to the real purpose of those advances, 'the ends.'

The period between the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th Centuries and the Enlightenment in the 17th Century, was also an age of angst. And we can conclude that any period of large scale change in society is a cause of angst. They may also be the result of wars, economic collapse, epidemics or pandemics, and other crises. And we have had plenty of examples recently and over the last century. But have we learned how to tackle the angst that gets generated, and is also a cause of some of these types of crises?

Although history offers plenty of insights, we have yet to learn how to avoid crises, And we have yet to learn how to address the angst they cause, and other side effects. We continue to have to deal with Predictable Surprises - problems that could have been predicted, should have been predicted, and often were predicted.

In calling for a New Enlightenment I will attempt to address all of the issues I have mentioned and suggest some solutions, but I don't pretend to have all the answers. Collectively I think we can come up with the answers, and I invite you to join the 18 dialogues to explore them the problems and possible solutions.

The Dialogue Series

The whole series will be divided into three parts:

  • Series 1: The Causes and Impacts of the Age of Angst

  • Series 2: The Lessons of the First Enlightenment

  • Series 3: The Case for a New Enlightenment

Each series will include 6 dialogues ( one every two weeks) with a 1 month break between each series. I will invite one or more leading thinker/s to join me in a dialogue about the issues associated with a particular set of topics, to be outlined by me in advance in an article. The sessions will also include an moderated audience Q&A

The whole programme will be supported by an online Enlightened Enterprise Hub for the community of participants to engage in facilitated conversations. Related research will be aggregated and shared, including videos, research etc.

The Live Sessions (90mins each) will take place at 6.30pm UK time and will be delivered online for a global audience.

Each live session will also be recorded for those who cannot attend. It will be made available as part of the multi-media content on the Hub soon after the live session.

Programme Benefits

Join the programme and you will get:

  • Access to all 18 livestreamed dialogues

  • Access to the platform, including all the content and the network of participant

  • A free copy of the book when it is published (May/June '24)

  • Your name in the book as a supporter of the project

  • Free membership of the Enlightened Enterprise Institute for six months, from the time it is launched (later this year)

  • A 20% Discount off the price of any Enlightened Enterprise Executive Programme.

Programme Cost

The standard subscription is £20 per month for 12 months or a single payment of £200 (saving £40), for participants from high income countries. But, if you live in a medium or lower income country, you may qualify for a discount of 25-75% based on our pricing policy, designed to make our 'products' accessible to a global audience. Not sure which category your country is in? Check here:

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Programme Dates

Programme dates will be announced soon.

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