The Freedom Paradox

The following is the original introduction by Alan Saunders to this fascinating talk (as I heard it on Big Ideas):
You might know that one of my jobs involves philosophy and today's speaker drops enough philosophers' names and philosophical concepts certainly to have attracted my attention. Clive Hamilton says it's all Jean Paul Sartre's fault, but what exactly? The state of the modern, or if you like, the postmodern world. A place in which we are promised unending freedom to choose the shape and direction of our lives without restraint or coercion; where despots, racists, sexists, and meddlesome priests have been put in their place, and new connective technology has been a force for liberation. But is it really like that?

Clive Hamilton has called his new book The Freedom Paradox. In it he asks why we are so discontented, despite all the wealth and freedom we appear to enjoy. And in the process he cites the work of Sartre, Kant, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Leibniz, Erasmus, Mill, Hayek, Descartes and Derrida, among others. Well, he's got me in.
What is this paradox? And what role do these philosophers play? In essence, Hamilton understands our predicament to be one of being free not to be free. That is, using all those hard-won gains of the second half of the 20th century to deliver ourselves to the marketers, who understand us as only cogs in the soulless machinery of consumerism. And postmodernist thinkers have provided the ideas to make the whole operation smooth and seamless. Clive Hamilton's arguments have met with much disagreement, most notably from those associated with the sexual and civil liberation movements of late last century. So, is it a campaign against the delights of the modern world, or a disquieting inquisition into a dehuminizing set of processes coming together in a perfect storm in the 21st century? And can we really blame philosophers for anything?

And have you ever experienced oral sex that produced existential despair? :)
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