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Hypernormalization

Apr 7, 2021Last updated: May 27, 2021
Social sciences in 🏛️ soc

Based on The antidote to civilisational collapse: An interview with the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis (2018).

In the 80s, towards the last years of the Soviet Union, everyone from the top to the bottom knew that Soviet society was not working, knew it was corrupt, knew that bosses were looting the system, knew that politicians had no alternative vision. Everyone just accepted the total sense of fakeness as normal. This is what Alexei Yurchak, a historian, labelled "HyperNormalization".

Adam Curtis, a documentary filmmaker, summarizes some excellent points in this interview.

  • Liberal journalism is locked in a theatre with pantomime villains. The real power is carrying on outside the theatre, which no one is analyzing.

  • Erstwhile politics was driven by being part of a movement, a trade-union, a religious group, or a political party. Much of this has been supplanted by hyper-individualism, where everyone wants their unique expression and control their own destiny. Politics is virtually impossible at the individual level. Computer networks showed us, that we are not as different as we think we are. We are not very individualistic, and this is what modern politics then exploits via pattern matching.

  • People prefer practically anything to poverty.

  • With economic risk dominating political landscape post mid-80s, much of politics became not about changing-the-world-for-better, but about stop-bad-things-from-happening.

  • Issues like climate change, while certainly serious, are being coopted by a generation which is living under the fear of its mortality, and being turned into nightmarish scenarios. Instead, what we need is a calm head of power and policy restructuring.

  • The questions of purpose and future vision are something politics has to answer, but it is not. Religion used to answer, and science used to try and answer. Somehow, it has become tech's Achilles heel. There will be a resurgence in religion, and these answers will again come from there a.

  • The world is shaped by imagination. Mrs Thatcher used myths to inspire a nation towards something that is beyond the moment. The modern problem is that myths have washed over the complexities of the real world. This is where they begin to crack and go out of control.

  • No, you can’t control the world because it’s chaos—but there are moments within the chaos that you can use for your own purpose - Kutuzov

  • People like Richard Dawkins led the counter-culture against religion. But once Obama pushed religion outside the White House, Dawkins became unfashionable b.


  1. I feel a little uncomfortable about this.
  2. Perhaps, we will see him see become fashionable again in this sense, given the resurgence of religious identities and conflicts.

© 2021 Sanyam Kapoor