Rebuilding an Enlightened World

Rebuilding an Enlightened World

Folklorizing America
Bill Ivey
Distribution: World
Publication date: 08/01/2018
ISBN: 978-0-253-03015-3
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Today, the long-assumed belief in the permanence of an enlightened world is suddenly open to challenge. Human rights, participatory government, and social justice are losing global influence, and the world of ordinary people is pushing back against Enlightenment conceits. Accumulated anger links Taliban, Tea Party, and Trump, threatening women's rights, social justice, and democracy. To understand and counteract the threat to these ideas, we must set aside embedded explanations and embrace a new frame of observation and tolerance grounded in the power of belief, legend, and tradition. In Rebuilding an Enlightened World, Bill Ivey explores how folklore offers a unique and compelling new way to understand the underlying forces disrupting the world today. If we are to salvage the best of the Enlightenment dream and build a better future, we must begin to listen, patiently and inquisitively, in order to interpret the customs, norms, and traditional practices that shape all human behavior.

Author Bio

Bill Ivey was Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts during the Clinton-Gore Administration and a Team Leader in the Barack Obama presidential transition. A former president of the American Folklore Society, he has for the past decade served that group as Senior Advisor for China. His books include Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights and Handmaking America: A Back-to-Basics Pathway to a Revitalized American Democracy. Ivey is Visiting Research Scholar for the Indiana University Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.


Rebuilding an Enlightened World presents 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.”
 — Neera Tanden, President and CEO, Center for American Progress

“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

“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

“[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

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