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Satisfaction Not GuaranteedDilemmas of Progress in Modern Society$
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Peter N. Stearns

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814783627

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814783627.001.0001

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Death as a Modern Quandary

Death as a Modern Quandary

(p.131) 7 Death as a Modern Quandary
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Peter N. Stearns

NYU Press

This chapter examines the disparities in expectations arising from the new relationship between modernity and death. By any reasonable objective standard, death is an area where modernity has brought huge improvements by massively reducing its onslaught before later age. Yet death and happiness are farther apart than they were traditionally, in part because happiness itself has been not only emphasized but redefined. Death fits awkwardly when happiness is phrased in terms of earthly pleasures and pursuits. It interrupts work; it contradicts the normal joys and lures of consumerism. Without question, from the eighteenth century onward, definitions of modernity worked best when death was simply ignored.

Keywords:   death, longevity, earthly pleasures, consumerism, eighteenth century, definitions of modernity

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