Modernism has an essential flaw. That flaw is it equation of the new with the good.

The way that I see it, Novelty and Quality are fundamentally different, and to be honest, barely related aspects of a thing. Something can be good and not be new. For example, a beautiful painting that does not revolutionize art in any way, but is still very good. Likewise, not all that is new is good. Something can reject all that came before it and be utterly hideous. However, just because something builds on the past does not mean it will be good, a mindless recreation of someone else’s work or style will rarely lead to any true Quality.

Ideally the best things, in art, music, or anything else really, would incorporate both Novelty and Quality into themselves, but this is very difficult. The problem with modernism is that given the choice of Novelty and Quality, it invariably puts the emphasis on Novelty.

This leads to the rather unfortunate reaction of conservativism, which declares that Novelty naturally defeats Quality, and as a result refuses all innovation.

The same holds true in politics. G.K. Chesterton once said “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

It seems to me that Quality should be the primary goal, but Novelty is also to be sought. It is a shame that so much effort is spent chasing after or hiding from Novelty.


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