Mark G.E. Kelly, Normal Now: Individualism as Conformity – Polity, March 2022
This is a book about what we consider normal. It details how the very concept of normality emerged in the modern era, and how it has changed over the centuries.
By the mid-twentieth century, the expansion of norms across various areas of human endeavour generated a governing normative order in Western societies. Normality was defined as conformity with a narrow model of conventional human behaviour. However, this model has since been displaced by an anti-conformism, in which normality is defined as absolute self-fulfilment, defying older restrictions on our behaviour. Paradoxically, narcissistic individualism and rebellion against conformity have become compulsory.
Normal Now explores in detail how this new normative order plays out today in the arenas of politics, health, and sex and sexuality. In all these areas, the uncompromising perfectionism of our norms of self-expression leads to increasingly deep-seated and ubiquitous anger, anxiety and dissatisfaction.
‘A bold, challenging and provocative analysis of how we have moved from a society governed by rules to one governed by norms. Building on work by Georges Canguilhem and Michel Foucault, this is a fundamental challenge to normative political theory.’
Stuart Elden, University of Warwick
‘The pressure to be normal has a long history. But, as Mark Kelly reveals in this sharp and exciting book, normality has undergone a mutation in recent years whereby, to come across as normal, we also have to refuse normality. How, then, could we ever escape norms?’
Carl Cederström, author of The Wellness Syndrome