Trash Studies

Dalrymple’s contribution to the Autumn 2016 edition of City Journal has just been posted online. It’s a summary of the arguments presented in his 2011 book Litter: How Other People’s Rubbish Shapes Our Lives. As such, it’s a good overview for those who’ve not read the book.

The trash epidemic, which has arisen over the last two decades, raises the question of the legitimacy of public authority. I believe that the epidemic indicates a profound social malaise, and even political crisis, of far deeper significance than the more publicized agonizing over Britain’s membership in the European Union. Each piece of trash represents either an act of indifference to, or defiance of, civic or public order…

…the litterers act as if it were indeed their duty to look after themselves first, even in minute particulars, such as ridding themselves of rubbish. Their neighbor can pick up after them or not, as he wishes; but it is no concern to them because they do not belong to society, which is nonexistent in any case. They belong to no district, town, city, or country. They belong only to themselves, as sovereign as particles in Brownian motion. That is why no public authority has the right—or the moral authority—to tell them how to dispose of their garbage.

Read it here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *