Friday, March 29, 2024

Yesterday: A New History of Nostalgia (Tobias Becker)

Nostalgia was first defined in the 17th Century as a "feeling of anxiety and homesickness, particularly when people were away from home." Over the past 50-75 years, that definition has evolved to a "longing for the good 'ol days," especially those positive memories of one's youth or early adulthood. Nostalgia occasionally gets a bad rap because it often obscures some of the less positive moments of the past and can be a bit of a trope. Tobias Becker, a German historian, has written about the concept of nostalgia in the West with a more nuanced, balanced view. 

Yesterday: A New History of Nostalgia tackles the evolution of the term and dives into three main themes of it in our lives. Covering politics, pop culture and preservation, Becker provides a strong, articulate argument for how nostalgia has been used in various capacities, both positive and negative, and how we have occasionally used our nostalgic moments to shape current events and thinking. Throughout the book, Becker often reminds us that nostalgia is one of the few concepts that bridges ideological and demographical divides. Both conservatives and progressives often pull out the nostalgia card to varying levels of success.

Yesterday is a well-researched look into our past and how longing for "better" times can often be helpful in shaping our future.