Virginia Postrel on Ideals

Every culture, [Grant McCracken] observes, maintains ideals that can never be fully realized in everyday life, from Christian charity to economic equality. These ideals may uphold incompatible principles, deny the relation of cause and effect, require impossible knowledge, or demand more consistent or emotionally contradictory behavior than human beings can sustain. Yet for all their empirical failings, such cultural ideals supply essential purpose and meaning, offering identity and hope. To preserve and transmit them, cultures develop images and stories that portray a world in which their ideals are realized–a paradise, a utopia, a golden age, a promised land, a world to come (whether after death, the Messiah, the Second Coming, the Revolution, or the Singularity).

– Virginia Postrel, The Power of Glamour, p. 41