Esperanto doomed?

Yet another article in the mainstream press:

Esperanto: Simple, logical and doomed by R.L.G. | BERLIN The Economist, Sep 26th 2013

Not a bad article: the author mentions Esperanto's positives, and then goes on to explain why it is doomed to failure. There are some missing elements in this perspective. I am not so much interested in rebuttals you can always find in the comments section. Instead, I am interested in the tacit as well as explicit presuppositions of the argument.

Note that the author points out two factors in motivating language learning: (1) advantages coming from wide networking possibilities, (2) the pull of a culture to enjoy. Of course there are advantages to Esperantists networking among themselves, especially when it comes to travel. But the author really means networking in the larger society, involving commercial, intellectual, and other transactions.

And of course he is right, but he should have explicitly added the overriding factor that language use follows power, and not some abstract notion of efficacy; also that Esperanto's best chances were deep-sixed by institutions that didn't want to rock the power-boat of nationalism and existing power relations.

Before I discuss culture, I need to point out that there were always two goals of the Esperanto movement, which began as fused but in more recent decades have separated in the minds of a significant percentage of Esperantists. The first is to gain acceptance in the world at large and to secure Esperanto as the universally accepted international auxiliary language. The second is to cultivate an internally sustaining Esperanto-speaking community. The geopolitical scence has changed drastically more than once over the past century, and the more realistic of Esperantists have abandoned global ambitions. But they still cling to participation in the Esperantophone community, which unlike its original global ambition, is a success story.  The goal of universal acceptance is named by those who rejected it "pracelismo" or "finvenkismo"--i.e. adherence to the primeval goal or final victory.  This responds to the notion of networking in the larger sense.

Now we come to the notion of culture, which relates to the culture of the Esperantophone community. The most prominent of Esperantist literary figures have either insisted or denied that the Esperanto movement has its own culture. I am not the only one to insist that the notion of subculture is more accurate.  Then one could ask, what are the motives for participating in any subculture? They are varied.

I have addressed the question of culture in two podcasts to date on The Contributions of Esperanto to World Culture, particularly in Part 1. I characterized "culture" as process, not artifact, and so I conceptualize the Esperanto movement as a culture-forming process, one which I'll add has quite a colorful past if an often prosaic present. I also emphasized the Eastern European experience, eventually focusing on the central contribution of Hungarian writers to the development of Esperanto's cultural capital. Under conditions of repression Esperanto was not a frivolous hobby or playground for crackpots; it provided an alternative means of expression.

PS: Esperanto proselytizers are indeed obnoxious. Hence I have chosen my own path, not to convert, but simply to inform about the history of Esperanto as a living language.

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