anomie [ˈænəˌmi] n. also anomy
1.) Absence of accepted social standards or values; the state or condition of an individual or society lacking such standards.
2.) [Obs.] Disregard of law, lawlessness; esp. (in 17th c. theology) disregard of divine law (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).
Etymology: French, from Greek anomi, lawlessness, from anomos, lawless : a-, without + nomos, law.
"But young adults of the ninetiesmany of whom are, of course, the children of all the impassioned infidelities and divorces Updike wrote about so beautifully, and who got to watch all this brave new individualism and sexual freedom deteriorate into the joyless and anomic self-indulgence of the Me generationtoday's subforties have very different horrors, prominent among which are anomie and solipsism and a peculiarly American loneliness: the prospect of dying without even once having loved something more than yourself" ("Certainly the End of Something or Other", David Foster Wallace, 1998).
Some of you might have noticed that I'm a big David Foster Wallace fan. His posthumous novel The Pale King is being published on Friday. Here's the review in the London Review of Books for those that are interested. I was somewhat annoyed by the reviewer's complaining about the weak ending of Infinite Jest, as though it was unintentional. That's always been sort of the point of DFW's fiction: it operates in pure form rather than narrative movement. Anyway, I don't know if I'll read The Pale King since it's not really DFW's book.