Posted April 16, 2004
Book: The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations
Author: Christopher Lasch
W.W. Norton and Company, pp. 268
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
With an unsentimental eye, Christopher Lasch examines the new narcissism, product of “the dotage of bourgeois society.”
The narcissistic personality of our time, liberated from the superstition of the past, embraces new cults, only to discover that emancipation from ancient taboos brings neither sexual nor spiritual peace.
In their emotional shallowness, their fear of intimacy, their hypochondria, their pansexuality, their dread of old age and death, the new narcissists bear the stamp of a culture that has lost interest in the future. Their outlook on life — as revealed in the new consciousness movements and therapeutic culture; in pseudo-confessional autobiography and fiction; in the replacement of Horatio Alger by the happy hooker as the symbol of success; in the theater of the absurd and the absurdist theater of everyday life; in the degradation of sport; in the collapse of authority; in the escalating war between men and women — is the world view of the resigned.
American society in the seventies retreats from politics, but its only hope, Lasch argues, lies in reform of public life. He calls for new politics, new discipline, new love to replace narcissistic self-absorption.
An Excerpt from the book:
In a dying culture, narcissism appears to embody — in the guise of personal “growth” and “awareness” — the highest attainment of spiritual enlightenment. The custodians of culture hope, at bottom, merely to survive its collapse. The will to build a better society, however, survives along with traditions of localism, self-help, and community action that only need the vision of a new society, a decent society, to give them new vigor. The moral discipline formerly associated with the work ethic still retains a value independent of the role it once played in the defense of property rights. That discipline — indispensable to the task of building a new order — endures most of all in those wh knew the old order only as a broken promise, yet who took the promise more seriously than those who merely took it for granted.
Table of Contents
I. The Awareness Movement and the Social Invasion of the Self
II. The Narcissistic Personality of Our Time
III. Changing Modes of Making It: From Horatio Alger to the Happy Hooker
IV. The Banality of Pseudo-Self-Awareness: Theatrics of Politics and Everyday Existence
V. The Degradation of Sport
VI. Schooling and the New Illiteracy
VII. The Socialization of Reproduction and the Collapse of Authority
VIII. The Flight from Feeling: Sociopsychology of the Sex War
IX. The Shattered Faith in the Regeneration of Life
X. Paternalism Without Father