Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christopher Lasch on the Web

While posting a video two days ago — Professor Christopher Lasch, The Pursuit of Progress — I mentioned that I would be moving, God willing, to the Village of Pittsford where the scholar called home. I have thus appointed Christopher Lasch (1932-1994) as the guide to my resettlement in America. The thinker has appeared on these pages before — Christopher Lasch on the Left and Conservatives and The Resettling of America.

The first post quotes a man who said, "Because it equates tradition with prejudice, the left finds itself increasingly unable to converse with ordinary people in their common language," and who could also say, "Conservatives unwittingly side with the social forces that contribute to the destruction of traditional values." More such bits of wisdom can be found here — Christopher Lasch Quotes. The second post links to Front Porch Republic's Russell Arben Fox's appreciation of a man whose "criticisms remain pertinent for making a defense of his great populist/communitarian insight: that local producers and democratic egalitarians needn’t be enemies after all" — Defending Lasch, Left and/or Right.

A Dialogue with Christopher Lasch begins with an article of his in which he argues, "Not only do conservatives have no understanding of modern capitalism, they have a distorted understanding of the 'traditional values' they claim to defend" — What’s Wrong with the Right? He is answered by one Lillian Rubin, who scoffs that "it becomes hard to tell whether we’re reading Christopher Lasch or Jerry Falwell’s latest sermon" — A Feminist Response to Lasch. The professor responds that her "stale polemics, full of moral outrage and theoretical hot air, inadvertently show why the Left has no future" — Why the Left Has No Future.

For more Laschian wisdom online, here's a review of a book of his by Scott London, in which the reviewer hails the author as "one of those rare figures in American public life who was respected by people on both the left and the right, among scholars as well as ordinary folks, in intellectual circles as well as among those who have no patience for abstract ideas" — The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch. A think tank "dedicated to developing a new politics that recognizes the limits of technology and growth" heralds another of his books as "probably the most important response to the modernist attack on the family, which was at its height during the 1970s" — Christopher Lasch - Preservation Institute. The site also links to this "chapter from Christopher Lasch's best-selling book, The Culture of Narcissism, about the decline of education in America" — The New Illiteracy.

The Preservation Institute laments, however, "There is very little by Christopher Lasch on the Web." Indeed, what is posted above is pretty much it, which is why I will need to add these books to my new shelves in Prof. Lasch's hometown:

Of the above books, the great Andrew Bacevich said in a review of a biography of Prof. Lasch:"Through a series of books, chief among them Haven in a Heartless World (1977), The Culture of Narcissism (1979), and The True and Only Heaven (1991), he sought, in Miller’s words, 'to convince and persuade Americans of the true nature of their circumstance'" — Family Man: Christopher Lasch and the Populist Imperative.

"Like some prophet from the Hebrew Bible transported to an America at the very height of its power, Lasch 'moved in the spirit of reckoning, freely casting judgment on all,'" Prof. Bacevich continues. "His countrymen could choose to listen or to turn a deaf ear: that was not his to decide. His calling was simply to speak the truth and offer it for their consideration. This he was determined to do, however harsh or unwelcome others might find the verdicts he handed down."

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Blogger pandora said...

Christopher Lasch shaped by thinking in the most profound ways. The first book of his I read was Culture of Narcissism, I was hooked and tracked down all else I could. Sadly, there is not much online - but he is probably better suited to traditional form where indeed his belief would lie. Curiously, I when I read him, his views in many ways were 'radical' as thoughtful contemplative conservatism has long been usurped. His voice was a call to the soul and what was/is real.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I've only read The Culture of Narcissism and The Revolt of the Elites. If you want an introduction to Lasch's main themes, The Revolt of the Elites is a good place to start since it's a collection of essays on various subjects that he was putting together. It was good, but I thought that The Culture of Narcissism was absolutely terrifying in its implications for America.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Can't do much better than Lasch. He is the premiere example of Left Conservatism in the late 20th Century. long with Kirk, Oaksshott, and Richard M. Weaver, he is one of the key formularies of a non-ideological conservatism. Must reading! Miami glad to see you are going to read his stuff. I also recommend his book on writing, Plain Style.

1:08 PM  

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