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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Christopher Lasch Lives On

I have an affinity for hard-to-label figures in American history. I have written in the past about one of those figures, George Kennan. I am grateful for a wonderful reminder from American Conservative (AC) about another of my favorites, Christopher Lasch. Rather than watching any of the two party conventions, we should all spend some time reading Lasch and awakening a true populism in our nation. This essay is a great place to start. What Lasch does above all is show how many of the cultural maladies that conservatives rightly critique have their roots in a type of capitalism that levels traditions and the institutions that inculcate them. Here is a quote from the AC essay that gets at this aspect of Lasch nicely:

Lasch distinguishes his critique from that of conservatives, whom he faults for refusing to connect the social and personality changes described by Lasch with “the rise of monopoly capitalism.” To Lasch, therapeutic and consumer culture are intrinsically—and historically—related via their connection to the rise of corporate capitalism. “The same historical development that turned the citizen into a client transformed the worker from a producer into a consumer.” To struggle against the narcissistic dependence associated with the new therapeutic bureaucracy would mean to resist also the dependence created by corporate capitalism. Lasch therefore concluded his book by exhorting his readers to look to the “traditions of localism, self-help, and community action”—in other words, to resist the forces of narcissism by seeking “to create their own ‘communities of competence.’”

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