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The Middling Sort

Alan Ryan, 25 May 1995

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 276 pp., £16.95, March 1995, 0 393 03699 5
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... Christopher Lasch, who died last year, has been rather undernoticed in Britain. His attention was admittedly focused on American politics and political thinking, but his fears and anxieties translate readily enough to a Britain showing many of the same symptoms of social and political disaffection, while his politics and his polemical style were those of an urbanised Cobbett – radical, popular, egalitarian and quite unplaceable on a left-right spectrum ...

In a flattened world

Richard Rorty, 8 April 1993

The Ethics of Authenticity 
by Charles Taylor.
Harvard, 142 pp., £13.95, November 1992, 0 674 26863 6
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... prevalent among the chattering classes of northern California, you will probably agree with Christopher Lasch that theirs is a culture of narcissism. If you rather admire these people’s attitudes and way of life, you may describe it as a culture of tolerance. If you have mixed feelings, you might settle for the description Charles Taylor ...

Modern Discontent

Bernard Williams, 17 July 1980

The Culture of Narcissism 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 288 pp., £6.95, February 1980, 0 393 01177 1
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Nihilism and Culture 
by Johan Goudsblom.
Blackwell, 213 pp., £15, May 1980, 9780631195702
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... All around him in American society Lasch sees intellectual and moral feebleness, cultural decay, despair and inner rage. There is no personal love, only a snatching at gratification, or domestic skirmishes in the war of all against all. There is no politics, only manipulation; no radical protest, only street theatre; no education, only organised illiteracy ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson, 23 July 1987

Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... be somebody, maybe even one of the Real People. ‘He cannot live without an admiring audience,’ Christopher Lasch writes of the pathological narcissist: ‘The popularity of the confessional mode testifies, of course, to the new narcissism that runs all through American culture.’ In The Culture of Narcissism ...

By the Roots

Jeremy Waldron, 9 February 1995

The Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism 
by Stephen Holmes.
Harvard, 330 pp., £23.95, November 1993, 0 674 03180 6
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... for dissection in his Anatomy. The others are Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, Alasdair MacIntyre, Christopher Lasch and Roberto Unger. To choose Maistre as one’s point of departure is to set a provocative, not to say lurid tone. There are occasions when he can sound as reasonable in his critique of the Revolution or the Enlightenment as, say, Burke or ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis, 1 July 1999

The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... completely professional during the past three decades, tennis deserves a place of honour in what Christopher Lasch called the culture of narcissism. A sport of skilful, well-mannered ladies and gentlemen has metamorphosed into a brutal confrontation between unpleasant, physically overdeveloped and remorselessly single-minded hitters, which is controlled ...

Divorce me

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 17 December 1981

Love, Sex, Marriage and Divorce 
by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.
Cape, 384 pp., £8.50, November 1981, 0 224 01602 4
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... Bowlby-stuck judges to realise that fathers can look after their children’. Self-obsession, what Christopher Lasch calls ‘pathological narcissism’, is the third cause of our advanced divorce rate. Gathorne-Hardy doesn’t mention Lasch, but in a chapter entitled ‘The Privilege Bulge’ he writes about the same ...

Alexander the Brilliant

Edward Said, 18 February 1988

Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies and the Reagan Era 
by Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 479 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86091 176 4
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... part of the Academy, still function outside it as public figures – Chomsky, for instance, or Christopher Lasch. It seems to me to be a narrow and chauvinistic view of United States culture that does not take stock of the interesting role played by the non-American, non-native intellectuals who have lived and worked in the country. Think of José ...

Crazy America

Edward Said, 19 March 1981

... Austin and Searle. But few people would construct a portrait of the essential West using only Christopher Lasch on narcissism, the words of a fundamentalist preacher, Plato’s Cratylus, an advertising jingle or two, and (as an instance of the West’s inability to believe in a stable or beneficent reality) Ovid’s Metamorphoses laced with choice ...

Starting over

Malise Ruthven, 9 July 1987

Cities on a Hill 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Picador, 414 pp., £4.50, March 1987, 0 330 29845 3
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... of that thesis as a unifying theme. The development of age-segregated housing belongs to what Christopher Lasch, a more bitter but sometimes more trenchant commentator than FitzGerald, calls the ‘culture of narcissism’ – a concept that is curiously absent from FitzGerald’s vocabulary. Like the passengers on the Mayflower and Arabella, the ...

Moments

Marilyn Butler, 2 September 1982

The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... Bellow’s claim to his own royalties. C.W.E. Bigsby also sounds mechanical when he quarrels with Christopher Lasch over narcissism: ought it to be diagnosed as the vice of the Seventies, since Joe Orton’s work proves that it was endemic in the Sixties? Here literature illuminates sociology, rather than the other way about. Other contributors to the ...

An Even Deeper Bunker

Tom Vanderbilt: Secrets and spies, 7 March 2002

Body of Secrets: How America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ Eavesdrop on the World 
by James Bamford.
Century, 721 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 7126 7598 1
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Total Surveillance: Investigating the Big Brother World of E-Spies, Eavesdroppers and CCTV 
by John Parker.
Piatkus, 330 pp., £10.99, September 2001, 0 7499 2226 5
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... then declare that their privacy needs to be protected from the flash of the paparazzo’s camera. Christopher Lasch, writing well ahead of Big Brother and the tide of reality TV shows, noted in The Culture of Narcissism that ‘modern life is so thoroughly mediated by electronic images that we cannot help responding to others as if their actions – and ...

Sam, Caroline, Janet, Stella, Len, Helen and Bob

Susan Pedersen: Mass Observation, 21 September 2017

Seven Lives from Mass Observation: Britain in the Late 20th Century 
by James Hinton.
Oxford, 207 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 19 878713 6
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... upheavals going on around them. By contrast, the women were ‘fully paid-up members of what Christopher Lasch described as “the therapeutic society”’, constructing their ‘selves’ through conscious effort and reflection. I am not so sure. Caroline, clinging to a loveless marriage while deploring the moral laxity of her times, hardly seems ...

All he does is write his novel

Christian Lorentzen: Updike, 5 June 2014

Updike 
by Adam Begley.
Harper, 558 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 0 06 189645 3
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... His arrival at Harvard brought on homesickness and haemorrhoids. He roomed for three years with Christopher Lasch, later the social historian who wrote The Culture of Narcissism (of which Updike was arguably an exemplar; certainly many of his characters were, particularly Harry Angstrom). Begley quotes ...

The Sound of Cracking

Pankaj Mishra: ‘The Age of the Crisis of Man’, 27 August 2015

The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-73 
by Mark Greif.
Princeton, 434 pp., £19.95, January 2015, 978 0 691 14639 3
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Moral Agents: Eight 20th-Century American Writers 
by Edward Mendelson.
New York Review, 216 pp., £12.99, May 2015, 978 1 59017 776 1
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... discusses some of these (Niebuhr, Baldwin, Chomsky) while puzzlingly omitting, among others, Christopher Lasch, who offered sustained critiques of the peculiarly American reconfigurations of the idea of universal man. Those capable of really examining the power elites and the culture of narcissism – and the oracles warning against the fire next ...

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