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The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics Paperback – March 8, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (March 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393307956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393307955
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The thrust of Lasch's polemic is that progressives mistakenly cling to a faith in progress, i.e., the belief that a steady, indefinite rise in living standards is possible. The world's diminishing resources and America's shrinking middle class effectively doom the idea of such progress, he suggests. Lasch identifies a constellation of thinkers--Carlyle, Emerson, William James, Reinhold Neibuhr, syndicalist Georges Sorel, American populists--who were skeptical of material progress and its presumed benefits. He links their views to the "petty-bourgeois sensibility" of the lower-middle class, said to be rooted in family, neighborhood, respect for workmanship, loyalty, thrift, self-denial and a recognition of human limits. As self-appointed champion of lower-middle-class values, Lasch is less cogent than in his jeremiad, The Culture of Narcissism. He uses liberals as a whipping-post to advance his debatable thesis, accusing them of unrealistic optimism and a shallow secularism.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Lasch ( The Culture of Narcissism , LJ 11/15/78) condemns those on both the right and left who continue to believe in progress, i.e., the idea that the American economy can continue to grow indefinitely and lead the way to "the true and only heaven" (Hawthorne's phrase) of increasing wealth and ever-higher standards of living. Instead, he argues, we must recognize the environmental limits to economic growth and begin lowering our expectations. (He believes the middle class is already on the verge of extinction.) Lasch analyzes the thought of those who have dissented from the idea of progress and warned of human limitations--Emerson, William James, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King--and concludes that the solution is a conservative morality that accepts limits but "asserts the goodness of life in the face of limits." Recommended for academic and large public library collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/90.
- Jeffrey R. Herold , Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Hans P. Bosse on April 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
It is difficult to find fault with the main thesis of True and Only Heaven: that "progress" is nothing more or less than an illusion and that in the end, as the poet wrote,"the paths of glory lead but to the grave". Mr.Lasch arrives at this conclusion via a ciruitous route of some five hundred pages of spectacular erudition while at the same time never lapsing into scholarly jargon that might cause the general reader to become hopelessly befuddled. Although the title suggests an author who was either conservative or neo-conservative,in truth it's difficult to say what ideology he embraced--if any--since he is critical of both the Left AND the Right. Clearly, Lasch, who died several years ago, had become thoroughly disenchanted with a society that had fallen into a pit of mindless consumerism and materialism. As critical as he is of Reagan's America, one can only guess what he would have thought of the America of Bill Clinton.
This book is a must read for anyone who believes that our country is slowly becoming unhinged.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
I frequently argue that the breadth of Lasch's moral vision requires a thorough reading of his ouevre, not just an individual title. That said, TRUE AND ONLY HEAVEN comes the closest to encapsulating what Lasch, as one of the last best public intellectuals, had to say. Part of HEAVEN's success in this regard is its simple length, which allows for a more comprehensive statement. More important, though, is that here finally Lasch is explicitly taking as subject what was his central obsession all along: the locomotive degradation of allegiance to the Jeffersonian ideal in a heedless process called "progress." Those accustomed to the spirited polemic of his more famous work may find themselves slowed by the more overtly scholarly nature of this one, but the payoff is big in terms of a foundation in the animating ideas of the lifework of the best cultural critic of his era. Lasch is never simple. He is always subtle, and always stoic: he makes Hawthorne and Nietszche look like playground amatuers. More importantly, his perspective is radical enough (meaning, truly alternative--almost anarchic)and his arguments innovative enough that one may finish his book and only think one has read it. A close, careful read, however, will yield a take on the malaise critical to any sort of "progress" in the discourse about the future of democracy in America.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Reed on March 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
To balance the fashionably leftist tilt of academia, one needs to read things written with a rightist slant. A history professor at the University of Rochester, Christopher Lasch, once himself a Marxist-oriented, progressive, socialist intellectual, testifies to both his personal convictions and his historical judgments in The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, c. 1991).
His own confidence in the reigning liberalism of the intelligentsia slipped in the 1970s, when his family studies "led me to question the left's program of sexual liberation, careers for women, and professional child care" (p. 25). Surveying the scene, all forms of "authority, including parental authority, seemed in serious decline" (p. 31), a process which inevitably undermine "the capacity for independent judgment, initiative, and self-discipline, on which democracy had always been understood to depend" (p. 31). Lasch now sees things, not as a young radical, but as a responsible adult--and, more importantly, as a parent.
"To see the modern world from the point of view of a parent is to see it in the worst possible light. This perspective unmistakably reveals the unwholesomeness . . .
Read more ›
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
If this book had concerned itself with the idea of progress, the history and future of progress, that would have been quite sufficient. But no, he must historize everything, including the whole last thid of the book (really weak) where we review and empathize with just about every social cause and group on the planet.
Progress is interesting; those who criticize it use the very thing they decry to make their point. In one sense, progress does mean human enrichment. Now, to many folks this means more things. To Lasch, it should mean a better life, better citizens, more responsibility. I guess one could say it was the classic argument: Quantity vs Quality.
It goes without saying that progress brings material wealth - it always has and always will. Most of us take it for granted and even those who protested the "excesses of capitalism" at the WTO in Rome arrived by jet! Lasch laments the loss of authority in our society and this is directly related to loss of civic participation. Only one generation previous, men and women considered such things as Masons, Rotary, Optimist, and Knights of Columbus important features in society. But the silence from civic groups is deafening.
Lasch is particularly concerned about a new type of rampant individualism that has swept the nation (and the West). It is of the kind that does what it wants to do regardless of how others are affected, it does not partake in communal discussion nor social gatherings, it is a god unto itself. Societal goals are sublimated to the pursuit of pure pleasure. This condition is fatal for a society that prides itself on civic involvement and a long-standing ecumencalism in religion and politics. In the end he asks the question. "What is it all for?" That is something each of us must answer.
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