172 of 182 people found the following review helpful
A well-written, literate, persuasive cultural analysis...,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (Paperback)
I found this book very throught-provoking, in the boldness and bleakness of its basic thesis (that narcissism is really about fear [and is not simply about vanity]; and that America is a culture that suffers from [and promotes] fear [of nothingness, of "no exit"]). Due to this narcissistic fear, Lasch believes that Americans lack a purpose, an "end-point," and that this anomie, coupled with gross cultural overloads (the failure of the family, the intrusion of the state into the family, the substitution of state paternalism for individual self-initiative, the erosion of authority, the "therapeutic culture," and so forth) gives rise to "the spectacle" designed to distract America from the fear of being nothing and its inner rage (whew! that was a sentence!).
It takes some effort to grasp Lasch's thesis, and I found some of the commentary dated (as one might expect from a book published in 1979), but the writing is very polished and thoughtfully provocative.
All of the "problems" I encountered with the book were those of trying to understand, think through, "test" and consider Lasch's ideas--which, to me, are all marks a good book. I can find fault with specifics in Lasch's ideas, but overall, this was a persuasive, interesting, and compelling union of cultural and individual analysis, centered on the psychoanalytic concept of narcissism and America's unique history. Specific topics included: (a) "making it" in America; (b) pseudo self-awareness and the spectacle of politics and celebrity; (c) the degradation of sport; (d) the commoditization of education and its focus on "life adjustment;" (e) socialization of reproduction and the collapse of authority; (f) the flight from ("true") feeling embodied in a culture of promiscuity and sexual warfare (perhaps his least balanced chapter); (g) the "planned obsolescence" of older persons; and (h) the link between our bureaucratic culture and narcissistic dependence on it.
The overall tone of the book reminded me of Joan Didion's novels and Yates' poem Slouching Toward Bethlehem--fear and anxiety about nothing within, nothing without, simply our neediness. Lasch's book also reminded me of another psychoanalytically informed cultural critique from the 1950s, Norman Brown's Love's Body.
Tracked by 1 customer
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 23, 2008 12:20:00 PM PDT
Yeats poem is called "The Second Coming" not "Slouching Towards Bethlehem."
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2008 8:09:00 AM PDT
Actually, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is frequently cited parenthetically.
Posted on Nov 18, 2009 3:23:52 PM PST
Alan A. Palmer says:
Curiously enough a line taken from Yeats poem Second Coming, "..... slouching toward Bethlehem.' became the title of a book of essays by Joan Didion. about whom i've not made up my mind.
Posted on Jul 1, 2012 5:34:27 PM PDT
Joseph Leblanc says:
Makes me think of David Foster Wallace, r.i.p.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›