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Nihilism, Futurist Traditionalism and Conservationism

Narcissism and decline

21 08 10 - 12:47

From the mailbag:

Lasch, after all, found consilience in a secular school of modern decline-minded thinkers that included charter alumni Oswald Spengler and Henry Adams. The former condemned the “civilizational” phase of history enjoined by the 19th-century West, an era characterized by the ascent of money and industry at the expense of an affirming artistic and architectural anima.


In the 1970s his work began to attract the interest of cultural conservatives. In a parcel of provocative essays and several books, he extended his cutting analysis of the progressive personality type to the liberal welfare state. In the case of each, he insisted, the apparatus of the helping professions –- marriage counselors, child-welfare agencies, social workers, life coaches, psychotherapists –- chipped away at the autonomy of families and local communities in the quest to eradicate Victorian restraints on educated cosmopolitans. Extended meditations on the presumptively negative impact of dual-income parentage typically followed.


Throughout the ’80s, Lasch worked on an immense reclamation project — an original fusion of cultural conservatism and anti-capitalism. Hitherto he had sampled a host of imported ideas including Marxism, psychoanalysis, and Frankfurt School critical theory. Now he sought to accentuate American sources skeptical of the American Exceptionalism project. The result, The True and Only Heaven), attacked the idea of progress as a false god worshiped by a fallen people. Filled with an eclectic range of thinkers, theologians, and philosophers –- from Jonathan Edwards to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Martin Luther King Jr. –- Lasch’s work offered a tradition of austere republicanism and civic-mindedness as alternative to the nation’s psychically crippling mania for big, better, best. - AmCon

If you haven't read his brilliant The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations , now may be the time to do so. In it, he argues that a society of external control mechanisms has produced a self-worshipping, status-oriented populace who are completely oblivious to reality.