The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations

3.8 6
by Christopher Lasch
     
 

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When The Culture of Narcissism was first published, it was clear that Christopher Lasch had identified something important: what was happening to American society in the wake of the decline of the family over the last century.

The book quickly became a bestseller. This edition includes a new afterword, "The Culture of Narcissism Revisited."

Overview

When The Culture of Narcissism was first published, it was clear that Christopher Lasch had identified something important: what was happening to American society in the wake of the decline of the family over the last century.

The book quickly became a bestseller. This edition includes a new afterword, "The Culture of Narcissism Revisited."

Editorial Reviews

Frank Kermode
Ranging with much virtuosity over the whole of modern life, he finds evidence only of change and decay. . . .Professor Lasch. . .provide[s] us with a black survey of the way we live now, and leave[s] us to use all our resources of theory and skepticism to make the best we can of it. —The New York Times Books of the Century
Time
“Formidable intellectual grasp and the kind of moral conviction rarely found in contemporary, value-neutral history and sociology. . . . Lasch is on to something quite real.”
Michael Rogin
“Christopher Lasch has gone to the heart of our culture. The insights into personality and its social context are stunning. This is a courageous, important book.”
Bruce Mazlish
“Cultural history at its best. . . . Provokes, startles, and keeps the reader arguing with himself as well as with the writer. . . . A book of fundamental importance.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393348354
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/05/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
294,919
File size:
653 KB

Meet the Author

Christopher Lasch (1932–1994) was also the author of The True and Only Heaven, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, and other books.

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The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The trick to writing social criticism is to focus on patterns that run deeper than the exterior of a society, so that its tenets cannot be tossed aside after a few years of discussion. Find the core composition, not the trends. Christopher Lasch was able to do this with 'The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations.' He struck a cultural nerve at enough depth that the book is commonly referenced some twenty five years later. Originally written in 1978, and clearly in response to the tumultuous 1960s and its aftermath, the book explores the clinical definition of narcissism and applies it to the world around him. At times his tone is pessimistic at others, ironic. He often references directly the era in which it was written. But overall, his observations of various aspects of American culture - parenting, obsession with celebrity, consumerism, ageism, moral permissiveness - enable him to make direct connections to the symptoms of the individual narcissist. Lasch¿ lasting success is demonstrated in how these observations resonate into the 21st Century. Certainly one can argue that applying such a broad interpretation of narcissism to the troubles of American culture makes for an easy diagnosis - just as anyone raising a child might become convinced they are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It also may be suggested that his secret to success is in the subject itself it positions him to speak directly to the narcissist in all of us (and the narcissist loves such acknowledgment, particularly from a bestselling author). Keep in mind that this is not a manifesto it is pop-sociology at its best. As such, it is an important work that is engaging, entertaining and comprehensive, if not a testimony to the idea that narcissism is the collective malady of our time. This book was instrumental as source material for the writing of my own novel.
PIGEONPIE More than 1 year ago
A FABULOUS BOOK THAT I HAVE READ MORE THAN ONCE.  IT IDENTIFIES WHERE AMERICAN"COMMON SENSE" REALLY COMES FROM.  HE DISCUSSES HOW ALL THESE POPULAR  SELF HELP BOOKS AND PROGRAMS HAVE IMPACTED AMERICANS ON A PERSONAL LEVEL.  EG, THE NEWS IS MANUFACTURED SO THAT IT IS BELIEVABLE , AND OVER TIME BECOMES ITS OWN REALITY.  EG.  HE TALKS ABOUT MEN BE NEUTERED IN THE WORKPLACE AND COMPENSATING BY BEING TYRANTS AT HOME.  EG.  HE TALKS ABOUT HOW PARENTS HAVE BEEN CONVINCED THAT ONLY STATE TRAINED TEACHERS AND PSYCHOLOGIST CAN RAISE THEIR CHILDREN.  IT IS A VERY POWERFUL BOOK.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The trick to writing social criticism is to focus on patterns that run deeper than the exterior of a society, so that its tenets cannot be tossed aside after a few years of discussion. Find the core composition, not the trends. Christopher Lasch was able to do this with 'The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations.' He struck a cultural nerve at enough depth that the book is commonly referenced some twenty five years later. Originally written in 1978, and clearly in response to the tumultuous 1960s and its aftermath, the book explores the clinical definition of narcissism and applies it to the world around him. At times his tone is pessimistic at others, ironic. He often references directly the era in which it was written. But overall, his observations of various aspects of American culture - parenting, obsession with celebrity, consumerism, ageism, moral permissiveness - enable him to make direct connections to the symptoms of the individual narcissist. Lasch¿ lasting success is demonstrated in how these observations resonate into the 21st Century. Certainly one can argue that applying such a broad interpretation of narcissism to the troubles of American culture makes for an easy diagnosis - just as anyone raising a child might become convinced they are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It also may be suggested that his secret to success is in the subject itself it positions him to speak directly to the narcissist in all of us (and the narcissist loves such acknowledgment, particularly from a bestselling author). Keep in mind that this is not a manifesto it is pop-sociology at its best. As such, it is an important work that is engaging, entertaining and comprehensive, if not a testimony to the idea that narcissism is the collective malady of our time. This book was very helpful in the researching of my own novel. (This review was excerpted from autobiography-of-a-narcissist.blogspot.com.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Culture of Narcissism - American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations' was published in the first year of the unhappy presidency of Jimmy Carter (1979). The latter endorsed the book publicly (in his famous 'national malaise' speech). The main thesis of the book is that the Americans have created a self-absorbed (though not self aware), greedy and frivolous society which depended on consumerism, demographic studies, opinion polls and Government to know and to define itself. What is the solution? Lasch proposed a 'return to basics': self-reliance, the family, nature, the community, and the Protestant work ethic. To those who adhere, he promised an elimination of their feelings of alienation and despair. There is no single Lasch. This chronicler of culture, did so mainly by chronicling his inner turmoil, conflicting ideas and ideologies, emotional upheavals, and intellectual vicissitudes. In this sense, of (courageous) self-documentation, Mr. Lasch epitomized Narcissism, was the quintessential Narcissist, the better positioned to criticize the phenomenon. Some 'scientific' disciplines (e.g., the history of culture and History in general) are closer to art than to the rigorous (a.k.a. 'exact' or 'natural' or 'physical' sciences). Lasch borrowed heavily from other, more established branches of knowledge without paying tribute to the original, strict meaning of concepts and terms. Such was the use that he made of 'Narcissism'. Lasch's greatest error was that he did not acknowledge that there is an abyss between narcissism and self love, being interested in oneself and being obsessively preoccupied with oneself. Lasch confuses the two. The price of progress is growing self-awareness and with it growing pains and the pains of growing up. It is not a loss of meaning and hope ¿ it is just that pain has a tendency to push everything to the background. Those are constructive pains, signs of adjustment and adaptation, of evolution. America has no inflated, megalomaniac, grandiose ego. It never built an overseas empire, it is made of dozens of ethnic immigrant groups, it strives to learn, to emulate. Americans do not lack empathy - they are the foremost nation of volunteers and also professes the biggest number of (tax deductible) donation makers. Americans are not exploitative - they are hard workers, fair players, Adam Smith-ian egoists. They believe in Live and Let Live. They are individualists and they believe that the individual is the source of all authority and the universal yardstick and benchmark. This is a positive philosophy. Granted, it led to inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth. But then other ideologies had much worse outcomes. Luckily, they were defeated by the human spirit, the best manifestation of which is still democratic capitalism. Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited'.