Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminism

Overview

"Vintage Lasch.... One of the refreshments of reading him is that he states his beliefs outright."—Andrew Delbanco, New York Times Book Review
Christopher Lasch has examined the role of women and the family in Western society throughout his career as a writer, thinker, and historian. In Women and the Common Life, Lasch suggests controversial linkages between the history of women and the course of European and American history more generally. He sees fundamental changes in intimacy, domestic ideals, and sexual ...

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Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminism

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Overview

"Vintage Lasch.... One of the refreshments of reading him is that he states his beliefs outright."—Andrew Delbanco, New York Times Book Review
Christopher Lasch has examined the role of women and the family in Western society throughout his career as a writer, thinker, and historian. In Women and the Common Life, Lasch suggests controversial linkages between the history of women and the course of European and American history more generally. He sees fundamental changes in intimacy, domestic ideals, and sexual politics taking place as a result of industrialization and the triumph of the market. Questioning a static image of patriarchy, Women and the Common Life insists on a feminist vision rooted in the best possibilities of a democratic common life. In her introduction to the work, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn offers an original interpretation of the interconnections between these provocative writings.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this collection of essays edited by his daughter, historian and educator Lasch, who died in 1994 and is best known for his best-selling The Culture of Narcissism (LJ 11/15/78), discusses women, feminism, and marriage. The volume contains previously published essays with one exception: "Bourgeois Domesticity, the Revolt Against Patriarchy, and the Attack on Fashion," which analyzes the ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, and the domestic ideal of the 18th and 19th centuries. The other pieces here review and sometimes deconstruct the works of others in the field of gender studies, such as Carol Gilligan and Betty Friedan. One recurring theme is the observation that the "traditional" family, which most feminists critique, is a fairly recent phenomenon. Lasch's unique insights into women and their roles in history make this a good purchase for academic libraries.-Janet Clapp, Kingston P.L., Mass.
Kirkus Reviews
That this collection of nine essays (all but one previously published) was assembled as Lasch faced death is a tribute to his fortitude and his enduring commitment to intellectual dialogue. His daughter, Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, has scrupulously edited the volume and introduced it.

The pieces are concerned with issues and aspects of women's gender identity as revealed in a variety of social and literary artifacts. From his interpretation of the conventions of French comic and courtly love (the querelle des femmes, the Roman de la Rose), through his reading of The Feminine Mystique as a response "not to the age-old oppression of women, but to the suburbanization of the American soul," the scope of Lasch's critical apparatus is stunning—the fluency and generosity of his scholarship and the muscularity, plasticity, and originality of his thinking; his passionate belief in purposeful, ego-suspending activity as the vocation of every responsible citizen of the collective. A review of Carol Gilligan's research among boarding- school girls gives Lasch a platform for indicting the curricular "dogma of immediacy" that effectively alienates today's adolescents from wider, more demanding beliefs, exposing them only to visions deriving from their own subjective reality (e.g., Catcher in the Rye). Lasch is perhaps most troubled about the "rationalization of everyday life" by the institutionalized social disciplines (psychology, pedagogy, home economics) that began to replace familial and communal authority around the turn of the century. The new controls, by creating new forms of dependence, served to isolate individuals, discouraging political participation and a sense of community and shrinking "our imaginative and emotional horizons" while draining "the joy out of work and play, wrapping everything in a smothering self-consciousness."

Yet another wide-ranging, erudite challenge (after The Revolt of the Elites, 1995, etc.) to conventional academic wisdom by a masterly cultural historian.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393316971
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/1997
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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.

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn is the author of Black Neighbors (winner of the Berkshire Prize), professor of history at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and a frequent contributor to The New Republic.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Comedy of Love and the Querelle des Femmes: Aristocratic Satire on Marriage 3
2 The Mysteries of Attraction 32
3 The Suppression of Clandestine Marriage in England: The Marriage Act of 1753 39
4 Bourgeois Domesticity, the Revolt against Patriarchy, and the Attack on Fashion 67
5 The Sexual Division of Labor, the Decline of Civic Culture, and the Rise of the Suburbs 93
6 Gilligan's Island 121
7 The Mismeasure of Man 137
8 Misreading the Facts about Families 153
9 Life in the Therapeutic State 161
Index 187
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