Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminismby Christopher Lasch
"Vintage Lasch.... One of the refreshments of reading him is that he states his beliefs outright."—Andrew Delbanco, New York Times Book ReviewChristopher 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/em>/p>/em>… See more details below
"Vintage Lasch.... One of the refreshments of reading him is that he states his beliefs outright."—Andrew Delbanco, New York Times Book ReviewChristopher 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.
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 stunningthe 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.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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