Christopher Lasch

American historian / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Robert Christopher Lasch (June 1, 1932 – February 14, 1994) was an American historian, moralist and social critic who was a history professor at the University of Rochester. He sought to use history to demonstrate what he saw as the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. Lasch strove to create a historically informed social criticism that could teach Americans how to deal with rampant consumerism, proletarianization, and what he famously labeled "the culture of narcissism".

Quick facts: Christopher Lasch, Born, Died, Spouse, Childr...
Christopher Lasch
Robert Christopher Lasch

(1932-06-01)June 1, 1932
DiedFebruary 14, 1994(1994-02-14) (aged 61)
Nell Commager
(m. 1956)
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisRevolution and Democracy[1] (1961)
Doctoral advisorWilliam Leuchtenburg[2][3]
Academic work
Doctoral students
Notable worksThe Culture of Narcissism (1979)

His books, including The New Radicalism in America (1965), Haven in a Heartless World (1977), The Culture of Narcissism (1979), The True and Only Heaven (1991), and The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (published posthumously in 1996) were widely discussed and reviewed. The Culture of Narcissism became a surprise best-seller and won the National Book Award in the category Current Interest (paperback).[6][lower-alpha 1]

Lasch was always a critic of modern liberalism and a historian of liberalism's discontents, but over time, his political perspective evolved dramatically. In the 1960s, he was a neo-Marxist and acerbic critic of Cold War liberalism. During the 1970s, he supported certain aspects of cultural conservatism with a left-leaning critique of capitalism, and drew on Freud-influenced critical theory to diagnose the ongoing deterioration that he perceived in American culture and politics. His writings are sometimes denounced by feminists[7] and hailed by conservatives[8] for his apparent defense of a traditional conception of family life.

He eventually concluded that an often unspoken, but pervasive, faith in "Progress" tended to make Americans resistant to many of his arguments. In his last major works he explored this theme in depth, suggesting that Americans had much to learn from the suppressed and misunderstood populist and artisan movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[9]