Lasch, Christopher

(1932-94)
An American social historian, whose early work was concerned with the history of the American Left, where his political sympathies lay. He subsequently turned to psychoanalysis and formulated a trenchant critique of modern American society based on the theory of narcissism (see Haven in a Heartless World, 1977, The Culture of Narcissism, 1980, and The Minimal Self, 1984).
In his later years Lasch launched a defence of American populism and communitarianism . For example, in the posthumously published The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1995) he attacks America's governing and wealthy élites, who have insulated themselves from the wider society, and feel no responsibility for the welfare of either the poor or the middle classes. The members of this ‘new aristocracy of brains’ or ‘knowledge class’ inhabit an ‘artificial world’ of restaurants, health clubs, and aeroplanes. They are ‘at home only in transit, en route to a high-level conference, to a grand opening of a new franchise, to an international film festival, or to an undiscovered resort’. They favour a fashionable social-issue liberalism' ‘obsessed with the rights of women and minorities, with gay rights and unlimited abortion rights, with the allegedly epidemic spread of child abuse and sexual harassment, with the need for regulations against offensive speech, and with curricular reforms designed to end the cultural hegemony of “dead white European males”’. As a result, according to Lasch, cities decay, minorities are marginalized, politics are trivialized, crime increases, and society moves towards anarchy. Lasch traces this breakdown (in a somewhat uneasy admixture of ideas) to both the ideology of economic liberalism (which, in his view, justifies unfettered self-interest and the abandonment of civic virtue) and the left-wing culture of educational institutions (schools and especially universities) which have given up teaching facts in favour of fashionable theories expressed in (as he sees it) politically correct and incomprehensible jargon. Relatedly (and no less controversially), Lasch also penned one of the most provocative critiques of modern feminism, which he saw as contributing to various damaging aspects of late capitalism (Women and the Common Life, 1996).
Critics have argued that Lasch himself sometimes pays scant regard to facts and tends to use evidence loosely; for example, liberals have long recognized that the market needs regulation, and that the poor need some protection by the state. Lasch is also unclear about precisely who are the members of the offending élite-although his depiction of modern America carries strong echoes of Milovan Djilas's critique of communism (The New Class, 1957-see real socialism ) and Michael Young's satire on meritocracy (The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1958). Like many modern communitarians, Lasch was also vague about concrete suggestions for improvement, although as a populist he identified himself with the lower middle class of ‘small proprietors, artisans, tradesmen and farmers’, whose culture he saw as valuing the community (rather than personal ambition) as the highest good, and whom he admired for its ‘moral realism, its understanding that everything has its price, its respect for limits, its scepticism about progress’ (see, for example, The True and Only Heaven, 1991).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • Lasch, Christopher — ▪ 1995       U.S. social critic and academic (b. June 1, 1932, Omaha, Neb. d. Feb. 14, 1994, Pittsford, N.Y.), penned stinging indictments of contemporary American culture as the author of several books, most notably the 1979 best seller The… …   Universalium

  • Christopher Lasch — discusses The True and Only Heaven during a 1991 interview on Richard Heffner s The Open Mind. Born 1 June 1932(1932 06 01) Omaha, Nebraska …   Wikipedia

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  • Christopher Lasch — (* 1. Juni 1932 in Omaha, Nebraska; † 14. Februar 1994 in Pittsford, New York) war ein bekannter amerikanischer Historiker und Sozialkritiker. Er studierte in Harvard und Columbia und war ab 1970 Professor für Geschichte an der University of… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Lasch — is a surname, and may refer to:* Christopher Lasch (1932 1994), well known American historian, moralist, and social critic * Otto Lasch (1893 1971), German general …   Wikipedia

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  • La Culture du narcissisme — La Culture du Narcissisme : la vie américaine à un âge de déclin des espérances est un livre écrit par l historien américain Christopher Lasch (1932–1994). Sa première parution date de 1979. L ouvrage explore les racines et les ramifications …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Werbung — Gebäudefläche als Bildschirm für animierte Leuchtwerbung (Piccadilly Circus, London, 2006) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Liste der Biografien/Lao–Las — Biografien: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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