Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Culture of Narcissicm by Christopher Lasch

This is a little frustrating to review, because there are so many parts one wants to quote.
Far from preparing students to live "authentically," the higher learning in America leaves them unable to perform the simplest task--to prepare a meal or go to a party or get into bed with a member of the opposite sex--without elaborate academic instruction. The only thing it leaves to chance is higher learning. (from the chapter "Schooling and the New Illiteracy")

Or from "The Degradation of Sport"

The uselessness of games makes them offensive to social reformers, improvers of public morals, or functionalist critics of society like Veblen, who saw in the futility of upper class sports anachronistic survivals of militarism and prowess. Yet the "futility" of play, and nothing else, explains its appeal--its artificiality, the arbitrary obstacles it sets up for no other purpose than to challenge the players to surmount them, the absence of any utilitarian or uplifting object. ... What corrupts an athletic performance, as it does any other performance, is not professionalism or competition but a breakdown of the conventions surrounding the game.

You can guess the subject of "The Banality of Pseudo-Awareness: Theatrics of Politics and Everyday Existence." And he even notices that the apotheosis of sex resulted in not just physical but emotional barrenness. (I paraphrase)

His fallbacks are the corrupting power of capitalism and Freudian analytical framework; the latter I can't always make head or tail of. That's probably because I find Freud's infantile/oral/etc framework too giggle-worthy to study seriously. But non-capitalist reformers and theorists come in for their share of blame. And the trends he describes are just as entrenched, if not more so, than when he first wrote it.

Any prescriptions are implicit: "don't do it this way, de-bureaucratize and devolve authority back." There's no recipe. Which shows appropriate humility, since following recipes got us into some of the trouble.


Texan99 said...

I've never managed to read this, so I've just ordered a super-cheap paperback copy.

I'm still reading the Chas. Wms. novel about the Tarot cards, by the way, whose name I've forgotten. Somewhat heavy going, but I'm enjoying it.

Texan99 said...

PS, I guess that was you on Maggie's Farm posting about the anti-Big-Bang review by a string theorist, but there didn't seem to be a link.

james said...

I think you'll like it, given what I've read of your posts.