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Book Title: The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics|
The author of the book: Christopher Lasch
Edition: W. W. Norton & Company
Date of issue: September 17th 1991
ISBN: No data
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Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.14 MB
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"A major and challenging work. . . . Provocative, and certain to be controversial. . . . Will add important new dimension to the continuing debate on the decline of liberalism." —William Julius Wilson, New York Times Book Review
Can we continue to believe in progress? In this sobering analysis of the Western human condition, Christopher Lasch seeks the answer in a history of the struggle between two ideas: one is the idea of progress - an idea driven by the conviction that human desire is insatiable and requires ever larger production forces. Opposing this materialist view is the idea that condemns a boundless appetite for more and better goods and distrusts "improvements" that only feed desire. Tracing the opposition to the idea of progress from Rousseau through Montesquieu to Carlyle, Max Weber and G.D.H. Cole, Lasch finds much that is desirable in a turn toward moral conservatism, toward a lower-middle-class culture that features egalitarianism, workmanship and loyalty, and recognizes the danger of resentment of the material goods of others.
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Read information about the authorChristopher "Kit" 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.
Lasch sought to use history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. He 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.'
His books, including The New Radicalism in America (1965), Haven in a Heartless World (1977), The Culture of Narcissism (1979), and 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).
Lasch was always a critic of 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 began to become a far more iconoclastic figure, fusing cultural conservatism with a Marxian critique of capitalism, and drawing on Freud-influenced critical theory to diagnose the ongoing deterioration that he perceived in American culture and politics. His writings during this period are considered contradictory. They are sometimes denounced by feminists and hailed by conservatives for his apparent defense of the traditional family. But as he explained in one of his books The Minimal Self, "it goes without saying that sexual equality in itself remains an eminently desirable objective...". Moreover, in Women and the Common Life, Lasch clarified that urging women to abandon the household and forcing them into a position of economic dependence, in the workplace, pointing out the importance of professional careers does not entail liberation, as long as these careers are governed by the requirements of corporate economy.
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.
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