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« "The Sicilian" | Main | Hey Gang! ... Let's Invent a Society! »

July 15, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Rod Dreher points out a couple of good pieces by the late Christopher ("Culture of Narcissism") Lasch. Here Lasch explains what's wrong with the left. Here he dumps on the right. Eviscerate 'em both -- now that's political commentating I can get behind. Great passage:

The left, which until recently has regarded itself as the voice of the "forgotten man," has lost the common touch. Failing to create a popular consensus in favor of its policies, the left has relied on the courts, the federal bureaucracy, and the media to achieve its goals of racial integration, affirmative action, and economic equality. Ever since World War II, it has used essentially undemocratic means to achieve democratic ends, and it has paid the price for this evasive strategy in the loss of public confidence and support. Increasingly isolated from popular opinion, liberals and social democrats attempt to explain away opposition to economic equality as "working class authoritarianism," status anxiety, resentment, "white racism," male chauvinism, and proto-fascism.

The left sees nothing but bigotry and superstition in the popular defense of the family or in popular attitudes regarding abortion, crime, busing, and the school curriculum. The left no longer stands for common sense, as it did in the days of Tom Paine. It has come to regard common sense -- the traditional wisdom and folkways of the community -- as an obstacle to progress and enlightenment. Because it equates tradition with prejudice, it finds itself increasingly unable to converse with ordinary people in their common language. Increasingly it speaks its own jargon, the therapeutic jargon of social science and the service professions that seems to serve mostly to deny what everybody knows.

My own favorite Lasch book is this one.



posted by Michael at July 15, 2006



Posted by: shawn on July 15, 2006 9:16 PM

Lasch seems to be pretty much right on -- I agree with a lot of what he says, although being ostensibly a rightist I take issue with some of it as well.

In particular what I agree with him on is how capitalism is at odds with a lot of the 'family values' or, rather, positive cultural values that conservatism ought to promote. The Right in America isn't really "Conservative" of course -- It's liberalism.

Lasch's criticism of the "Western" mentality he sees in the American right falls flat to me. When hasn't there been a time when a political movement looked back at heroes of the past? Modern conservatism looks to the West as the ideal of its liberalism, and the mythos of the West is a source for positive role models just as King Arthur may be in England.

I suppose this reveals a significant fracture in the Conservative movement -- The Religious / Social Values folk, and the Libertarian / Capitalist folk. And while these groups oppose each other on significant issues, there's not really an overall lot of enmity between the groups (compared to Left vs. Right).

Posted by: Rendition on July 16, 2006 12:13 AM

To the Western ideal, which Rendition references, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" seems especially apropos.

I have great sympathy for Lasch's position here. However, I'm quite put off by what seems like a slapdash attitude toward sociological data. In his comments on the nature of family, he is, I think, quite unreasonable on two points. First, with his seemingly valid point that single-parent situations, remarriages and the like are more accurately viewed as "ruins of families" rather than alternative arrangements, he continues (in the face of a direct challenge) to evade the patently obvious fact that for many if not most gay couples wishing to raise children, there has been no other social structure to ruin. (It seems like he might want to make an argument about subjugating sexual satisfaction to familial responsibility, but to convince me, that would require an argument that heterosexuals ought to make pleasure-sacrifices in choosing a mate comparable to a gay person living straight. I don't think that would pass the laugh test, but somebody feel free to give it a try.) My second problem is his sweeping statement about every culture known to anthropologists having a core definition of family as a mated pair raising their offspring. Well, right, I don't think seperated parents and stepchildren and such are even going to be prototypical, if only for obvious statistical reasons. But how about tribal societies where women bear collectively the burdens of raising the group's children? How about aristocratic arrangements where children are generally raised by servants or sent off to be raised by professionals? Not typical, for sure, but these are norms that work in certain environments.

Posted by: J. Goard on July 16, 2006 3:48 PM

Great quote. He nails it exactly. A Democratic party with the Demos? Come on.

Posted by: Luke Lea on July 16, 2006 11:59 PM

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