Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations is now about thirty-four years old, but this has not stopped bloggers, commentators, and pundits from turning to this book to diagnose the culture of the so-called millennial generation.
See, for example, Daniel Saunders’s recent piece at “The Common Vision” entitled “America the Narcissist.” Much of the post is a response to Joel Stein’s recent Time Magazine cover story on the millennials. Here is a taste:
It is a shame that Stein’s Time article only casually mentions Christopher Lasch’s seminal book The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations, which was published in 1979, just one year before Stein’s cutoff date for “Gen Y” status. Stein should have found in Lasch a more solid framework for his cultural commentary than in the pop psychology he cites; Lasch, a neo-Marxian leftist turned Freudian conservative, displays an intellectual rigor that makes his prescient criticism of America’s psychological decay just as compelling for a reader in 2013 as for a reader in 1979. Moreover, Lasch escapes the cyclical generational feud perpetuated today by pointing the finger not at “the novelties of youth” but at the stagnation of the West’s dual heritage of individualism and capitalism, the seed of which was planted way back in the late Middle Ages and which came to fruition after the Industrial Revolution.
Is narcissism an inevitable result of modern life? I think Lasch would answer in the affirmative. And now for a more theological question: Does narcissism best describe the human condition at rest?
For some thoughts on the study of history as an antidote to narcissism check out this book.