Christopher Lasch on the Humanities

2c7ec-laschnarcissismThings have not changed much in since Lasch wrote his 1979 best-seller The Culture of Narcissism

In the humanities, demoralization has reached the point of a general admission that humanistic study has nothing to contribute to an understanding of the modern world. Philosophers no longer explain the nature of things or pretend to tell us how to live. Students of literature treat the text not as a representation of the real world but as a reflection of the artist’s inner state of mind.  Historians admit to a ‘sense of the irrelevance of history,’ in David Donald’s words, ‘and of the bleakness of the new era we are entering.’  Because liberal culture has always depended so heavily on the study of history, the collapse of that culture finds an especially poignant illustration in the collapse of the historical faith, which formerly surrounded the record of public events with an aura of moral dignity, patriotism, and political optimism.  Historians in the past assumed that men learned from their previous mistakes.  Now that the future appears troubled and uncertain, the past appears ‘irrelevant’ even to those who devote their lives to investigating it.

Lasch, Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, 19.