What Would Christopher Lasch Think?

lasch

If you are a fan of cultural critic and historian Christopher Lasch you may want to check out this interview at the University of Rochester website with a 2015 Rochester Ph.D named Jeff Ludwig.

According to the article, Ludwig is working on a two-volume biography of Lasch.  Sounds like a great project, but Ludwig is going to have to work hard to top Eric Miller’s award- winning Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch.

Here is a taste of Ludwig’s interview:

Q: Do you wonder what Lasch would think of the current state of politics?

Ludwig: I met with Mrs. Nell Lasch, his widow, a couple of years ago and she said that she is often asked, “what do you think your husband would say about the X, Y, and Z that’s going on right now?” She always gives a version of this answer: “Kit [Lasch’s nickname] isn’t here to tell us and it’s tricky and dangerous to try to make assumptions based on what he wrote 20 or more years ago and fit it into modern debates.”

Lasch gets cited a lot during election cycles because much of what he had to say is still relevant—especially given the debate about the place of the privileged and of elites in American life. But, I always thought it striking that Nell said to me, “he’s not with us,” cautioning us against trying to find his voice in events that are well beyond his time by force-fitting him into modern debates. Even in his lifetime, people of all political persuasions—from radicals to far-right conservatives—could read into something from Lasch’s corpus of works that appealed to them. He’s been claimed by the left, right, and center, though in the end I think Lasch was advocating for a total paradigm shift away from these labels and the social order they buttressed.

Q: Lasch was a social critic over a span of forty years. Did his interests shift overtime?

Ludwig: That’s the thing that is tricky about Lasch. He never stayed on one topic for very long. His historiography shows that he was as interested in writing about race as he was about popular culture, and entertainment as much as sports. He was a celebrated writer for the New York Review of Books because they could hand him a subject and he would form an articulate, and often scathing and well thought out opinion of it. But that’s also why it took me 800 pages to just do volume one of his biography for my dissertation.

Read the entire interview here.

2 thoughts on “What Would Christopher Lasch Think?

  1. Over the past few decades, as American liberalism was subsumed by modernity and leftism, there was no longer any possibility of a Laschean “third way” between the parties.

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/12/christopher-lasch-and-the-limits-of-hope

    For Lasch, the modern embrace of both no-fault divorce and abortion policies that justify unlimited infanticide stood as concrete and horrific evidence of the modern effort to subject all human and natural phenomena to control and planning. The modern abortion regime is but one reflection of “an unquestioning faith in the capacity of the rational intelligence to solve the mysteries of human existence, ultimately the secret of creation itself” and the desire to engage in “the conquest of necessity and the substitution of human choice for the blind workings of nature.”

    There are 3 pro-life candidates in the Democratic Party. Only three.

    http://www.democratsforlife.org/index.php/2016-candidates

    Abortion is not one issue among many. It is the only issue, simply writ large–the modernist conceit that nature–reality–is subject to the human will. It was certainly possible to be a Laschean liberal, but it is not possible to be a Laschean leftist-modernist.

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  2. The American Enlightenment, 1750-1820 by Robert A. Ferguson came out in the mid-1990s and was touted by some as the best interpretation of the American Enlightenment since that of Henry F. May

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