on 14 June 2014
This was Christopher Lasch's final book before his untimely death, and it's depressing to see that the patterns he identified two decades ago are still with us, and indeed are stronger than ever. Today's elites, unfazed by the total collapse of their economic ideology and the near-death of the banking system, are even stronger and less self-aware than they were when he wrote.
But that's not all. The Left, or what remains of it, has swallowed the same rat poison and joined the elites, abandoning ordinary people for elitist ideas and the gobbledegook of "isms" which have proliferated like weeds. Ordinary people simply don't count any more.
Not all of Lach's criticisms are fair: like a lot of Anglo-Saxons he doesn't really understand post-modernism, and looking back now, it's clear that it never had any real influence outside University literature departments.
That said, a book which is even more important today than it was when it was written, given that the elites have, pretty much, now won.
on 11 June 1998
Mr. Lasch is right on the money with this examination of contemporary antidemocratic elitism. His biting analysis transcends more simplistic notions of class warfare and shows how socio-religious values, as much as economics, are what really seperate the masses from their "betters." Anyone who hopes that genuine populism can experience a renaissance in America, take heart; this highly readable volume shows you're not alone.
on 26 December 1998
A favorite professor of mine used to say that Europeans claimed to read authors, whereas Americans only read books--an interesting maxim to keep in mind regarding Christopher Lasch and his books. Lasch's special gift--and the special outgrowth of his considerable dedication--is that he progressively forged a vision of wide scope. What this means is that the perspective he confered on his discussions of whatever topics he had in hand at the moment, derived from a full, almost socio-ecological world view. When he talked about the post-industrial, his speech was backgrounded by a concern with the family, just as when he talked about capitalism, he spoke with the same voice he would use in regard to democracy, or religion, or any of his other various obsessions. Lasch always wrote Lasch, and he knew himself very well. The implications of his breadth and integrity for his readers are double-edged. Anyone standing in the same tradition, and/or anyone dedicated to absorbing any sizeable portion of his ouevre, will find a purview and comprehensive moral vision infrequently rivaled. The flip-side, of course, is that in each of his individual books, one gets only a piece of Lasch which nonetheless hints at the rest. Hinting, however, usually invites more criticism than does outright statement, especially from the lazy or desperate, who will seek to nip at the tail of a dog they know would eat them alive face-to-face. Critics who casually and unimaginatively accuse Lasch of "pessimism" comically fall into the trap he set for them when he revealed the shallowness of categories like "optimism" and "pessimism," insisting instead on the more substantive concept of hope underpinned by a sometimes tragic courage. His tough hopefulness throws into relief the sort if despair or simple lack of invention evidenced by "optimism," which usually merely glosses dearth of circumspection. Lasch's hopefulness, to be sure, was subtle, and difficult to unearth from the polemic, but his sort of insistence provided for a sense of hope crystalline and pure and hard and eternal--a diamond. REVOLT OF THE ELITES presents a bit (really, a bit) more straightforward picture of his redemptive vision. It suffers, however, from a relative lack of coherence (in comparison with earlier work), which may have owed to the circumstances of its composition. What REVOLT does not do is yield to a simplistic read, nor does it, any more than any other, offer a skeleton key to Christopher Lasch. As great as his books sometimes were, none of them was able to corral the enormity of his vision, and REVOLT is no exception. Treat yourself, and treat the American community to a you informed by what Lasch had to say: read everything you can get your hands on. It will become abundantly clear (as it seemed to be clear enough in REVOLT) that the notion that Lasch ever had any target in mind other than the obscenely overprivileged is buffoonish. To say he forgot them simply bewilders. Moreover, one will discover that his toughness and tenacity served to not only excoriate a corrupt civilization, but to hammer from the fragments a stoic and resilient hope and moral mission far more resistant to the dread he's been accused of than the blithe "optimism" of his critics will ever be.