Lasch On The American Character

“In an age of diminishing expectations, the Protestant virtues no longer excite enthusiasm. Inflation erodes investments and savings. Advertising undermines the horror of indebtedness, exhorting the consumer to buy now and pay later. As the future becomes menacing and uncertain, only fools put off until tomorrow the fun they can have today….In earlier times, the self-made man took pride in his judgment of character and probity; today he anxiously scans the faces of his fellows not so as to evaluate their credit but in order to gauge their susceptibility to his own blandishments. He practices the classic arts of seduction, and with the same indifference to moral niceties, hoping to win your heart while picking your pocket. The happy hooker stands in place of Horatio Alger as the prototype of personal success. If Robinson Crusoe embodied the ideal type of economic man, the hero of bourgeois society in its ascendancy, the spirit of Molly Flanders presides over its dotage.”

Christopher Lasch
The Culture Of Narcissism — pg. 52

Lasch insists that American character has shifted so as to be something that earlier Americans would have found detestable.

What Lasch saw in the culture is present in spades in the Church. The Church growth model suggests to me that Pastors are more inclined to look at people not in order to assess their character but rather to see how susceptible people are to having their pockets picked by their willingness to financially support the church.

Lasch later picks up the implication of this phenomenon,

“The latest success manuals differ from earlier ones — even surpassing the cynicism of Dale Carnegie and Peale — in their frank acceptance of the need to exploit and intimidate others, in their lack of interest in the substance of success, and in the candor with which they insist that appearances — ‘winning images’ — count for more than performance, ascription for more than achievement….Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”

Part of the lack of American character is found in the seemingly universal pursuit of style over substance and appearance over accomplishment. Part of the problem here, as this reality has gained steam, is that people no longer have the ability to press past style and appearance in order ascertain if there exists any genuine substance and accomplishment. My experience suggests that the majority of the time there is no there “there” when one encounters those who excel at style and appearance.

Part of the evidence of all of this is found in how little Americans read. Part of the evidence of all of this is found in how easily Americans can be manipulated by both the Major Media and by Talk Radio. A people who had substance couldn’t be fooled by the ridiculous things that are said in both these formats. (Though it does remind one of the descriptions of the Gladiators in the Roman Coliseums fighting one another to the death.)

All of this, of course, is a harbinger of approaching cultural doom. There is no way that a culture can survive long when its character is all wind, and threatening clouds but no rain. Unreality can not survive long as reality.

In conclusion, I have found the result of what Lasch describes is a population that has no soul. It is as if people don’t even realize that they are alive but instead are just going through the stylistic motions of life.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *