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(From Modern Age, Fall 2005)
In this biographical sketch, Jeremy Beer describes the intellectual trajectory of cultural historian, Christopher Lasch, whose career spanned from the 1960s through the early 1990s. Beer recounts how, despite growing up in a “militantly secular” home and, throughout his career, sympathetically grappling with the works of Marx and Freud, Christopher Lasch distanced himself from the leftist “radical intellectuals,” whose version of progressivism did not coincide with Lasch’s understanding of a healthy democracy. In his scholarship and criticism, Lasch was concerned about democracy, both as an achievable ideal and as an imperfect reality. He rejected the Left-Right dualism of American politics, arguing that the ostensibly opposing ideologies were merely two sides of the same coin that amounted to the refusal to acknowledge human limitations. Lasch’s diagnosis of the modern, “anxiously narcissistic” self involved a sharp critique of the culture that produced it, namely, a culture that condoned the conquest of nature through scientific, technological, and economic methods without any regard for naturally or institutionally based limits on human freedom. 55 minutes.