During the early 20th century, America was going through a change politically but socially as well. In the late 1800’s, conservatism was much more prevalent, but once Theodore Roosevelt took the reins, conservatives started to accept some more liberal policies. “In the first decades of the twentieth century, the liberal-conservative establishment officially embraced the growing trend toward a stronger, more active government” (Cummings 523) was the entrance to a new change towards American policy. “Abandoning the classical liberal preference for primacy of the free market and strictly limited government, the new corporate liberalism of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson embraced the Hamiltonian use of the central government as a necessity in the increasingly complex modern world”(Cummings 523) is basically saying that not only the conservative base was changing, but also the liberal base. There was a sense of confusion on how to separate conservatism vs liberalism during the time. In regards to the changes of the past forty years, a classical conservative could view them as a more liberal agenda even though Republican presidents have been in office. More socialistic types of programs have been implemented that has increased the role of government with the implementation of The New Deal and Lyndon B Johnson’s, The Great Society. As technology takes center hold of the American economy, more and more women are having a higher opportunity to pursue careers in comparison in the early part of the 1900’s. Do you think the changing gender role of women reaching higher positions, in regards to them having less of a role in the workforce earlier in the twentieth century, is having an effect of in how families will look in the future?
Monthly Archives: April 2015
In The Culture of Narcissism Christopher Lasch discusses the rights of individuals against their government bureaucracy and corporate society. I felt his words were speaking truths to today’s society. I kept hearing about the public’s unwillingness to be politically active and in doing so results in general political revolt (Cummings 658).
What caught my interests in the first sentence of Lasch writing was his statement, “Modern bureaucracy has undermined earlier traditions of local action, the revival and extension of which holds out the only hope that a decent society will emerge from the wreckage of capitalism (Cummings 658).” I thought a lot about my work in the Small Business Administration. For some reason I agree with most conservative people about big government. I swear if I wanted to publish a Federal Registrar notice to the public, it would take me 3-4 people to sign off on my draft before we could publish. Not only that, if you pissed one of the people off while you were getting your signatures expect a major delay. My last day in the administration was also the final day I turned in the Federal Registrar notice; it took me almost two months to process. I believe in government and the protection of government, but there are some areas we could improve/streamline to make bureaucracy more efficient.
I was moved by Lasch last paragraph in the beginning of The Culture of Narcissism. Lasch writes, “For all these reasons, the devaluation of the past has become one of the most important symptoms of the cultural crisis to which this book itself, often drawing on historical experience to explain what is wrong with our present arrangements. A denial of the past, superficially progressive and optimistic, proves on closer analysis to embody the despair of a society that cannot face the future (Cummings 660).” I feel this statement speaks a lot to the Republicans of our modern society today. They talk about the debt our nation has and the money we spend, yet they forget the WARS they created in the Middle East. Not to mention the new War on Terror that will most definitely never see an end in our lifetime. I feel a lot of the reasons why so many people never care to think about the past is because they are in denial. Much as the majority of Americans are in denial of the American holocaust inflicted on the tribal nations that still live in the United States.
Are we going to continue denying our responsibilities to own up to our mistakes of the past? Or are we going to continue modifying history and blaming people (President Obama) for the large debt we have incurred as a nation? Come on now Republicans, let’s own up on this one.
I found Lasch’s “The Culture of Narcissism” and his argument that US citizens narcissistic ways are the cause for strains on families and other issues in today’s society extremely interesting. Lasch stated, “The narcissist has no interest in the future because, in part, he has so little interest in the past” (650). That’s slightly unsettling, because the future depends heavily on the past, not only the present. Lasch’s piece also got me thinking about the book “The Corporation” by Joel Bakan. Lasch said, “Disenchantment with governmental bureaucracies has begun to extend to corporate bureaucracies as well – the real centers of power in contemporary society” (658). That reminded me of the argument Bakan makes in his book, that corporations are running the country more so than the actual government is. Also, the traits he (Lasch) lists with narcissism reminded me of Bakan giving similar personal traits to corporations.
Christopher Lasch’s Women and the Common Life was an interesting perspective on feminism. First Lasch makes the claim “Its relentless propaganda against the ‘traditional’ family” (Cummings. 2013. p.662), suddenly women wanting equality in the workforce has taken away from the “traditional family” and placed other families in a discriminated position. He goes on to say, “Its demand for state-supported programs of day care discriminates against parents who choose to raise their own children and forces everyone to conform to the dominant pattern” (Cummings. 2015. p.663) the mere fact that other women want/need to work has damaged the very fabric of the privileged’s lives. While I can jive with the argument that capitalism has indeed ruined society, I cannot blame it on the feminist movement either. Some women didn’t have much of a choice in the matter of being a working mother, circumstances made it necessary which brought about the need for workplace equality. Lasche continues on to discuss the “disability” women have in the workforce due to their reproductive nature as well as the use of parental leave,
“Evidently because it believes that women would take advantage of such leaves more readily than would men, NOW suspects that a parental leave policy would perpetuate the division of labor that assigns women the primary role in child care and thus inhibits their professional advancement” (Cummings. 2015. p.663).
Lasch continues on to say “Those who allow their children to slow them down lose out in the race for success” (Cummings. 2015. p.663), unfortunately these are fairly true statements. Kids are germ infested and are frequently sick, someone needs to care for the ill children. Parents who frequently miss work due to sick children will pay the price.
Below is an article posted a month ago about a Supreme Court ruling about protecting pregnant women in the workplace. UPS is the employer in the court case, who frequently provided lighter work to injured employees. A women challenged them when she wanted light duty during her pregnancy. What do you think about this in terms of the feminist movement? Is this a win?
Lasch contends that the American public under the Capitalist system, has veered away from work ethic and focused more on the individual, instant gratification and hedonistic pleasures. He believes that the model of the poor and the ghetto in particular, which in the struggle to survive poverty, emphasizes both individually breaking bonds as well as pursuit of carnal passions. (661) The idea is that one never knows when they are going to die, so they might as well seize what they want, right?
I reject the idea that the main reason for emphasis on the individual relies solely on the appropriation of black culture. Capitalism itself focuses on production. It bases the worth of a person off of what they are able to produce. Hence, Capitalism always focused on the individual, it just more so regarded the instant pleasures of a few at the top of the economic chain and assuaged everyone else through convincing the public that consumption of products could buy happiness. Additionally, overlooking the individuality of each person eventually will boil over when said persons are not happy. They will then demand, as is the case for women with reproductive rights and civil rights alike, to have their rights and liberties acknowledged, and not shirk the responsibilities of the capitalist system, but ask for the same mobility and enabling as their counterparts to move through that system through an equal amount of hard work.
The ghetto is a puzzling example for me, because it suggests that those who reside their do not conform in many ways to the model of productivity. Does Lasch not recognize what a difficult task it is to sell drugs or human’s flesh? Recruitment, molding of character, the tampering of a product, the competitive industry, dissatisfied customers, safety of the workers and the criminalization of the acts requires a high level of both self discipline and unity among the population to maintain. Gangs are a unified entity. The poor family is also unified as it requires much from the children and from the older children in particular to either help raise their siblings or else work themselves. However, Lasch’s focus on poverty leads me to wonder whether it is the deprivation of the classes below the most wealthy combined with the reinforcement that we should always want “better” which propels us to trample over others in a cut throat fashion to reach and reach for a life of contentment as futiley as if we we were trying to trying to grasp a rainbow.
Christopher Lasch is a strong opponent of capitalism and his argument is well founded in many ways. To him, capitalist society has hijacked men and women’s general perceptions and culture. A new radical narcissism, had taken root in the wake of the newly industrialized America. A narcissism, that rewards the dissolution of oneself, in order to only bring their economic betterment. This spills over from men to women too, which dilutes the feminist movement to that of a shallow economic shell. Lasch’s comments on the warping of feminism in “Women and the Common Life” are particularly noteworthy. Capitalism has manipulated the feminist creed into one of pure economic gain. The traditional family is dissolved because both mother and father are now encouraged to become full time workers. The economy makes the feminist movement shallow, because it touts empowerment simply as a salary and advancement in industry. For example, abortion is pushed as a choice because it eliminates a disability in the capitalists eyes, instead of providing paid parental leave, businesses can keep their employees year round. According to Lasch, capitalism has thwarted real progress in cultural, familial, and societal avenues, to pure economic and monetary goals.
The concept is so simple, yet so profound. Land is too precious to be treated like a commodity. Owning it requires consideration not only for the land, but the animals and plants that grow upon it. Aldo Leopold was one of our country’s first environmentalists. His concepts about property and conservation are as relevant today as they were when he first proposed them beginning in 1949.
Leopold considered land more just another possession. That viewpoint was somewhat at odds with the Founding Fathers’ view that the right to own property (and to do with it as you wish) was the bedrock of democracy. Consider the worlds of Thomas Jefferson: “The right to procure property and to use it for one’s own enjoyment is essential to the freedom of every person, and our rights would mean little without these rights of property ownership.” Leopold wouldn’t necessarily disagree with Jefferson, but he would add the caveat that owning the land must be more than “strictly economic, entailing privileges, but not obligations.” (Cummings, 609). Those obligations include conservation which Leopold describes as a “state of harmony between men and land.” (611) He also believes we must view land and the animals and plants that thrive upon, not strictly as an economic commodity, but as a delicate inter-related ecosystem. He writes: “a system of conservation based solely on economic self-interest is hopelessly lopsided.” (613)
Leopold was an environmental visionary. He foretold the destructive impact of the indiscriminate use of pesticides on the food chain. He argued that land-use practices based on immediate economic payback were shortsighted and ultimately destined to turn fertile lands into barren landscapes with the topsoil washed away or blown into the wind. He was the first to view land as more than just property, a commodity to be used as the owner sees fit. Leopold believed the land was a communal responsibility with its value not narrowly considered in an economic sense, but rather in a much broader philosophical sense.
Following the end of the second World War there was quite a lot of political change within the United States. One of the many changes to the American political scene was the resurgence of laissez-faire liberalism, as Cummings puts it in the introduction to this section on page 522, touted again by republicans but now as “conservatism” and this went on to include extremely heavy opposition to communism within the United States as well as world wide. This opposition to communism was seen with the other major part of American politics of the time, the liberals. This opposition to communisim formed the basis of all political though in America following the second World War, groups of various causes and positions needed to be sure to avoid a connection to communism or the Soviet Union. An interesting take on the increasing presence of women on the political stage I found was Christopher Lasch’s idea in “Women and the Common Life” that, “The feminist movement, far from civilizing corporate capitalism, has been corrupted by it. ” (Cummings, 662). With this I see his point that corporate capitalism had co-opted the feminist movement to serve it’s own interests.
On this last point, can you see any points today where a message may have been co-opted by a separate group for it’s own gain behind the scenes?
Christopher Lasch was a controversial cultural historian of the twentieth century. Lasch had several ideas and philosophies that ultimately distanced himself from any one political party. Lasch was against all mainstream ideas in society and American political thought. Lasch blamed many problems on the growth of mass production and its deskilling of workers, and the new lack of economic independence. Lasch was a harsh critic of the far left, but he also held no favor with conservatives, most because he was an anti-capitalist. Lasch was very critical of the society of his day saying, “Cultural radicalism has become so fashionable, and so pernicious in the support it unwittingly provides for the status quo, that any criticism of contemporary society that hopes to get beneath the surface has to criticize, at the same time, much of what currently goes under the name of radicalism.” (Cummings, 658) Lasch was so upset with his day’s society that even the cultural radicals of the time upset him and were not radical enough. Lasch was upset with the individual of society. He thought that the individuals of his society did not care about the future. He accredits this to not only narcissism, but a lack of interest in the past. Lasch argues, “The narcissist has no interest in the future because, in part, he has so little interest in the past.” (Cummings, 659) While I agree with little or none of Christopher Lasch’s ideas and philosophies, I do agree with the importance of the past. I think society needs to acknowledge and look to the past in order to move into the future. How does looking to the past allow us to move to a better future?
In “Women and the Common Life”, written by Christopher Lasch then finished and published by his daughter Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn after her father’s death, Lasch faults 20 century feminism for succumbing to capitalist ideals instead of more radical, anti-capitalist ideals he had thought feminism to be. This stemmed from Lasch’s personal beliefs in giving “everyday” citizens more power and limiting the authority of a centralized few (658).
Within his essay, he critiques the feminist movement’s push to have more rights outside of the home and inside of the workforce. He insists that organizations such as NOW, the National Organization for Women, is feeding into capitalist propaganda and “[making] a paycheck the only symbol of accomplishment” (663). In order to prove this, he cites NOW’s apparent nonsupport of requiring employers to grant parental leave, which would in turn perpetuate the sexual division of labor (663). Towards the end of his essay, his tone arguably becomes less offensive and more critical of the movement, which could be because his daughter finished the final aspects of his essay although she was simply continuing his train of thought. The solution he offers at the end states, “By rejecting ‘progress,’ of course, [feminism] would put itself beyond the pale of respectable opinion – which is to say, it would become as radical as it now merely claims to be” (663).
Considering Lasch’s opinion on feminism outside of his patriarchal tone and experience as a man critiquing a woman’s plight and experience, he does grasp the concept of the combative and problematic nature of feminism within a capitalist society, although capitalism is not the only reason women tend to be in more subservient roles compared to their male counterpart. Do you believe Lasch’s argument on 20th century feminism, and specifically the sexual division of labor, was valid? Why or why not?