Christopher Lasch was a writer and cultural critic, who is best known for his 1979 best-seller, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. In this book, Christopher Lasch diagnoses a social pathology in American life where “the American left had played into the hands of corporations, which find it all too easy to exploit a radicalism that equates liberation with hedonistic self-indulgence and freedom from family ties” and where modern life had become an “enormous echo chamber, a hall of mirrors.” Decades later, whether we are talking about Donald Trump or influencers on social media, Lasch’s critique still feels prescient. Yet this feeling of prescience invites crude interpretations. As Lasch himself notes in his following book The Minimal Self, “Narcissism is a difficult idea that looks easy—a good recipe for confusion”. Countering this confusion, Shalon van Tine and C. Derick Varn’s rigorous and impressive research returns to Christopher Lasch’s entire oeuvre and situated his critique alongside his life-long critical thought.
C. Derick Varn is a teacher, poet, and podcaster. His video channel, Varn Vlog, can be found here.
Shalon van Tine is a Ph.D. candidate in American cultural history at Ohio University and an adjunct professor at University of Maryland Global Campus. Her website can be found here.
Derick and Shalon are co-writing a book on Christopher Lasch.
This session was recorded as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group on the 26th January 2021. If you would like to be involved in future sessions send me a message at explodingappendix [at] gmail.com.
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