Tag Archives: Christopher Lasch

Eric Miller on intellectual history’s attempt to revive itself


Intellectual historian Eric Miller

A couple of years ago, I was sorting through the annual pile of books that comes to my door as a judge in the Christianity Today Book Awards (history and biography category). It was The Year of the Erics. A little giddy with the “new book smell,” I ploughed through Eric Metaxas‘s Big Bonhoeffer Book–critiqued at last week’s Wheaton Bonhoeffer conference, I understand, for being “not scholarly enough.” Then I turned to Eric Miller‘s biography of Christopher Lasch, Hope in a Scattering Time, with a thrill of anticipation.

You see, during my graduate studies, Lasch’s own Culture of Narcissism had struck me with all the force of revelation. This was history as moral crusade, and an acute analysis of American culture to boot. The sort of thing that might even convince a reader that the history of ideas, though hoary with age and encrusted with the critiques of modern “social historians” and “cultural historians,” still carries great power and usefulness. Continue reading

Glimpses of “Culture of Narcissism” author Christopher Lasch


Eric Miller’s biography of American social historian Christopher Lasch, Hope in a Scattering Time, examines how Lasch came to his penetrating analyses of America through his own alienation. Wikipedia sums up his career:

Christopher (Kit) Lasch (June 1, 1932, Omaha, Nebraska – February 14, 1994, Pittsford, New York) was a well-known American historian, moralist, and social critic. Mentored by William Leuchtenburg at Columbia University, Lasch was a professor at the University of Rochester , who used history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness of consumer culture. Rather than invoke nostalgia, Lasch sought to create a historically informed social criticism that could teach Americans how to deal with rampant consumerism, proletarianization, and the culture of narcissism. His books, including The New Radicalism in America (1965), Haven in a Heartless World (1977), The Culture of Narcissism (1979), and The True and Only Heaven (1991), became best-sellers. Lasch was always a critic of liberalism, and a historian of liberalism’s discontents. His political perspective shifted from being an outspoken leftist critic of Cold War liberalism to a self-styled populist moralist, denounced by feminists for his defense of the traditional family[1] and hailed by conservatives.[2]

What this doesn’t say, and what Miller reveals in the biography, is that Lasch, the child of two politically progressive atheists, encountered the writings of Augustine and other Christian thinkers in university. This altered his perspectives on a lot of things, though it did not convert him to orthodox Christianity. His creed became a sort of “secular Calvinism,” to use Miller’s phrase. Continue reading

Ah, the crisp fall air, the hope of a World Series, sweaty men in tight pants fighting over a pigskin, and the smell of newly printed pages . . .


Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots bef...

Look who'll be catching Brett's passes now!

The Twins are headed into the first round of the World Series tonight. Randy Moss is back in Minnesota (though some wits say “OK, now all you’ve got to do is find someone to throw to him.” Yeah, yeah, Brett Favre is looking all too like the Brett Favre of the Jets years. I still can’t wait to see Moss in purple.) And four new & notable church-historical books are about to hit my mailbox, as it’s time again for the judging in the history/biography category of the Christianity Today Book Awards. This year’s finalists: Continue reading