Essay on The Culture of Narcissism.Critical Book Review

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Critical book review:

Christopher Lasch (1991)

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Expectations

The culture of narcissism was widely recognised as a socio-cultural critique of American society when published in 1979. Written by Christopher Lasch, the book analyzes a social phenomenon identified by Christopher Lasch as ‘cultural narcissism’, a process by which certain attributes of the pathological branch of narcissism (Bocock, 2002) become societal characteristics (Lasch, 1991). This review will be analyzing the relevance of the book within wider sociological debate. I will argue that although the book identifies a recognisable social trend it fails to deomonstrate a specific cause or reason for that trend. The
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Lasch’s theory is closely related to Beck’s individualisation thesis which explains that structural constraints are loosening, and that identity is becoming a choice we make. In other words Giddens (2009) argues that identity is a DIY project. Identity is no longer a given, but an ongoing process in which we construct or write our own biographies and through a process of reflexivity can change our perception of self, and how we are perceived by others. These two theses share some very defining features: The preoccupation with historical continuity (for or against it), self surveillance and the presumed necessity of others in order to form our identities. Both theses are looked at from different perspectives, for Lasch the culture of competitive individualism would ultimately provoke the collapse of society. For Giddens individualization has positive outcomes such as the “emancipation from the repressive conditions of the past” (Addams; p, 120), and the opportunity to change the biographical history of the individual through the process of reflexivity. Evaluation
The book is inspired by and a reaction to modern western capitalist societies. The author offers not only a descriptive account of the society in which he lived, but a pessimistic interpretation of the direction he thought these societies were developing in. The narcissistic