Christopher Lasch : biography
Christopher (Kit) Lasch (June 1, 1932 – February 14, 1994) 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. Lasch sought to use history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. He strove to create a historically informed social criticism that could teach Americans how to deal with rampant consumerism, proletarianization, and what he famously labeled 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), were widely discussed and reviewed. The Culture of Narcissism became a surprise best-seller and won the National Book Award in category Current Interest (paperback). . National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-09. There was a "Contemporary" or "Current" award category from 1972 to 1980. From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Award history there were dual awards for hardcover and paperback books in many categories. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including this one (September 1979), but its first edition (January 1979) was eligible in the same award year.
Lasch was always a critic of liberalism, and a historian of liberalism's discontents, but over time his political perspective evolved dramatically. In the 1960s, he was a neo-Marxist and acerbic critic of Cold War liberalism. During the 1970s, he began to become a far more iconoclastic figure, fusing cultural conservatism with a Marxian critique of capitalism, and drawing on Freud-influenced critical theory to diagnose the ongoing deterioration that he perceived in American culture and politics. His writings during this period led him to be denounced by feministsHartman (2009) and hailed by conservativesJeremy Beer, "On Christopher Lasch," Modern Age, Fall 2005, Vol. 47 Issue 4, pp 330-343 for his apparent defense of the traditional family. He eventually concluded that an often unspoken but pervasive faith in "Progress" tended to make Americans resistant to many of his arguments. In his last major works he explored this theme in depth, suggesting that Americans had much to learn from the suppressed and misunderstood Populist and artisan movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Miller (2010)
His basic thesis about the family, which he first expressed in 1965 and explored for the rest of his career, was:
After seemingly successful cancer surgery in 1992, Lasch was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in 1993. Upon learning that it was unlikely to significantly prolong his life, he refused chemotherapy, observing that it would rob him of the energy he needed to continue writing and teaching. To one persistent specialist, he wrote: "I despise the cowardly clinging to life, purely for the sake of life, that seems so deeply ingrained in the American temperament." Lasch succumbed to cancer in his Pittsford, New York home on February 14, 1994, at age 61.Beer, Jeremy (2006-03-27), The American Conservative
In his last months, he worked closely with his daughter Elisabeth to complete The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy, published in 1994, in which he "excoriated the new meritocratic class, a group that had achieved success through the upward-mobility of education and career and that increasingly came to be defined by rootlessness, cosmopolitanism, a thin sense of obligation, and diminishing reservoirs of patriotism," and "argued that this new class 'retained many of the vices of aristocracy without its virtues,' lacking the sense of 'reciprocal obligation' that had been a feature of the old order."Deneen, Patrick (2010-08-01) , The American Conservative In addition, he finalized his intentions for the essays to be included in Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminism, which was published, with his daughter's introduction, in 1997.
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