Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nation on Christopher Lasch

Norman Birnbaum's appreciation of a man who "publicly refused to attend the twenty-fifth reunion of his class, declaring Harvard to be deficient in the pursuit of the common good" — Gratitude and Forbearance: On Christopher Lasch.

He was a man who "sought to shape the New Left into the redemptive movement he and many of the rest of us were seeking," writes Mr. Birnbaum, noting, "Decentralization, local autonomy, a distrust of doctrines of efficiency and technocratic calculation were crucial issues on the New Left." However, "the New Left succumbed to sectarianism and self-immolation and Lasch’s disappointment with it grew."

Later, as he "described the path from the Enlightenment to modernity, he argued that secularization was not historically inevitable or self-evidently true, and found reason to attribute moral value to religion." Mr. Birnbaum observes, "Religion in his view taught gratitude for the gifts of life, forbearance of its disappointments." The author notes that "notwithstanding his lack of religious belief, [he] traded intellectually with theologians,"continuing,
    He decided that they were using concepts like being, suffering and redemption to describe the permanent structures of human existence that he had approached empirically. He was drawn to the Protestant existentialists, whose hero was the anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, rather than to the Catholic visionaries, with their exalted notions of community. Perhaps that was an oblique tribute to his familial origins, and to the American past.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share