The Americanization of Narcissism
Discussing her new book with psychiatrist Raj Persaud, Elizabeth Lunbeck explains 'The Americanization of Narcissism' published by Harvard University Press.
This is an important tome because it critically tackles the way the
modern age thinks of itself.
Lunbeck identifies some key moments in the
notion that this is a particularly narcissistic age. One seems to
be the publication of Christopher Lasch’s ‘Culture of Narcissism’,
while another is Jimmy Carter’s late 1970’s, so called ‘malaise’
speech, which was a critique of modern North America.
Lunbeck documents that the popular media seems
to have got somewhat obsessed with the idea we are more
narcissistic than ever before, but she also points out that
psychoanalysts contend, there is this thing called healthy
We seem currently caught between two ideas –
that high self-esteem is good for you but narcissism is bad? Are
these contradictory positions resolvable?
We also now seem to believe that wealth
inevitably leads to narcissism? And also that capitalism inevitably
leads to or encourages narcissism?
Given that narcissists are generally found
good company and attractive is it possible that the real problem is
the 'failed' narcissist?
There is also an important chapter in the book
on identity - perhaps what is genuinely different about the
modern age is we are freer to choose our identity more than ever
Is there a national anxiety about this?
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