The Americanization of Narcissism

13 May 2015

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 narcissism. 

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 before? 

Is there a national anxiety about this?

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