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The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics
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The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics

4.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  126 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Can we continue to believe in progress? In this sobering analysis of the Western human condition, Christopher Lasch seeks the answer in a history of the struggle between two ideas: one is the idea of progress - an idea driven by the conviction that human desire is insatiable and requires ever larger production forces. Opposing this materialist view is the idea that condemn ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 17th 1991 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Nov 11, 2009 Szplug rated it it was amazing
This inquiry began with a deceptively simple question. How does it happen that serious people continue to believe in progress, in the face of massive evidence that might have been expected to refute the idea of progress once and for all?
So opens The True and Only Heaven, Christopher Lasch's penultimate book of cultural criticism. There have been many such critiques aimed at the United States over the past half-century—most more jeremiad than reasoned analysis—but I have always believed Lasch t
Newtie Jeff
Jan 28, 2009 Newtie Jeff rated it it was amazing
Crucial book in my personal and political development. Simply put, this book completely remade my political and social ideology. Before reading this book I had, at various times in my life called myself a liberal, a socialist, an American progressive, and an orthodox Marxist. True and Only Heaven moved me, decisively, both farther left and farther right than I had imagined I would ever move.

The book is an intellectual tour-de-force.
Jul 24, 2010 Seth rated it it was amazing
Sadly this was my first Christopher Lasch experience. He was a great writer and thinker to say the very least. Lasch and, my favorite historian John Lukacs, are similar in their attitudes towards the middle class and the cult of progress. However, unlike Lasch and Lukacs, I do not give as much credit to the middle class. Still, this is required reading for anyone displeased with ideology and our baby-boomer progressives.
Mar 11, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing
Christopher Lasch with the Freud sanded off and a pathological urge to anticipate every last historical objection to his central arguments, among which: getting high on pure possibility seems like a good deal if you're smart or rich, but probably isn't even if you are.

Not sure this is the Lasch you should read if you're just getting into him, but it's the one you want if his earlier books struck a nerve but felt abstracted by their psychoanalytic detours or otherwise incomplete.
What I learned from this book: Expect less of life and more of yourself.
And I should add there is a reading of the successes and failures of the civil rights movement that is challenging and disagreeable, but difficult to disbelieve.
Oct 07, 2012 Pete rated it liked it
smart went crazy, also went slightly dumb

I am all for polemics striking at the panko-crusted heart of bourgeois liberalism but this is a bit tweedy for me. Some legit greatness in here, also a whale tank full of pedantry
Dec 27, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing
Despite its conclusions, this is a tremendous work of intellectual and cultural history. Speaking mainly about his work in the late 1970s and early 1980s, George Scialabba has written that Lasch did not turn rightward, but 'inward.' While many of Lasch's concerns and conclusions - principally that we have sacrificed virtue and community to the false idols of 'progress' and optimism- seem to be of a piece with the New Right, he is I think justified in at least raising the objection (as Jackson Le ...more
Feb 10, 2015 Cris rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alicia Fox
Sep 07, 2015 Alicia Fox rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The first half of this book, covering the early history of the philosophy of progress, can easily be skipped over by the non-historian. The second half, however, would serve well as mandatory reading for all.
Dec 22, 2010 Raymonds009 rated it really liked it
While this book should be entitled "a lengthy discussion of politics, ethics, philosophy and sociology during the last two centuries" it accomplishes two things very well. It makes you think about how we got to where we are now and why the heck people still don't question the very idea of progress. I may not have agreed with all of the author's statements and conclusions, but, it was always provocative. An exhausting and very difficult book to read but well worth the effort. Even if you only ski ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Jon added it
Very long but well worth the effort, Lasch's book examines the history of "progressive" thinking, and reactions to such thinking, since the 19th century and is probably the only historical work in which Ralph Waldo Emerson's and George Wallace's views are discussed with equal seriousness. More even-handed than earlier Lasch books such as THE CULTURE OF NARCISSISM, this is highly recommended to anyone interested in the many diverse philosophical issues covered herein.
Feb 17, 2011 Barbara marked it as to-read
Another referral from Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction: Lasch apparently has quotes from Orestes Brownson who, in 1840, was denouncing a "conspiracy on the part of important men to subvert the Constitution, using norther Germany's rigid institution of forced schooling as its principal weapon."
Stephen Wolfe
Feb 16, 2013 Stephen Wolfe rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding book on American progressivist thought and its critics. Packed with information and analysis.
Apr 29, 2011 Anna rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, challenging, somewhat exhausting, but everyone should read it. At its core, not at all dated.
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