Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics” as Want to Read:
The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  199 ratings  ·  26 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  199 ratings  ·  26 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics
Nov 09, 2009 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
Newtie Jeff
Jan 28, 2009 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 20, 2010 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.
Sean Chick
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lasch's last work is an examination of the idea of progress and its critics from all walks of life. His ultimate argument is that progressives had a growing distrust of the masses creating an elite that aligned itself with capitalism and technocracy instead of the masses. By the 1990s the left had fully become neoliberal, anti-democratic, and permissive. In other words, the Democratic Party of the Clintons. This means populism, lacking a home in the right or left, veers between the two. Like Las ...more
Mark Greenbaum
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is not light lifting, and there is a lot of self-indulgence and useless tangents into unnecessary terrain, but in between is brilliant, deeply thought-provoking, and frighteningly prescient analysis of the fall of American left and the rise of right wing populism -- all written while George H.W. Bush still occupied the White House. Today, as scribes and scholars continue to grapple with the rise of a gelatinous con artist to the highest elective office in the world, many of their diagnoses ...more
Apr 21, 2014 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.
Jul 17, 2012 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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding book on American progressivist thought and its critics. Packed with information and analysis.
Simply breathtaking. Lasch traces the history of the idea of progress from the 1990s back to the political economists of the 18th century. Progress here being defined as the belief that ever-increasing economic growth, production, and consumption will eventually lead to an end of war, oppression, torture, exploitation and all other negative aspects of the human condition. Despite minor setbacks things will simply continue to get better, and better, and better. Along the way Lasch describes the m ...more
Steve Percoco
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
For me, this book started off strong, got bogged down often in its discussion and analysis of the history of critiques of progress, but finished in the last five pages or so with a useful perspective on where we were (in 1991 when it was published) and the significant problems that we face going forward. SPOILER ALERT: Mr. Lasch did not offer in the book his own perspective of what constitutes "The True and Only Heaven." After exhaustively recanting the view of numerous social commentators like ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Journal entry for Oct 11, 1993

This section from Lasch's book serves as an excellent historiographical orientation, though with a very obvious bent of its own. The general project of the book is, according to Benjamin DeMott, "the reclamation of class." Yet it seems that is not "class" as a category of analysis which is contested in the case of the Populists, but rather a very specific understanding of class. In the section we read, it is obvious that Lasch draws specifically on Goodwyn in his se
Alex Stroshine
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociocultural
Finally! 3.5/5, largely due to how long (nearly two years) it took me to read it and thus my forgetfulness of a lot of the earlier content. Christopher Lasch also focuses a lot on economic development and progress, some of which is a bit boring to me, but I appreciate seeing the evolution of this as well.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stack
20 years ahead of its time. Though there are many things to disagree with in his treatment of populist politics, Lasch's critique of the modern bourgeois view of broad progress without specific cultural responsibilities is fascinating and engrossing.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Not filled with the Freudian mumbo jumbo like in his other works but this is very long winded and seems he just wants to show how well read he is. Could be more straightforward.
Aug 03, 2014 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 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lasch's incredibly intellectually honest endeavour in this tome aids us greatly in understanding the radical falseness of much 'modern' life. Lasch's scholarship is fleet-footed and incredibly nuanced, which can be challenging academically and ideologically but is rewarding for that very reason.

This is his Magnum Opus and the greatest compliment I can give Christopher Lasch is that he lives up to the criteria for being a 'prophet' in our time. Unfortunately, I think his own prescriptions are un
Oct 28, 2010 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 added it
Shelves: reviewed
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 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."
Alicia Fox
Sep 07, 2015 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.
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, challenging, somewhat exhausting, but everyone should read it. At its core, not at all dated.
John Smith
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. As in, makes you weep tears of gladness to read brilliant, even as you see clearly before you the decline of America with the treachery of its elites as they sell us down the river, replacing us with foreign peoples and degrade our native culture.
Crass the head
rated it it was amazing
Sep 17, 2011
rated it liked it
Sep 06, 2007
rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2013
Anthony Argentine
rated it liked it
Sep 26, 2016
David Goetz
rated it really liked it
Apr 01, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Gas
  • America’s Second Crusade
  • Defeat in the East: Russia Conquers-January to May 1945
  • The War Nerd Iliad
  • Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich
  • Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America
  • A Free-Market Monetary System and The Pretense of Knowledge
  • Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe
  • Twilight
  • The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism
  • Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA
  • Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don't Have To
  • Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960
  • How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
  • Strange Communists I Have Known
  • Free as in Freedom (2.0): Richard Stallman and the Free Software Revolution
  • The Ten-Day MBA : A Step-By-Step Guide To Mastering The Skills Taught In America's Top Business Schools
  • The Only Skill that Matters: The Proven Methodology to Read Faster, Remember More, and Become a SuperLearner
See similar books…
Christopher "Kit" Lasch (June 1, 1932 – February 14, 1994) was an American historian, moralist, and social critic who was a history 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 cre

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
47 likes · 11 comments
“Members of the educated elite upheld open-mindedness as the supreme political virtue but refused to debate their own idea of the good life, perhaps because they suspected that it could not withstand exposure to more vigorous ideas.” 3 likes
“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?” 2 likes
More quotes…