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The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution

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4.71  ·  Rating details ·  441 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Modern culture is obsessed with identity.

Since the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015, sexual identity has dominated both public discourse and cultural trends--and yet, no historical phenomenon is its own cause. From Augustine to Marx, various views and perspectives have contributed to the modern understanding of self. In The Rise and Triumph of t
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Hardcover, 432 pages
Published November 24th 2020 by Crossway Books
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Jeremy
Charles Taylor's A Secular Age asks how we got to a place where atheism is not only an option, but often the privileged option. Trueman asks a similar question: How did we get to a place where someone can say "I'm a woman trapped in a man’s body" and no one spits out his coffee?

See Trueman's related article at TGC here. I can only imagine that his concluding words in his essay in Our Secular Age form something of a segue to this book: "The psychological self is the latest stage, allowing us to c
...more
Murtaza
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This book is a restatement of the ideas of Philip Rieff, Alasdair McIntyre and Charles Taylor in a condensed form and with an undercurrent of Orthodox Christian commentary. Trueman ranges very broadly in his citations, all the way from St. Augustine to Rousseau, Nietzsche to Judith Butler. The book as a whole ties together relatively well, though the sheer breadth of analysis is somewhat difficult to pack into four hundred pages. The following is a brief synopsis of Trueman's arguments. My inten ...more
David Steele
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture
The sexual revolution of the 60’s fundamentally changed the cultural landscape in North America. Yet, percolating beneath the surface was an even more diabolical worldview; a worldview that many are unfamiliar with. Even those who have engaged with the history of Western civilization may be jolted when the implications become clear.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl R. Trueman pulls back the veil and alerts us to the underlying ideologies that have catapulted our current views about
...more
Brian
Nov 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Carl Trueman is not merely a historian. He’s a man of letters with diverse interests. In this book, he seeks to trace our current Western culture (especially regarding the self and sex, as the subtitle states) back to their true roots. He uses the frameworks of Charles Taylor, Philip Rieff, and Alisdair MacIntyre, and the writings of Rousseau, the Romantic poets, Marx, Freud, and Darwin as chapter touchpoints.

He ties all of these disparate sources together, but in ways that bored me. His writin
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Mark Jr.
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, 2020, kindle
I'm hoping to publish a more extensive review of this excellent—though long and at times tedious—book. I'll say here: Trueman asks an intriguing question that builds a narrative expectation and structure into his book: *How is it that average people in the West don't see "I'm a woman trapped in a man's body" as a self-evidence absurdity?*

Trueman sets out to answer this question by following the work of Rieff, MacIntyre, and Taylor—but adding a lot of studious book reports of his own as he guides
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Hanna
Sep 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviews
If I could rate this piece of homophobic garbage lower than 1 star and still affect the rating, I would.

Be warned: the blurb both here and on Amazon is 100% misleading. This is a fundamentalist conservative polemic very very thinly disguised as cultural history. Trueman recycles every anti-LGBTQ (along with a few racist and sexist classics just for good measure) straw man argument of the past forty years: gay men are pedophiles; legalization of gay marriage will lead to the legalization of ince
...more
Anna
Sep 19, 2020 added it
Shelves: for-review
I read this title to support my wife, who was assigned the title for a professional review.

This is a harmful anti-gay and anti-trans work.

The author is an Orthodox Presbyterian minister and professor at Grove City College. He believes that non-normative gender, sex, and sexuality are symptoms of cultural pathologies that are destroying Western civilization because they are contrary to what the author sees as God's plan. It's unclear how queer genders and sexualities are so powerful a destructi
...more
Zack
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A lucid and well-researched work of intellectual history presenting the social realities affecting western culture in the opening decades of the 21st century. The confluence of various iterations of philosophical individualism and nihilism since a the Enlightenment has resulted in social and political movements that challenge any/most vestiges of a past marked by spiritual virtue or traditional ethics. Trueman helpfully lays out the history of ideas undergirding current social and cultural trend ...more
John
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
Carl Trueman’s “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” is an extended answer to the question of how the statement “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” came to be “regarded as coherent and meaningful.” (p.19) Trueman leans heavily upon the works of Phillip Rieff, Charles Taylor, and Alasdair MacIntyre to formulate his answer. In Part 1, Trueman examines how the works of these three men help provide “categories for analyzing the pathologies of this present age…” (p. 102) He then goes back to t ...more
Samuel Parkison
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Review is forthcoming at FTC.co. In short, I would require every pastor and influential Christian leader to read this book if I could. It is important, and provides explanatory power for a great deal of the behaviors and norms of our present civilization.
Ivan
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant diagnosis. Just wanted more prescription beyond the final few pages.
Becky Pliego
A thorough diagnosis of today’s culture and a historical and philosophical analysis on how we got here. However this is a book that left me with a a sense of, “Ok. I understand, but what is the cure? Is there even a cure?”

I would say read these instead:

1) Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexually by Nancy Pearcey -Excellent!

2) You Who: Why You Matter and How to Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic-Granted, her treatment of the philosophy of the self is shorter, but not less a
...more
Brittany
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I docked a star, not because I disagreed with any of the content but because it's a fairly long book that was a bit more academic than I thought it would be. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are going to fail to finish it even though there is a lot of important information to be had in these pages. (Maybe my review can convince you to still give it a chance. or at least read the quotes I posted below) Carl Trueman is a historian and this book is him identifying historical figures and ideol ...more
Mitchell Dixon
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: digital-library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Roark
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Brilliant
Chelsey Meissner
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Christian, it is worth your time and energy to read this book. It’s heady and technical but it’s an essential read for us to understand how we got here. Our culture is driven by emotion and therapeutics. It seems our purpose in life, according to the world we now live in, is to achieve total psychological well-being. This well-being, according to culture, cannot be achieved without full sexual satisfaction and expression. Our sexuality has become who we are, in the deepest sense. And unfort ...more
Jordan Shirkman
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Carl Trueman is a historian through and through, and he helpfully (and painstakingly!) helps us make sense of how the statement, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” is more or less understandable in the 21st century world, when it would have been positively baffling in any other time in human history.

If you don’t have a stomach (or better yet, an appetite) for philosophy and history, mostly from the Enlightment until today, this is probably not the book for you. But if you’re curious to trace
...more
Alex Etheridge
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2021
An important, albeit dense, read on how our Western culture got to where it is today with regard to sexuality. How did social consciousness get to where it is today regarding expressive individualism, gay marriage, LGBTQ+ issues, and transgender trends? As Trueman himself states in the opening sentence: "The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: 'I am a woman trapped in a man's body.'"

Trueman sets out
...more
Daddy-O
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's a grand academic, intellectual-history-based analysis of the culture and all of its identitarian horrors, but you can get the gist by picking up a King James Bible, flipping to Ecclesiastes, and reading, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." ...more
Jeremy Mueller
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever wondered why Western culture seems hyper-sexualized or you’ve been perplexed by the seemingly sudden shift in political and social discourse regarding sexual identity (what many coin “The Sexual Revolution”), this book is for you. Trueman is clear from the outset that his book is not meant to serve as a polemic nor as a lament for the cultural shifts. Rather, it is an invitation to further discussion. What history and what trends of ideas have led to a culture in which the claim “ ...more
Tim Michiemo
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christians
4.9 Stars

Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is a phenomenal work of cultural and philosophical analysis. It is probably the best work of Christian cultural analysis that I have ever read so far (though… I still have plenty more to read). Trueman’s book is essentially an explanation of how modern society has come to a place where a man can say, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Trueman focuses primarily on expounding the works of Philip Rieff, Charles Taylor, and Alasdai
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John Dube
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
Wow! A terrifically clear analysis of the times. I suspect not all will buy into Trueman’s path to the psychological man (I myself would see the poets and Dali as more of a symptom than a cause), yet there is no denying he has arose. I’m hoping Truman will go the direction of Wells and this might represent a kind of first volume, a la No Place for Truth.

As a pastor, I’m particularly challenged by this volume. While reading I was stuck by many of the ways the church (myself included) has accepte
...more
Justin Lonas
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it
This is a greatly hyped book at present, and others more qualified than me have done plenty of engagement already, so, though this is longer than my typical 1-liner goodreads summaries, it is by no means a full or academic review.

Where this book is good, it is very good. As an intellectual history of the rise of expressive individualism (Charles Taylor's phrase) from Rousseau to Obergefell, it traces of streams of thought through Romanticism, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and the Frankfurt Sch
...more
Bob
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Rise & Triumph of the Modern Self
If you are troubled by the state of our culture’s morality & wonder how we got here, this book is a must read from a brilliant Christian historian.

Trueman begins by giving us this phrase; “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” , it is the springboard of the book. Not long ago that statement would have been considered nonsense, and anyone saying it would be morally suspect. Today, if you even question the validity of that statement, you are considered a bigot a
...more
Scott Carter
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Carl Trueman may have written the most important book of the year. Certainly, he provides the most valuable book in 2020 for Christians who desire to intellectually engage with the Western world. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self traces the underlying intellectual thought leading to what Charles Taylor calls “expressive individualism” in our present day. The sexual revolution of the 20th and 21st centuries is ultimately just one “manifestation of the larger revolution of the self that ...more
Wes Van Fleet
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a fascinating read. Trueman has accomplished a historical and cultural feat that provides the Church with a sound and helpful tool that will be useful for generations to come. As he traces things like sex and gender identity, expressive individualism, and the politicizing of these things, the reader is quick to realize how we got where we are as a culture.

I don’t say this lightly: This book may be the most important work of our time in regards to understanding our culture. I will make
...more
Nate
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Agree with Tim Challies' review (link below)… “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” by Carl Trueman is a demanding but rewarding read. Perhaps the best (and most significant) book of 2020 that I've read.

We are living in a day when definitions of the “self” are shifting away from objective and intrinsic meaning. Statements emerging from the underlying sexual and moral revolution are gaining ground to an on-ramp toward a full pivot into “poiesis” (the world seen as so much raw material where m
...more
Brent Pinkall
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Trueman strikes a good balance between accessible and academic. If you want to understand the origins of the identity politics plaguing western culture today (LGBT+, BLM, etc.), read this book. Trueman points out how these issues are actually symptoms of a deeper problem rooted in a wrong understanding of what it means to be a "self." At the end of the book he also gives a brief exhortation on ways that Christians can best respond to these problems. Even though I already had a rough i ...more
Cade Patterson
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He was editor of Themelios for nine years, has authored or edited more than a dozen books, and has contributed to multiple publications including the Dictionary of Historical Theology and The C ...more

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