Lasch, Populism, and Conservatism

The recent issue of Modern Age contains a commemorative essay by Susan McWilliams marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Christopher Lasch’s The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics. McWilliams reminds readers that Lasch offers a positive analysis of populism that speaks to the current political malaise. As part of his critique of the cult of progress, Lasch attempted to ground politics in the intuitions of the petty bourgeoisie and the populist tradition that gave life to those intuitions. He saw in petty-bourgeois culture a moral realism that recognized the cost and limits of human existence, reinforcing a healthy skepticism of progress. The “small proprietors, artisans, tradesmen, and farmers” of the petty-bourgeois world were the least likely “to mistake the promised land of progress for the true and only heaven.” Continue Reading »