Roger Cohen—The Narcissus Society

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Where Oedipus once tormented us, it is now Narcissus. Pathologies linked to authority and domination have ceded to the limitless angst of self-contemplation. The old question — “What am I allowed to do?” — has given way to the equally scary “What am I capable of doing?” Alain Ehrenberg, a French author and psychologist, speaks of the “privatization of human existence.”

Community — a stable job, shared national experience, extended family, labor unions — has vanished or eroded. In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking and the à-la-carte life as defined by 600 TV channels and a gazillion blogs. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection.

These trends are common to all globalized modern democracies, ranging from those that prize individualism, like the United States, to those, like France, where social solidarity is a paramount value. Ehrenberg’s new book, “La Société du Malaise” (“The Malaise Society”) is full of insights into the impact of narcissistic neurosis.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-Watch* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Eastern Anglican wrote:

Ronald Rolheiser identified Narcissism as one of the three great sins of our culture in, “The Shattered Lantern.”
I am always amazed, though, at the mental gymnastics of the left.  narcissism is a problem, therefore, the solution is community, thus to be opposed to the current health care plan is narcissistic.  In reality, narcissism is in the drivers seat on health care reform.  Is it not a wee bit narcissistic to demand that others pay for your health care?  There is enough narcisissim on all sides.

February 24, 4:12 pm | [comment link]
2. tired wrote:

I found the article to be nonsensical.  Perhaps narcissism is a problem, but the whinging swipe at tea parties and the plug for democratic healthcare proposals simply do not follow.  My goodness, is this what passes for op-ed commentary at the NYTs these days? 

The organization appears to be: A: description, B: premise, C: conclusion

The whole piece rests on the premise that “... we’re all in this together.”  Unfortunately,  “we’re all in this together” could be the justification for any proposal that one believes is good for the country.  This premise certainly does not take us logically to acceptance of, or even sympathy with, the subject matter of his conclusions.  This premise, in fact, appears to bear only a faint relation to the preceding and following sentences. 

So the premise collapses under the weight and the commentary fails.  Cohen asks far too much of it. 

The result is a hodgepodge of Cohen-thoughts.  Some of the Cohen-thoughts are about technology and narcissism.  Some are Cohen’s political conclusions, orphaned from logical argument.


February 24, 4:42 pm | [comment link]
3. Chris wrote:

yes #2, this column was rather convincingly reduced to shreds by Jonah Goldberg:

If that is the best they can do to get health care passed, well, I don’t think it’s gonna happen….

February 24, 6:07 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): Seminarian Brings Ignatian Spirituality to Inmates

Previous entry (below): NPR—Does The Patriot Act Violate Free Speech?

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)