Lecture no 18 cmst 1A03, intro to communication dr. Alexandre sévigny christopher Lasch: The Revolt of the Elites

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Christopher Lasch: The Revolt of the Elites

  1. There used to be the threat of communism and the revolt of the workers. Now the threat is more the revolt of the elites.

    1. Those who control the international flow of information: bankers, stockbrokers, executives, professors, government analysts. These people have lost faith in the concept of the West and of reason.

    1. These behaviours and beliefs are more characteristic of the upper classes and represent the betrayal of the middle and lower classes, especially the middle class.

    1. Lasch says that the middle and lower classes are much more socially and morally conservative than their upper class would-be liberators. This naturally reasonable conservatism is not serviced by the media, who are controlled by elites. These elites think that they know what is best for the masses. Lasch believes that this is arrogant.

  1. The Decline of the Middle Class

    1. The middle class is treated with scorn and derision by the new elites. Everything that is ugly in society is associated with the unenlightened middle class (i.e. homophobia, racism, retrograde attitudes towards women, etc.)

    1. Lasch thinks that the crisis in the middle class must be addressed for democracy to survive.

    1. The middle class is the silent backbone of society, paying an ever-growing proportion of the national tax receipts and working longer hours. Meanwhile the welfare state generates complacency among the lower class and the upper-middle and upper class become more powerful and separate from those who surround them.

  1. Who are the New Elites?

    1. They are symbolic analysts. They live in a world of ideas, abstract concepts and symbols: the stockmarket, financial trends, technology, communications, universities, etc.

    1. They participate in a market in that s global in scope.

    1. They have more in common with their counterparts in foreign cities such as London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Cairo than they do with the average people whom they see every day.

    1. In these abstract circles, there exists the cynical idea that the circles of power in finance, government, entertainment and the academe become interchangeable.

    1. This is product of the Meritocracy.

  1. Lasch’s Meritocracy

    1. The meritocracy has many of the attributes of the aristocracy minus its positive traits.

    1. No sense of social chivalry and noblesse oblige.

    1. No sense of community and of place.

    1. Symbolic analysts often feel that they are self-made people who owe all their privileges to their efforts and talent.

    1. They tend to be transient and live in a community of contemporaries. They do not accept the generational transfer of wisdom, knowledge and values.

  1. Meritocracy and Democracy

    1. For Lasch, meritocracy is a parody of democracy.

    1. It has brought on the collapse of the common public schools, the deregulation of essential services and the end of the notion of a common culture.

    1. Educational reforms leave little possibility for outrage. Those who are left behind know that “they have had every chance to succeed.”

    1. The concept of obligation is depersonalized in the meritocracy. The symbolic analysts who benefit from it feel for their fellow citizens but do little directly and physically to better their lot.

  1. Democracy in the Age of Meritocracy and Globalization

    1. In the borderless economy, money has lost its nationality. Thus, it is harder to pinpoint those who divert it away from the national popular interest.

    1. A strong centralized government, run by a quasi-permanent bureaucracy reduce the possibility for protest, change and real representation.

    1. This is supported by a media that is owned by and serves more and more, a class of symbolic analysts who are increasingly removed from the common culture.

  1. Lasch’s thesis is that the decline of democracy is closely linked to the decline of the middle class and a move away from argument, discussion, freedom, individuality and a common culture.

The Lost Art of Argument

  1. For many years we have been regaled with the benefits of the communications revolution. Lasch contends that all is not as rosy as it would seem.

    1. The post-industrial economy puts a focus on the interchangeability of employ for the majority of non-symbolic analyst work.

    2. A growing concentration of non-union labour-intensive parts of the economy.

  1. Why is this happening?

    1. We tend to blame the schools, but this is fallacy in Lasch’s eyes. Instead Lasch says that it is the general decay of public debate that has caused this.

    2. What democracy depends on is not information, but informed, rigorous and reasoned public debate.

    3. The only way that we know that we know something is by subjecting our ideas to the test of public controversy.

    4. Lasch thinks that an example of this decline in public debate is the way televised political debates have changed. The corporate media demand certain types of politicians.

  1. Government, Media and Meritocracy

    1. The corporatization of the media has brought about the incorporation of corporate methods in governance. Technocracy is the result.

    2. Democracy is a form of government where discussion has to be as widely distributed as possible. This is difficult when discussion is discouraged. Lasch says that the written word is a poor substitute for oral argument. This is similar to the theses of Innis and McLuhan.

  1. The Rise of Public Relations and Advertising and its Negative Effects on Democratic Exchange.

  1. The ability to follow an argument, grasp the point of view of another, expand the boundaries of understanding, debate alternative purposes that might be pursued.

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