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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/7/17

The Politics of Narcissism in the age of Trump: the End of History?

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Lasch argued that social developments (the erosion of family values, consumerism, etc) had created a new "therapeutic" way of thinking and that the social network of the past had collapsed into the fragile bubble of narcissism. The focus of consumer capitalism had destroyed the family nexus and replaced it with a fixation on the self, looking out for #1. And this is the essence of the culture of narcissism, the replacement of the collective or communal unit (family, community) with the private, the individual, the isolated self.

In his view, this narcissistic individualism was based on the collapse of social connections, and so we can draw a parallel as the language of this new psychological culture, which focused on one's own image became the way that reality was described: a tyrant was no longer a despot but a narcissist. If someone lied they no longer had betrayed the public trust but were simply selfish. As historically the Commons was fenced in and transformed into private property ("The rich have feelings in every part of their possessions." Rousseau) the language eliminated the rhetoric of the commons and replaced it with the rhetoric of the private person, the isolated individual looking out only for himself. This transformation was best expressed by Margaret Thatcher when she said " And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first." There is no common good, only self-interest.

This comment, I think, is the political equivalent of cultural genocide: society has been denied existence: "There is no such thing as society."

I would call this the genocide of social humanity. And it is a short step from only individuals exist to only consumers exist, as well as useless eaters.


I think the transition from the political to the therapeutic mindset can be understood as the mirror image (speaking of Narcissus) of the political discourse shifting from the Commons (the common good, shared values, the community) to the privatized world of neoliberalism where that which is common must become private.

Privatization is the final phase of predatory capitalism which transforms that which belong to all into private property. This is the political myth of neoliberal capitalism falling in love with its own image (the god of the free market, the god of money, the divine justice in the rich getting richer by having all public wealth transferred to private pockets) and becoming fixated on its own image.: With the fall of the Soviet Union and official communism, it was declared that liberal democracy (ie capitalism) was the end of history.


The End of History and the Last Man was a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, in which he argued that the triumph of Western liberal democracy marks the endpoint of humanity's political evolution and the final form of human government. Wikipedia notes that "As a key Reagan Administration contributor to the formulation of the Reagan Doctrine, Fukuyama is an important figure in the rise of neoconservatism ."

In this book, the "victory" over the great rival to capitalism and its mask of liberal democracy, the West fell in love with its own image and has been unable to avert its gaze since.The end of history means: I cannot stop gazing at my own image; nothing else matters.

Those who seek to bring triumphant capitalism out of its stupor of self-love are shunned, as Narcissus shunned Echo. In a sense, we may see the New Left, the left that has repudiated both Stalinist pseudo-communism and exceptionalist pseudo-liberal democracy as the Echo of an alternative to the self-destructive path of the self-infatuated religion of capitalism. Fukuyama not only shuns the Echo of the left but denies that it exists and we may say, for some of us with geat sadness (for others great glee), that the left IS just an echo of what it once was.

Summary: just as capitalism, as Lasch argued, has both become an example of narcissism and spawned a culture of narcissism and just as institutions are "the lengthened shadow of one man (Emerson)," we can see Donald Trump as the embodiment of the spirit of late stage capitalism, a billionaire oligarch full of himself, and blind to his own deficiencies.

In this case, the institution of the Presidency is being perverted by the lengthened shadow of our Narcissist-in-Chief. The man who claimed that the whole world was laughing at "us" and that it would stop when he became the Decider, now fails to see that the whole world simultaneously is laughing at this clown who pretends to rule.....and trembling at his inability to control his lust, his anger, and his desire for revenge on all who oppose him.

As he stares into the press pool and sees a figure he does not like, he strikes out at the "fake news" and "dishonest media." who tell him not only that his image is not beautiful but that it is merely an image, an illusion. Even the President of the United States must sometimes stand naked (to quote the Nobel Prize winner in Literature) and anyone who seeks to tell him he is not beautiful becomes an enemy, to be destroyed as he destroyed all the other Republicans in the primary, leaving him no top-tier choices for Vice President.

Such is the path to self-destruction brought on by falling in love with one's own image: the constant battle against those who tell you are not beautiful and the elimination of all those who might help you escape your tragic fate.

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dale ruff Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

retired, working radical egalitarian/libertarian socialist old school independent, vegan, survivor

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