The Pequod Review:
The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy argues that American elites' historical obligations to country and community have been replaced by a focus on money and self-improvement, with detrimental effects for American democracy. The thesis isn't entirely persuasive, but Christopher Lasch — having migrated from Marxism to a unique centrist/populist position by the time of his death in 1995 — brings an original perspective to these issues. And some of his observations are quite prescient from the vantage point of 2020s woke culture:
The current catchwords — diversity, compassion, empowerment, entitlement — express the wistful hope that deep divisions in American society can be bridged by goodwill and sanitized speech. We are called on to recognize that all minorities are entitled to respect not by virtue of their achievements but by virtue of their sufferings in the past. Compassionate attention, we are told, will somehow raise their opinion of themselves; banning racial epithets and other forms of hateful speech will do wonders for their morale. In our preoccupation with words, we have lost sight of the tough realities that cannot be softened simply by flattering people's self-image. What does it profit the residents of the South Bronx to enforce speech codes at elite universities?... The issues that give rise to strident professions of faith on both sides of the ideological divide seem to have little bearing on the problems most people face in everyday life. Politics has become a matter of ideological gestures while the real problems remain unsolved.
The same benefits misleadingly associated with religion — security, spiritual comfort, dogmatic relief from doubt — are thought to flow from a therapeutic politics of identity. In effect, identity politics has come to serve as a substitute for religion — or at least for the feeling of self-righteousness that is so commonly confused with religion. These developments shed further light on the decline of democratic debate. "Diversity" — a slogan that looks attractive on the face of it — has come to mean the opposite of what it appears to mean. In practice, diversity turns out to legitimize a new dogmatism, in which rival minorities take shelter behind a set of beliefs impervious to rational discussion.
[W]e have lost our respect for honest manual labor. We think of “creative” work as a series of abstract mental operations performed in an office, preferably with the aid of computers, not as the production of food, shelter, and other necessities. The thinking classes are fatally removed from the physical side of life—hence their feeble attempt to compensate by embracing a strenuous regimen of gratuitous exercise.