The history of modem society, from one point of view,” Christopher Lasch observed in Haven in a Heartless World, “is the assertion of social control over activities once left to individuals and their families.” This, at any rate, is the point of view from which Lasch constructed his ambitious and provocative critique of American society. From another point of view, of course, modernity is identified with, even defined by, the rise of individualism: economic, political, and ethical. The latter perspective is the once and probably still dominant ideology of progress: of history as the story of freedom, as a narrative of individual emancipation from the trammels of communal prescription and superstition.
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