The Language of Democracy

Rather than confront the inherent role of the university as a class-sorting mechanism (as well as an engine of the military-industrial complex),.. educators settled on a pedagogical model that valued the individual and immediate experiences of students over general civic and literary instruction. In lieu of learning a shared curriculum, students earned course credits through activities that barely pushed them out of their individual comfort zones…. this turn rendered the university “a diffuse, shapeless, and permissive institution that has absorbed the major currents of cultural modernism and reduced them to a watery blend, a mind-emptying ideology of cultural revolution, personal fulfilment, and creative alienation.”

In Plain Style, Christopher Lasch showed that we can render even the most iconoclastic demands in common speech… Although Lasch never witnessed the dawn of Facebook and Twitter, he anticipated the inundation of sarcasm and slang that would define those platforms. The mass adoption of social media desensitized users to semantic peculiarity, eccentricity, and insincerity in political argument.

Max Ridge

Most remember Christopher Lasch as a cultural critic. His most popular books—The Culture of Narcissism (1979), The True and Only Heaven (1991), and The Revolt of the Elites (1995)— gave voice to a peculiarly American form of counter-enlightenment. Well-meaning professionals, with their therapeutic culture, false meritocracy, and discount brand of progress, displeased him. It is unsurprising that he continues to inspire so many groaning conservatives and disaffected anti-capitalists in our moment of partisan realignment. Those who chafe at the moralism of the professional-managerial class will find much to admire in Lasch-the-disparager.

Yet it is Lasch-the-pedagogue, author of the slim and rather unsung writing guide Plain Style (2002), who might speak most usefully to American radicals today. Plain speech and writing grounded Lasch’s theory of citizenship, representing an ethic of personal conduct in the public sphere as well as a standard against which to hold evasive elites to account. (Plain Style’s editor, Stewart Weaver, contrasted this style with the official “euphemism, jargon, evasion, and downright lying” surrounding the Vietnam War.) Despite its uncompromising and didactic tone, Plain Style remains a democratic text—and a guide for the deliberative cultivation of our political language…

George Orwell: Literature and Totalitarianism (1941)

George Orwell – Freedom of the Park (1945)

George Orwell’s Final Warning: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever”

George Orwell Reviews Mein Kampf: “He Envisages a Horrible Brainless Empire” (1940)