The Rise of Selfishness in America

James Lincoln Collier, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-19-505277-0
There was a lot to respect in America's sexually repressed Victorian Age, contends cultural historian Collier. Why did family feeling, concern for people, self-sacrifice and a work ethic--basic values--dissolve in the permissiveness of an impersonal industrial society? ``The middle class was simply seduced,'' according to the author, who points to saloon entertainment, spectator sports, jazz, cabaret and increased alcohol and drug use as signposts in a steadily rising curve of self-indulgence in the 20th century. Hollywood pablum whisked viewers into ``a fuzzy world of make-believe,'' and in the semi-trance of watching TV the hedonistic personality found a perfect escape. Collier ( Decision in Philadelphia ) believes that our narcissistic ``ethic of self'' has taken its toll: soaring divorce rates, neglected children, a gross shortchanging of public needs and services. A social history too easily dismissed as elitist, this ringing, provocative jeremiad cuts a path through a haze of self-indulgent thought and action in the me-first society. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-595-35159-6
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