The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics

By Christopher Lasch | Go to book overview

7
THE SYNDICALIST MOMENT:
CLASS STRUGGLE AND WORKERS'
CONTROL
AS THE MORAL EQUIVALENT OF
PROPRIETORSHIP AND WAR

The Cult of "Mere Excitement"

William James was not alone in his fear of "desiccation." By the end of the nineteenth century, the decline of heroism had become a common lament. Cut loose from its religious moorings, however, the defense of the strenuous life degenerated into a cult of sheer strength. The call to live "on a higher plane," as Emerson had put it, became a summons to war and imperial conquest, often accompanied by attacks on modern softness and effeminacy, on various forms of "race suicide," and on governments' ill-advised attempts, said to reward mediocrity and weakness, to interfere with the laws of "natural selection." Critics of modern decadence and "over-civilization" conscripted the heroic ideal into the service of militarism, jingoism, imperialism, and racial purification. Under these circumstances, it

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