Except in a few well-publicized instances (enough to lend credence to the iconography painted on the walls of the media), the rigorous practice of rugged individualism usually leads to poverty, ostracism and disgrace. The rugged individualist is too often mistaken for the misfit, the maverick, the spoilsport, the sore thumb.— Lewis H. Lapham
The most mouth-watering Lewis H. Lapham quotes that are easy to memorize and remember
Given lesser opportunities, Kissinger would have done very well as a talk show host. Fortunately for him, although not so fortunately for the United States, he found his patron in Nelson Rockefeller instead of William Paley.
More than illness or death, the American journalist fears standing alone against the whim of his owners or the prejudices of his audience. Deprive William Safire of the insignia of the New York Times, and he would have a hard time selling his truths to a weekly broadsheet in suburban Duluth.
Whether lawyer, politician or executive, the American who knows what's good for his career seeks an institutional rather than an individual identity. He becomes the man from NBC or IBM. The institutional imprint furnishes him with pension, meaning, proofs of existence. A man without a company name is a man without a country.
I know no other way out of what is both the maze of the eternal present and the prison of the self except with a string of words.
Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character.
A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it.
I never can pass by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York without thinking of it not as a gallery of living portraits but as a cemetery of tax-deductible wealth.
The substitution of meaning accounts for the grasping of misers as well as the extravagance of spendthrifts. Karl Marx well understood this peculiar transformation of flesh into coin.
Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.
The survival of American democracy depends less on the size of its armies than on the capacity of its individual citizens to rely... on the strength of their own thought.
People may expect too much of journalism.
Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true.
Under the rules of a society that cannot distinguish between profit and profiteering, between money defined as necessity and money defined as luxury, murder is occasionally obligatory and always permissible.
Seeing is believing, and if an American success is to count for anything in the world it must be clothed in the raiment of property. As often as not it isn't the money itself that means anything; it is the use of money as the currency of the soul.
Anti-utopianism continues to suffuse our culture.
..Today few imagine that society can be fundamentally improved, and those who do are seen as at best deluded, at worst threatening.
The gentlemen who wrote the Constitution were as suspicious of efficient government as they were wary of democracy, a "turbulence and a folly" that was associated with the unruly ignorance of an urban mob.
Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character;
it requires moral rather than athletic or intellectual effort, and it imposes on both leader and follower alike the burdens of self-restraint.
The future is an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper, and if you have the courage of your own thought and your own observation you can make of it what you will
The supply of government exceeds demand.
To the United States the Third World often takes the form of a black woman who has been made pregnant in a moment of passion and who shows up one day in the reception room on the forty-ninth floor threatening to make a scene. The lawyers pay the woman off; sometimes uniformed guards accompany her to the elevators.
The leading cause of death is birth.
The national distrust of the contemplative temperament arises less from an innate Philistinism than from a suspicion of anything that cannot be counted, stuffed, framed or mounted over the fireplace in the den.
Of what does politics consist except the making of imperfect decisions, many of them unjust and quite a few of them deadly?
We might make a public moan in the newspapers about the decay of conscience, but in private conversation, no matter what crimes a man may have committed or how cynically he may have debased his talent or his friends, variations on the answer Yes, but I did it for the money, satisfy all but the most tiresome objections.
Unlike any other business in the United States, sports must preserve an illusion of perfect innocence.
Most of the ladies and gentlemen who mourn the passing of the nation's leaders wouldn't know a leader if they saw one. If they had the bad luck to come across a leader, they would find out that he might demand something from them, and this impertinence would put an abrupt and indignant end to their wish for his return.
The playing field is more sacred than the stock exchange, more blessed than Capital Hill or the vaults of Fort Knox. The diamond and the gridiron -- and, to a lesser degree, the court, the rink, the track, and the ring -- embody the American dream of Eden.
It is no accident that banks resemble temples, preferably Greek, and that the supplicants who come to perform the rites of deposit and withdrawal instinctively lower their voices into the registers of awe. Even the most junior tellers acquire within weeks of their employment the officiousness of hierophants tending an eternal flame.
Most American cities shop to their best advantage when seen from a height or from a distance, at a point where the ugliness of the buildings dissolves into the beauty of an abstraction.
Further strengthenings of the self-centered instinct for survival recruit even greater numbers of people into some sort of ring of fellowship (church or gender, red state or blue) by populating the terra incognita outside the ring with enough barbarians to verify the existence of a civilization within--to define the preferred stock by what, as all good people agree, it decidedly is not.
Label celebrity a consumer society's most precious consumer product, and eventually it becomes the hero with a thousand faces, the packaging of the society's art and politics, the framework of its commerce, and the stuff of its religion.
The figure of the enthusiast who has just discovered jogging or a new way to fix tofu can be said to stand or, more accurately, to tremble on the threshold of conversion, as the representative American.
America is about class. To pretend that it isn't is very ignorant. No society has ever existed without some kind of a ruling class.
Let the corporations do as they please -- pillage the environment, falsify their advertising, rig the securities markets -- and it is none of the federal government's business to interfere with the will of heaven.
Love of country follows from the exercise of its freedoms, not from pride in its fleets or its armies.
It isn't money itself that causes the trouble, but the use of money as votive offering and pagan ornament.
It is the fear of death - 24/7 in every shade of hospital white and doomsday black--that sells the pharmaceutical, political, financial, film, and food product promising to make good the wish to live forever.
Money is like fire, an element as little troubled by moralizing as earth, air and water. Men can employ it as a tool or they can dance around it as if it were the incarnation of a god. Money votes socialist or monarchist, finds a profit in pornography or translations from the Bible, commissions Rembrandt and underwrites the technology of Auschwitz. It acquires its meaning from the uses to which it is put.
We are a people captivated by the power and romance of metaphor, forever seeking the invisible through the image of the visible.
In the garden of tabloid delight, there is always a clean towel and another song.
As many as six out of ten American adults have never read a book of any kind, and the bulletins from the nation’s educational frontiers read like the casualty reports from a lost war.
His administration apparently means to define itself as a television program instead of a government...I don't know if it can please both its sponsors and its intended audience.
If a foreign country doesn't look like a middle-class suburb of Dallas or Detroit, then obviously the natives must be dangerous as well as badly dressed.
Since the eighteenth century the immense expansion of the worlds wealth has come about as a result of a correspondingly immense expansion of credit, which in turn has demanded increasingly stupendous suspensions of disbelief.
The American press is, and always has been, a booster press, its editorial pages characteristically advancing the same arguments as the paid advertising copy.
Construed as a means instead of an end, history is the weapon with which we defend the future against the past.
But the line of thought that I'd been chasing for several days was implicit in the ruins of the old Roman Empire, which gradually destroyed itself by substituting the faith in a legion of miraculous words for the strength of armies and the weight of walls.
Nobody suffers the pain of birth or the anguish of loving a child in order for presidents to make wars, for governments to feed on the substance of their people, for insurance companies to cheat the young and rob the old.
Among all the emotions, the rich have the least talent for love.
It is possible to love one's dog, dress or duck-shooting hat, but a human being presents a more difficult problem. The rich might wish to experience feelings of affection, but it is almost impossible to chip away the enamel of their narcissism. They take up all the space in all the mirrors in the house. Their children, who represent the most present and therefore the most annoying claim on their attention, usually receive the brunt of their irritation.
Recollections of early childhood bear comparison to fairy tales, and .
.. youth remains an unknown country to whose bourn no traveler returns except as the agent of a foreign power.