Vol. 45 No. 3 1978 - page 337

Hans Morgenthau and Ethel Person
has become fashionable to call the present age narcissistic,
and indeed the ascendancy of the concern for self as an ultimate value is
unmistakable. Take as an example the cultural preoccupation with
both survivalism and self-actualization. Survivalism is most apparent
in the self-congratulatory pronouncements made by or about people
emerging from a variety of crises, "I (you) am (are) a survivor" as well
as in the landscape crowded with joggers running for their lives, a
population gulping vitamin pills and yet preoccupied with hypochon–
driacal concerns, death, and dying. Self-actualization appears in the
cultural and self-imposed demands for constantly enlarging emotional
experiences, creativity and forever-expanding horizons. However, since
the celebration of the self has been a recurrent theme in western
civilization since antiquity and has until recently been viewed as
compatible and even organically connected with a stable world order,
we must specify what special features of the current preoccupation
with self warrant the designation of the present age as narcissistic.
The use of the term narcissism is somewhat confused. On the one
hand, the narcissistic personality has been described as a pathological
clinical entity. On the other hand, narcissism has been broadly used as
a perjorative term to describe certain aspects of current culture.
Although there is some overlap in these two usages of the term
narcissism, they are by no means identical. Cultural narcissism de–
scribes widespread personality traits which may bear certain resem–
blances to formal characteristics found in the clinically diagnosed
narcissistic personality, but which may arise adaptively in response to
cultural dilemmas and not primarily out of disordered individual
development. In general, these traits may be subsumed under the
general headings of hedonism, survivalism and psychic self-awareness.
These traits in themselves are not new in the history of man, but it is
the context in which they are exercised which makes the descriptive
term narcissism apt. And that context is the way in which the self is
viewed in relationship to the culture in which the individual lives.
only in the difference in the view of the self in society that we may
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