Lewis H. Lapham
Lewis Henry Lapham (born January 8, 1935) is an American writer. He was the editor of the American monthly Harper's Magazine from 1976 until 1981, and from 1983 until 2006. He also is the founder of the eponymous publication about history and literature entitled Lapham's Quarterly.
- Money ennobles rich people, and corrupts poor people. Money in sufficient quantity entitles its possessor to the reverence and respect owed to the statue of George Washington. Money is the sacred elephant, always in the room, never to be addressed or seen, but whose will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.
- That’s what’s remarkable about our current circumstances: the poverty of our imagination. We haven’t had a new political idea in 50 years. And the reason is that we talk about money, instead of about ideas, or feeling or emotion. Reading this book Dawn of Everything gives me reason to feel that men at one time had the imagination to create a future fit for human beings, instead of a future fit for machines, which is what we’ve got going now. I mean, the belief in money, like the belief in technology, in and of itself, is a revolution in the direction of the world made by and for machines. We have to figure out a way to make a future fit for human beings. And that is the problem that we’re confronting at the moment. And the more that we look for the answer in money, the less likely we are to find it.
Money And Class In America (1989)
(Money And Class In America; Notes And Observations On Our Civil Religion)
- It isn't money itself that causes the trouble, but the use of money as votive offering and pagan ornament.
- Preamble, p. 7
- Never in the history of the world have so many people been so rich; never in the history off the world have so many of those same people felt themselves so poor.
- Preamble, p. 8
- Nobody wants to say, at least not for publication, that we live in a society that cares as much about the humanities as it cares about the color of the rain in Tashkent.
- Chapter 1, The Gilded Cage, p. 20
- Seeking the invisible through the imagery of the visible, the Americans never can get quite all the way to the end of the American dream.
- Chapter 1, The Gilded Cage, p. 28
- By the word "liberty" they meant liberty for property, not liberty for persons.
- Chapter 2, Protocols of Wealth, p. 33
- I sometimes think that the American story is the one about the reading of the will.
- Chapter 2, Protocols of Wealth, p. 56
- 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.
- Chapter 3, The Golden Horde, p. 58
- The state of perpetual emptiness is, of course, very good for business.
- Chapter 3, The Golden Horde, p. 59
- At this late stage in the history of American capitalism I'm not sure I know how much testimony still needs to be presented to establish the relation between profit and theft.
- Chapter 4, The Romance of Crime, p. 87
- As a child growing up in the precincts of wealth, and later as a college student, newspaper reporter and resident of New York's Upper East Side, I got used to listening to the talk of financial killings and sexual misalliance that animates the conversation of the rich and the familiars of the rich.
- Chapter 4, The Romance of Crime, p. 105-106
- The pose of innocence is as mandatory as the ability to eat banquet food and endure the scourging of the press.
- Chapter 5, Social Hygiene, p. 115
- 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.
- Chapter 5, Social Hygiene, p. 125
- Once having proclaimed our loyalty to the abstract idea that all men are created equal, we do everything in our power to prove ourselves unequal. Among the world's peoples, none other belongs to so many clubs, associations, committees and secret societies.
- Chapter 6, The Precarious Eden, p. 142
- The rich, like well brought up children, are meant to be seen, not heard.
- Chapter 6, The Precarious Eden, p. 151
- The world goes on as before, and it turns out that nobody else seems to to notice the unbearable lightness of being.
- Chapter 7, Descent Into The Mirror, p. 181
- 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.
- Chapter 7, Descent Into The Mirror, p. 190
- 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.
- Chapter 8, Holy Dread, p. 197-198
- 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.
- Chapter 8, Holy Dread, p. 211
- Wars might come and go, but the seven o'clock news lives forever.
- Chapter 9, Coined Souls, p. 227
- Let the rabbit of free enterprise out of its velveteen bag and too many people would have to be fired, too much idiocy exposed to the light of judgment or ridicule, too much vanity sacrificed to the fires of efficiency. Such a catastrophe obviously would threaten the American way of life, to say nothing of the belief in free markets.
- Chapter 9, Coined Souls, p. 232
- Surely they knew that the very idea of the future came in an American box - complete with instructions for assembling a Constitution, a MacDonald's hamburger franchise, a row of Marriot hotels and a First Amendment.
- Chapter 10, Envoi, p. 237
- If we could let go of our faith in money, who knows what we might put in its place?
- Chapter 10, Envoi, p. 242
- A certain kind of rich man afflicted with the symptoms of moral dandyism sooner or later comes to the conclusion that it isn't enough merely to make money. He feels obliged to hold views, to espouse causes and elect Presidents, to explain to a trembling world how and why the world went wrong.
Waiting For The Barbarians (1997)
- 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.
- Washington Rain Dance, p. 17
- What kind of people do we wish to become, and how do we know an American when we see one? Is it possible to pursue a common purpose without a common history or a standard text?
- Bomb-O-Gram, p. 31
- Unlike every other other nation in the world, the United States defines itself as a hypothesis and constitutes itself as an argument.
- Time Lines, p. 64
- Well aware of both the continuity and contingency of human affairs, Adams and Madison searched the works of Tacitus and Voltaire and Locke like carpenters rummaging through their assortment of tools, knowing that all the pediments were jury-rigged, all the provisional, all the alliances temporary.
- Time Lines, p. 64
- 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.
- Sacred Scroll, p. 73
- Power broken into a thousand pieces can be hidden and disowned. If no individual or institution possesses the authority to act without of everybody else in the room, then nobody is at fault if anything goes wrong.
- Sacred Scroll, p. 75
- We are a people captivated by the power and romance of metaphor, forever seeking the invisible through the image of the visible.
- Balzac's Garret, p. 88
- But I had forgotten about the seven bowls of God's wrath stored in the minds of some of the unhappier prophets on the reactionary right,...
- Dies Irae, p. 133
- 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.
- Abracadabra, p. 186
- In the garden of tabloid delight, there is always a clean towel and another song.
- In The Garden Of Tabloid Delight, p. 195
- We need not seek our own best selves, and in the meantime we inoculate ourselves against the viruses of age and idealism, which, as the advertising agencies well know, depress sales and sour the feasts of consumption.
- In The Garden Of Tabloid Delight, p. 197
- He argues that although we are theoretically a democracy, which should empower the majority, in practice, an elite has taken over, “a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.” ... Lapham argues that contemporary Washington looks surprisingly like the court of the Sun King of Absolutist France where the courtiers’ whole worth is measured by where one gets to sit or stand or by the bow with which one greets or is greeted. Officials in the court of 20th-Century America are obsessed with equivalent hierarchical distinctions. Who gets to ride in the secretary’s limousine? Who will occupy the office overlooking the lawn? These are the questions our officials really care about, although they hide their petty, narcissistic impulses behind socially correct rhetoric about the people’s welfare... Lapham tries to jolt us out of our stupor. He urges us to act and become engaged in the world to reclaim the democratic values that define the best of what we are and can be. ... In Lapham’s most probing chapter... he argues that although we think we want democracy, deep-down we really want kings--or the illusion of kings, or any kind of authoritative being.
- Sara E. Melzer, Book Review: An American Versaille: THE WISH FOR KINGS: Democracy at Bay, By Lewis H. Lapham, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1993
Encyclopedic article on Lewis H. Lapham on Wikipedia
- Wordsmith.org, 2016.01.08