The Culture of Narcissism

The modern person is in the grip of a new psychological consciousness – one that is extremely pre-occupied with the self. We have become a culture of Narcissism.

So says Andrew Fellows in his paper “The Culture of Narcissism“, which can be downloaded from the L’Abri website. He also has a series of four lectures on the subject available to download as free mp3s from Bethinking.org. Go and have a read and a listen – they’re really intelligent and insightful.

What is the culture of narcissism?

As a psychological personality disorder the diagnosis of ‘Narcissist’ is extremely rare. However, the condition provides a model for understanding our own culture. there are factors at work that have produced a new character that is narcissistic. This is the age of self in a unique way. Where humans have universally been selfish (since the Fall) Narcissism is something unique. It is not a metaphor of the human condition; rather, it provides a way of understanding the psychological impact of recent social and ideological changes in our culture.

It is also important to distinguish Narcissism from modern individualism. Where individualism is a description of the ‘economic’ self, Narcissism is a description of the ‘psychological self’. Individualism describes the pursuit of wealth and material comfort. Narcissism describes the pursuit of identity and personal well being. This is why I believe that the Narcissistic model describes a new state of human consciousness – one that redefines the nature of the real. It may literally be the fulfilment of the apostle Paul’s description of the human in its last phase. 2 Tim 3:1-2 – “in the last days men will be lovers of self” – literally they will fall in love with themselves.

I’m planning on doing a series on how the modern narcissistic consciousness affects various aspects of our culture and our lives, analysing them in light of Fellows’ ideas. I believe it will help bring together many aspects of many of the things that have interested me on this blog. Here’s some of the things I hope to cover:

  • Narcissism and Art
  • Narcissism and Entertainment
  • Narcissism and Doctor Who (which provides an interesting case study for the above!)
  • Narcissism and Consumerism
  • Narcissism and Self-Image
  • Narcissism and Relationships
  • Narcissism and Knowledge
  • Narcissism and Religion

Stay tuned!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments
  • Anthony Jones

    I have just finished reading the Culture of Narcissism, and I have to say it’s pretty insightful. I must say, I have never viewed our modern (developed world) society as narcissistic, but then again if you don’t seek insight then it won’t present itself to you.
    I’ve got to say this paper has brought my current social environment into a more manageable light. I’m currently doing an apprenticeship with 220 other people, 216 of whom are lads, aged between 17 and 24, the majority of whom have spiritual, emotional and relatively behavioural immaturity. But I have to laugh, I’m sounding so holier-than-thou in making that comment :-D
    Amongst the machoism and testosterone of the different demicultures they come from I have found a couple of like minded individuals, all of whom (me included) have their own depths of narcissism to battle, but they’re also spiritually aware. I’ll put it to you this way, one of the lads I get on with fits a certain sterotype that people percieve. He is a bodybuilder with massive biceps, a bulging chest, short hair and a mean look. People are intimidated by him and treat him with that edgy, “alright mate, how are you (please don’t dislike and hurt me!!!)” attitude. But he is a gentle giant who hates bullies, believes that “it’s nice to be nice” and will have a intellectually stimulating chat. People have no boundries, it’s just which path of progression you choose to follow in your life and how you affect others.
    Anyway, I have gone a bit off topic. I have a massive favour to ask you Caleb. This is the first time in about 5 years where I have had access to a computer when I want to use it (I have been trying to live without the modern un-necessities of life through chioce and none). I need to find websites that have similar papers (I have been to the L’Abri website and bethinking.org) or any at all that can stimulate my mind. I’m quite new to web 2.0!
    Although I believe in God, I’m currently seeking guidance from my Chaplain (I’m living on a Navy base at the moment) to help develop my faith. I believe but am struggling to feel comfortable about organised religion. I would very much like a mixture of religious and non-religious sources if that is possible mate.
    And to further add to that, Caleb, we need to meet up for a quiet pint sometime. I’d love to have a talk with you about anything and everything! I regret school and college because I never really gave you the time of day and I feel I should have.
    Anyway, enough of spiel, take care mate.

    Anthony (Anthony.L.Jones@hotmail.co.uk – I hardly (read: hate) use facebook mate)

  • Anthony Jones

    I also look foreward to reading your pieces on narcissism!

    Anthony