Carl R. TruemanDec 7, 2020
The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution
“My aim is to explain how and why a certain notion of the self has come to dominate the culture of the West, why this self finds its most obvious manifestation in the transformation of sexual mores, and what the wider implications of this transformation are and may well be in the future.” So writes Carl Trueman in the introduction to his 2020 book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Crossway Books, 2020)
This is a book that progressives should read in order to better understand how social conservatives perceive the massive societal changes, particularly in the realm of sexual politics and identity, of the last 60 years or so.
It is a book that social conservatives, particularly Christian ones, should read so as to understand the sexual revolution and, in particular, the normalization of transgenderism. Trueman argues that transgenderism cannot be properly understood without a grasp of a centuries-long transformation in how people in Western societies came to understand the nature of human selfhood.
Trueman charts the rise of expressive individualism and how that worldview affects nearly every niche of our lives.
He writes, “The sexual revolution does not simply represent a growth in the routine transgression of traditional sexual codes or even a modest expansion of the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable sexual behavior; rather, it involves the abolition of such codes in their entirety. More than that, it has come in certain areas, such as that of homosexuality, to require the positive repudiation of traditional sexual mores to the point where belief in, or maintenance of, such traditional views has come to be seen as ridiculous and even a sign of serious mental or moral deficiency.”
Trueman elucidates in depth the ideas of three philosophers of the modern condition: Philip Rieff, Charles Taylor, and Alasdair MacIntyre. He traces as well the impact on our own times of a range of thinkers and movements including Rousseau, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, the Romantics, Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, Freud, surrealism, Hugh Hefner, Anthony Kennedy, Peter Singer, Adrienne Rich, Judith Butler, and LGBTQ+ activists.
Whatever your political or religious views, this book will endow you with an understanding of the origins of current and future debates about free speech and religious liberty and to judge the merits of the arguments of both sides with humanity.
Give a listen.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.