George Scialabba at Commonweal:
According to the late Christopher Lasch, the advent of mass production and the new relations of authority it introduced in every sphere of social life wrought a fateful change in the prevailing American character. Psychological maturation—as Lasch, relying on Freud, explicated it—depended crucially on face-to-face relations, on a rhythm and a scale that industrialism disrupted. The result was a weakened, malleable self, more easily regimented than its pre-industrial forebear, less able to withstand conformist pressures and bureaucratic manipulation—the antithesis of the rugged individualism that had undergirded the republican virtues.
In an important recent book, The Age of Acquiescence, the historian Steve Fraser deploys a similar argument to explain why, in contrast with the first Gilded Age, when America was wracked by furious anti-capitalist resistance, popular response in our time to the depredations of capitalism has been so feeble.