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Products>The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution

, 2020
ISBN: 9781433556333

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Since the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015, sexual identity has dominated both public discourse and cultural trends—and yet, no historical phenomenon is its own cause. From Augustine to Marx, various views and perspectives have contributed to the modern understanding of self. In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman carefully analyzes the roots and development of the sexual revolution as a symptom, rather than the cause, of the human search for identity. This timely exploration of the history of thought behind the sexual revolution teaches readers about the past, brings clarity to the present, and gives guidance for the future as Christians navigate the culture’s ever-changing search for identity.

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Resource Experts
  • Analyzes the roots and development of the sexual revolution as a symptom of the human search for identity
  • Explores the history of thought behind the sexual revolution
  • Provides guidance for the future as Christians navigate the culture’s ever-changing search for identity

Part 1: Architecture of the Revolution

  • Reimagining the Self
  • Reimagining Our Culture

Part 2: Foundations of the Revolution

  • The Other Genevan: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Foundations of Modern Selfhood
  • Unacknowledged Legislators: Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake
  • The Emergence of Plastic People: Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin
  • Epilogue to Part 2: Reflections on the Foundations of the Revolution

Part 3: Sexualization of the Revolution

  • Sigmund Freud, Civilization, and Sex
  • The New Left and the Politicization of Sex
  • Epilogue to Part 3: Reflections on the Sexualization of the Revolution

Part 4: Triumphs of the Revolution

  • The Triumph of the Erotic
  • The Triumph of the Therapeutic
  • The Triumph of the T
  • Epilogue to Part 4: Reflections on the Triumphs of the Revolution

Top Highlights

“For me to be a self in the sense I am using the term here involves an understanding of what the purpose of my life is, of what constitutes the good life, of how I understand myself—my self—in relation to others and to the world around me.” (Page 22)

“Every age has had its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.” (Page 30)

“If it were just sexual activity that were at issue, passions would likely not run so deep. But far more than codes of behavior are at stake here. In addressing the behavior that has come to prominence through the sexual revolution, we are actually not so much speaking of practices as we are speaking of identities. And when we are speaking of identities, the public, political stakes are incredibly high and raise a whole different set of issues.” (Page 51)

“Rieff’s approach to culture is characterized by a number of ideas. Foremost is his notion that cultures are primarily defined by what they forbid.” (Page 43)

“Self-creation is a routine part of our modern social imaginary.” (Page 42)

This is a characteristically brilliant book by Carl Trueman, helping the church understand why people believe that sexual difference is a matter of psychological choice. Indeed, Trueman shows how the story we tell ourselves about normalized LGBTQ+ values is false and foolish. With wisdom and clarity, Trueman guides readers through the work of Charles Taylor, Philip Rieff, British Romantic poets, and Continental philosophers to trace the history of expressive individualism from the eighteenth century to the present. The rejection of mimesis (finding excellence by imitating something greater than yourself) for poiesis (finding authenticity by inventing yourself on your own terms), in addition to the Romantic movement’s welding of sexual expression as a building block of political liberation, ushers in the modern LGBTQ+ movement as if on cue. This book reveals how important it is for thinking Christians to distinguish virtue from virtue signaling. The former makes you brave; the latter renders you a man pleaser, which is a hard line to toe in a world where there are so few real men left to please.

—Rosaria Butterfield, Former Professor of English, Syracuse University; author, The Gospel Comes with a House Key

Moderns, especially Christian moderns, wonder how our society arrived at this strange moment when nearly everything about the self and sexuality that our grandparents believed is ridiculed. This genealogy of culture, clearly and elegantly written, will help all of us understand how we got to where we are, so that we can plot our own futures with more clarity and confidence. This book is a must-read for Christians and all others who are disturbed by the dictatorship of relativism that surrounds us

—Gerald R. McDermott, Former Anglican Chair of Divinity, Beeson Divinity Schoo

Those looking for a light read that provides escape from the cares of the world will not find The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self their book of choice. But this volume will richly reward readers who don’t mind thinking hard about important (though sometimes unpleasant) topics. Christians have been taken off guard by how rapidly cultural mores have changed around them, but Carl Trueman demonstrates that radical thinkers have long been laying a foundation for these developments. Readers should press on to the end—the final paragraphs are among the best

—David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Westminster Seminary California

Carl R. Trueman is pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He has received degrees from St. Catharine’s College in Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen. Trueman is also professor of historical theology and church history and Paul Wooley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. He has authored several books and was editor of Themelios from 1998–2007.


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