In his book Money and Class in America, Lewis Lapham makes the following observations about attitudes towards wealth in the United States. Drawing on you own knowledge and experience, write a carefully reasoned essay defending, challening or qualifying Lapham's view of "the American faith in money"
I think it fair to say that the current ardor of the American faith in money easily supasses the degrees of intesity achieved by other societies in other times and places. Money means so many things to us-spiritual as well as temporal-that we are at a loss to know how to hold its majesty at bay….
Henry Adams in his autobiography remarks that although the AMericans weren't much good as materialists they had been so "deflected by the pursuit of money that they could turn "in no other direction" The national distrust of the contemplative temperament arises less from an innate Philistinism than from a suspicion of anything that cannot be counted, stuffed, framed or mounted over the fireplace in the den. Men remain free to rise or fall in the world, and if they fail it must because they willed it so. The visible sifns of wealth testify to an inward of one's person an American loses all hope of demonstrating to himself the theorem of his happiness. Seeing is believing, and if an American success is to count for anything in the world it must be clothed in the raiment of property. As often as not it isn't money itself that means anything; it is the use of money as the currency of the soul.
Against the faith in money, other men in other times and places have raised up coutervailling faiths in family, honor, religion, intellect and social class. the merchant princess of medieval Europe would have looked upon AMerican devotion as sterile cupidity; the ancient Greeks would have regarded it as a form of insanity. Even now, in the last decade of a century the desire for wealth against the other claims of the human spirit. An Englishman of modest means can remain more or less content with the distinction of an aristocratic name or the deference accorded by Americans only to celebritiy; the Soviets honor the holding of poiltical power; in France a rich man is a rich man, to whom everbody grants the substantial powers that his riches command but to whom nobody grants the respect due to a member of the National Academy. But in the United States a rich man is perceived as being necessarily both good and wise, which is an absurdity that would be seen as scuh not only by a Frenchman but also by a Russian. Not that the Americans are greedier than the French. or less intellectual thatn supposedly egalitarian people submit their definitions of good, the true and the beautiful if not the judgement of the bottom line?
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