The assertions made by Lewis Lapham’s Money and Class in America distinguishes the meaning of success and the requirements for respect from Americans to that of other strong societies. In his essay he defends that Americans show respect for those with a high economic status while other nations feel art and intellect are warrant for respect. With this, he agrees with Henry Adams that Americans are greatly materialistic in the sense that they try to find “success” in wealth because they have been “deflected by the pursuit of money”.
Though the idea that Americans favor and respect a high economic status is true, Lapham’s claim that they do so because they are socially forced to is not accurate because they still have the ability to make a choice. When Lapham states that “Men remain free to rise or fall in the world, and if they fail it must be because they willed it so”, he agrees with the suggestion that Americans see the rich as an example of being sufficient. This is because he feels that if Americans are not rich it’s because they chose not to be, this is inaccurate.
First off, he contradicts the “absurdity” he finds in the idea that “…in the United states a rich man is perceived as being necessarily both good and wise…” He defends the respect toward superficiality. He then goes on to support the idea that Americans still have a choice in choosing the other direction that he claims is being deflected by social standards. America has intellectuals and artists that deserve the respect they would receive in other nations, but instead their respect is given to those who don’t deserve it.
What Lapham should have said is that men are free to deny whatever standards are being set for them. Though in other societies it is easier to find the artistic and intellectual respect, there is still choice, which Lapham claims is not true. As shown through his double standards in Money and Class in America and in his denial of free will that any good hearted American would embrace, it is clear that he sides with the materialistic.