Look at Me! The Rise of Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism under Neo- Liberalism

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Anne Manne [1], Journalist and author



This article examines the recent debates within the scholarship on narcissism considering whether too high self-esteem is the problem, or whether the grandiose exterior acts as a mask for low self-esteem. It considers the possibility that the difficulty is resolved by the existence of two types of narcissism existing on a continuum: “overt”, “grandiose”, “oblivious” and “thick-skinned” narcissism on the one hand and “covert”, “vulnerable” or “thin-skinned” narcissism on the other. Using recent psychodynamic thinking on narcissism, this article integrates recent attachment scholarship including Allan Schore’s seminal idea of attachment as a source of emotional regulation, and Daniel Stern’s concept of attunement, arguing that this gives a richer and more plausible explanation of a possible aetiology of the development of both kinds of narcissism. Manne then raises the question: Why is narcissism on the rise? Why is empathy declining? Why are avoidant attachments increasing? Why are parents more likely to behave such that, as John Fiscalini argued, “These children get what they do not need and do not get what they do need”? The article moves beyond the individual to the ways our contemporary economic and cultural context – the harsh and hypercompetitive world of neo liberalism – has profoundly reshaped our attitudes to nurture, care and the self, and made narcissism into a strategy for survival.  
 “This article is a condensed version an argument made in greater depth in Manne’s book The life of I: The new culture of narcissism” (2014).


Address for correspondence:
Anne Manne
Journalist and author