The city overwhelmed the individual and at the same time freed him from prying neighbors, gossip, and the prejudice against anything distinctive or new. The urbanite cultivated an exaggerated individuality, even a certain eccentricity, as a defense against anonymity. Faced with conditions that made him a “mere cog in an enormous organization of things and powers,” he found it necessary to exaggerate the “personal element” in order to “remain audible even to himself.” By means of “mannerism, caprice, and preciousness,” he sought more and more extravagant ways of calling attention to himself. He flung himself into the pleasures around him but soon became jaded with pleasure. “A life in boundless pursuit of pleasure makes one blasé,” Simmel observed; “it agitates the nerves to their strongest reactivity for such a long time that they finally cease to react at all.” A “blasé attitude” set the tone of city life.
In moments of boredom or loneliness, the city dweller might long for the remembered warmth of his ancestral home. Having left it, however, he could never find his way back, any more than the modern world could find its way back to the “ancient polis.”
—Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven : Progress and Its Critics (via zerogate)