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Since its publication in 1966, The Triumph of the Therapeutic has been hailed as a work of genuine brilliance, one of those books whose insights uncannily anticipate cultural developments and whose richness of argumentation reorients entire fields of inquiry. This special fortieth-anniversary edition of Philip Rieff’s masterpiece, the first volume in ISI Books’ new Backgro Since its publication in 1966, The Triumph of the Therapeutic has been hailed as a work of genuine brilliance, one of those books whose insights uncannily anticipate cultural developments and whose richness of argumentation reorients entire fields of inquiry. This special fortieth-anniversary edition of Philip Rieff’s masterpiece, the first volume in ISI Books’ new Background series, includes an introduction by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn and essays on the text by historians Eugene McCarraher and Wilfred McClay and philosopher Stephen Gardner.


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Since its publication in 1966, The Triumph of the Therapeutic has been hailed as a work of genuine brilliance, one of those books whose insights uncannily anticipate cultural developments and whose richness of argumentation reorients entire fields of inquiry. This special fortieth-anniversary edition of Philip Rieff’s masterpiece, the first volume in ISI Books’ new Backgro Since its publication in 1966, The Triumph of the Therapeutic has been hailed as a work of genuine brilliance, one of those books whose insights uncannily anticipate cultural developments and whose richness of argumentation reorients entire fields of inquiry. This special fortieth-anniversary edition of Philip Rieff’s masterpiece, the first volume in ISI Books’ new Background series, includes an introduction by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn and essays on the text by historians Eugene McCarraher and Wilfred McClay and philosopher Stephen Gardner.

30 review for The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shane Avery

    While writing a rather lengthy review, I accidentally closed the web browser, losing my work. Acutely painful, I assure you. I don't have the time or energy to do it over again. But I will say this: The ideal notion of community ought to rest on rational consent, not upon a manipulative set of "inner ordinances" and interdictory symbols that guilt members into remaining emotionally invested and attached. Naturally Rieff anticipates this criticism, and wonders whether a traditional form of communi While writing a rather lengthy review, I accidentally closed the web browser, losing my work. Acutely painful, I assure you. I don't have the time or energy to do it over again. But I will say this: The ideal notion of community ought to rest on rational consent, not upon a manipulative set of "inner ordinances" and interdictory symbols that guilt members into remaining emotionally invested and attached. Naturally Rieff anticipates this criticism, and wonders whether a traditional form of community can exist within a thoroughly morally permissive (i.e., non-manipulative) milieux. Traditional forms of community have never been rationally optional: they have, through "inner ordinances," transmitted to the individual from his earliest infancy a sense of right and wrong. By transgressing communal ordinances, the individual faced the prospect of profound shame and guilt. Only through obeying moral codes could the individual share in the fundamental pleasures of agreement and mutual contact. Communal purpose thus saved him from the "infinite variety of panic and emptiness" that he would otherwise face. It's hard not to lament Freud's mechanistic rejection of altruism, sacrifice, and the very idea of love. But how can one lament the decline of asceticism and institutionalized social control? External coercion is a high price for simply belonging. Freud's goal of strengthening the ego remains important in a therapeutic sense, if humans wish not only to free themselves from overt social control, but also from the more subliminal forms of control that exist in the 21st century. (I'm referring here to advertising, and other insidious props of capitalism and entertainment). The irrational is all around us. We need an analytic attitude to combat it. I reject the idea that a scientific attitude excludes spirituality. Somehow, the dialectic of Science and Spirit will resolve itself.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Avery

    Rieff is certainly no conservative in this book, as he will become in Sacred Order/Social Order, but he is certainly one of the finest intellects of the 20th century. Here he's a lot closer to Nietzsche, stopping to examine the deeper layers of flailing that comes from trying to derive a teleology from psychotherapy, and demanding a better way to situate the therapeutic in the post-Christian world. We shouldn't be surprised that nobody had the courage to respond to his challenge. A moderately di Rieff is certainly no conservative in this book, as he will become in Sacred Order/Social Order, but he is certainly one of the finest intellects of the 20th century. Here he's a lot closer to Nietzsche, stopping to examine the deeper layers of flailing that comes from trying to derive a teleology from psychotherapy, and demanding a better way to situate the therapeutic in the post-Christian world. We shouldn't be surprised that nobody had the courage to respond to his challenge. A moderately difficult read and not a book that could be written today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gregg Wingo

    "The Triumph of the Therapeutic" is a highly influential work on writers such as Alasdair MacIntyre. This is acknowledged by both writers and spoken to by Rieff in the 1987 preface of the reprint of his book. The Therapist of Rieff was combined with “…Nietzsche’s artist and Weber’s bureaucrat…” in "After Virtue", and Rieff completes the actors of the contemporary world with the addition of the “Baconian Scientist”. The Therapist is a corruption of Freud’s psychoanalytical process to the purpose "The Triumph of the Therapeutic" is a highly influential work on writers such as Alasdair MacIntyre. This is acknowledged by both writers and spoken to by Rieff in the 1987 preface of the reprint of his book. The Therapist of Rieff was combined with “…Nietzsche’s artist and Weber’s bureaucrat…” in "After Virtue", and Rieff completes the actors of the contemporary world with the addition of the “Baconian Scientist”. The Therapist is a corruption of Freud’s psychoanalytical process to the purpose of messianic movements in our society. Rieff feels Freud’s practice of psychology was focused on preparing the patient to be able to deal with the Hobbesian world through the individual’s balance within through self-analysis and that the use of psychoanalysis for cultural purposes amounted to the creation of a religion which to Freud would be an act of injuring the patient. In essence, Freud’s practice of psychology provides the individual the psychic basis for the role of Superman, Manager or Scientist in the world which the Modernist condition requires of them and presents the possibility of a “post-religious culture”. The first break with Freud is by Jung who formulizes archetypes as “…universal and historic forms of fantasy, sometimes memorialized as religions…” and, thereby, providing his patients and the community with a quasi-religious solution to Modernist condition. And what is critical is that Jung has discovered a methodology for communication through the symbolic not as an art but as science – a science that will combine the arts from literature to architecture into a tool of politics in a rational way for the use by mass movements intent on societal disruption and change. Rieff specifically references the Puritans of England as “…the carriers of new moral demands…” who after utilizing their symbolic forms to achieve power will “…use the symbol system as a control device…for preservation and expansion of the system…first established…” by them and for their new order. The communicational methods of the Puritans, the Soviets, and the neo-classical economists of today are clearly apparent. Rieff also speaks of another student of Freud’s Wilhelm Reich who eventually followed his theories into the realm practiced by the Superman as a self-described Freudo-Marxist. Reich felt that a successful revolution had a requirement to be “…psychologically deep as well as politically broad…” in order to avoid “…counter-revolution…” from the “masses” and this would be accomplished through a non-institutionally based religion of the therapeutic. This allows the Therapist to combine the role of the Scientist with the language of religion for purposes of cultural change and control. D. H. Lawrence is also treated by Rieff as a theoretical descendent of Freud. Lawrence rejects the sexual focus of Freud for love and sees love as the counterweight to psychoanalysis rationality. What is interesting about this theory is that in 1984 Orwell utilizes the power of love as the shield that protects his character, Julia, from the logic-driven control of the State. We must keep in mind that the emotive is a powerful force in mankind for contesting the rational. This is also the basis for Jung’s opinion of National Socialism in Germany. Rieff explains that from the Jungian perspective it represented “…a therapeutic realignment of an unbalanced German collective unconscious…” and a rejection of 19th century German rationalism. This is due to psychoanalytic theory and Marxism sharing a belief in human power as a method for achieving an improved world condition for mankind. A fascinating read for anyone interested in the psychological roots of today's major social movements.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Father Nick

    The fact is, I am simply not equipped to understand this book. I gave it a heroic effort though, and did learn some things about Freud, Jung, and Lawrence in the process. This book came up in a Christian Anthropology class this past year and I finally got around to following up on it, and found the excerpts used in class to describe quite precisely some of the dysfunctional aspects of our present culture. If I understand the author correctly (and it's entirely possible that I don't), it seems as The fact is, I am simply not equipped to understand this book. I gave it a heroic effort though, and did learn some things about Freud, Jung, and Lawrence in the process. This book came up in a Christian Anthropology class this past year and I finally got around to following up on it, and found the excerpts used in class to describe quite precisely some of the dysfunctional aspects of our present culture. If I understand the author correctly (and it's entirely possible that I don't), it seems as if he is quite aware of these destructive, individualistic, and ultimately unfulfilling impulses driving our contemporary culture, but sees a solution not in a return to the antiquated ascetic "collective therapies" of the past (prayer, fasting, sacramental participation, etc.) but an entirely new collective therapy that eschews individualism and its psychologically destructive structures, but the old "delusions" as well. I certainly wasn't expecting this coming from ISI but my best reading has confused me quite a bit and given me the impression that Rieff is no ally of traditional religion. However, this is just an impression, and I find myself doubting this judgment for no other reason than I am not conversant with the Freudian and post-Freudian terminology he uses somewhat glibly and opaquely at times. In short, it feels like starting to listen in on an intense conversation about quite particular events three quarters of the way through.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brett Vanderzee

    This was a challenging but fascinating work of cultural criticism, deeply pertinent some 50 years after coming into print. Philip Rieff traces the emergence of “Psychological man” (the successor of Political, Religious, and Economic man—pardon the gender exclusivity) as the current archetype of Western civilization. Rieff critiques three disciples of Freud (Jung, Reich, and Lawrence) for going beyond their teacher’s merely “analytic” attitude to promote a “therapeutic” culture (or even “religion This was a challenging but fascinating work of cultural criticism, deeply pertinent some 50 years after coming into print. Philip Rieff traces the emergence of “Psychological man” (the successor of Political, Religious, and Economic man—pardon the gender exclusivity) as the current archetype of Western civilization. Rieff critiques three disciples of Freud (Jung, Reich, and Lawrence) for going beyond their teacher’s merely “analytic” attitude to promote a “therapeutic” culture (or even “religion”) founded on remissions rather than controls. Rieff’s style feels at once elliptical and yet punctuated by aphorisms throughout. (“Crowded more and more together, we are learning to live more distantly from one another;” “Theoretical categories, too passionately held, generate their own facts.”) As someone largely un-versed in sociology and psychology, it took time to adapt to Rieff’s lexicon, but the final chapter tied the work together in a powerful way. For those interested in a critical reading of modern (and particularly “therapeutic”) culture, I recommend this work, as well as the two critical essays that follow in its 40th anniversary edition.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I first read this book a few years ago, and only partially understood it. Last fall I read My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority, written 40 years after The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud and The Crisis of Modernity by Augusto Del Noce, both of which dealt with post-Christian aspects of the West, and particularly its dissolution of coherent vertical structures of authority. Rieff was much less sanguine after watching the practical outwo I first read this book a few years ago, and only partially understood it. Last fall I read My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority, written 40 years after The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud and The Crisis of Modernity by Augusto Del Noce, both of which dealt with post-Christian aspects of the West, and particularly its dissolution of coherent vertical structures of authority. Rieff was much less sanguine after watching the practical outworkings of society after embracing many of the aspects of the Freudian world view. Rieff spends some time in discussing post-Freudian thinkers, Jung, Carl Gustav, Wilhelm Reich, and D.H. Lawrence. While each of these men diverged from Freud, their points of departure illuminate what Freud was really saying about emancipated "Man" from the prior (negative) constraints of culture. I recommend highly the last 20 pages or so of the book as a good summary of Rieff's observations. These pages are useful for any Christian, first of all for introspection, and then as a checklist of aspects of the West which are now thoroughly secularized, and perhaps now antithetical to traditional Christian thought and practice.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Penner

    This book is not to be entered into lightly. It is thick with sociological language and there is much that needs to be unpacked. This 40th anniversary issue is very helpful with two essays at the end which explain Rieff's theory of culture and give biographical insight into his academic career and personal life since the book's publication. Rieff's theory comes out of the reality that Western man had been deconverted from belief in God, Christianity and any other symbol system that might make cul This book is not to be entered into lightly. It is thick with sociological language and there is much that needs to be unpacked. This 40th anniversary issue is very helpful with two essays at the end which explain Rieff's theory of culture and give biographical insight into his academic career and personal life since the book's publication. Rieff's theory comes out of the reality that Western man had been deconverted from belief in God, Christianity and any other symbol system that might make culture coherent. Freud had been one of the first to see the implications of this and adopted an analytical approach to help people deal with the misery of life without purpose or meaning. He produced the "psychological man" who would succeed religious and economic man who had both failed to bring meaning to culture. His disciples--Jung, Reich and Lawrence--could not tolerate the hopelessness of such a condition and sought to create a symbol system where people could flourish as a culture without the aid of any natural law or supernatural reality. Reiff did not believe this was helpful or even possible and postulated that western culture would grow increasingly individualistic and fragmented with nothing acting as glue to hold culture together. Authority of all kinds would be rejected and each person would be his or her own god as it were. If this is sounding familiar, we are pretty close to there.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex Stroshine

    "The Triumph of the Therapeutic" is a famous and perceptive work that has been on my "to-read" list for a long time. Many religious thinkers, such as Rod Dreher in his book "The Benedict Option," have gleaned many useful insights from Philip Rieff. I do believe we live in a very therapeutic age. I found it a rather challenging read, particularly since I have little exposure to or understanding of many of the thinkers Rieff analyzes - Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, William Reich, D.H. Lawrence (I read "The Triumph of the Therapeutic" is a famous and perceptive work that has been on my "to-read" list for a long time. Many religious thinkers, such as Rod Dreher in his book "The Benedict Option," have gleaned many useful insights from Philip Rieff. I do believe we live in a very therapeutic age. I found it a rather challenging read, particularly since I have little exposure to or understanding of many of the thinkers Rieff analyzes - Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, William Reich, D.H. Lawrence (I read an edition released in 1968; the newer ISI edition features extra essays by additional scholars and an introduction by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn which may be helpful). I found the first couple of chapters and the final chapter the most interesting, but this is certainly a book I should read again after learning more about psychology.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Anybody who married Susan Sontag obviously needs therapy -- yuk yuk yuk. Actually this book is an anti-therapy screed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    More information here. More information here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Philip Rieff (1922-2006) is an American sociologist and cultural critic most active during the mid-twentieth century. His primary concern is the state of “Western” or “Christian” culture, which he considers to be “dying” at the end of a long period of “deconversion.” For Rieff, the “triumph of the therapeutic” after Freud is not a good thing. But it’s not entirely Freud’s fault, because his psychotherapy focuses on helping individuals control their instincts within the Christian cultural setting Philip Rieff (1922-2006) is an American sociologist and cultural critic most active during the mid-twentieth century. His primary concern is the state of “Western” or “Christian” culture, which he considers to be “dying” at the end of a long period of “deconversion.” For Rieff, the “triumph of the therapeutic” after Freud is not a good thing. But it’s not entirely Freud’s fault, because his psychotherapy focuses on helping individuals control their instincts within the Christian cultural setting. For Rieff, the fault lies with Freud’s successors, who challenge the authority of culture to dictate the meaning of individual’s instincts. These successors include C.G. Jung, psychoanalyst and the father of the archetype and the idea of the collective unconscious; D.H. Lawrence, a novelist who celebrates the power of the erotic; and Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst who combined his therapeutic work with Marxist politics. Rieff’s diagnosis of Western culture’s trouble is closely linked to his theories on why culture is important, and how culture changes and survives. Rieff believes that culture is important because it is a “system of moralizing demands” rooted in institutions that gives human lives meaning based in commitment to purposes greater than the individual self. He’s concerned that the formerly “Christian” culture of faith is being eclipsed by a psychotherapeutic emphasis on self that focuses on the individual’s perceived needs and comfort and cultivates indifference to the demands of the culture of faith, thus undermining it. But—and perhaps this is even worse in Rieff’s eyes—the psychotherapeutic revolution seems incapable of generating a replacement culture that, even if it’s not based on the Christian faith, could provide an equivalent demand structure for people’s moral lives. Rieff’s fear is that without the moral system provided by a robust culture, individuals and society will become degenerate. In his words: “At the breaking point, a culture can no longer maintain itself….it demands less, permits more. Bread and circuses become confused with right and duty.”

  12. 4 out of 5

    William

    I received this book as a random secret Santa gift from someone who picked it as one of their favorite books. I love getting recommendations from folks in that way, especially for a book that I had not heard of and would never have otherwise read. I found the book overall pretty tough sledding, as it is densely written and filled with specialist vocabulary. The introduction acknowledges that, but then suggests, "Rieff's terms and formulations can be read the first time through for the general se I received this book as a random secret Santa gift from someone who picked it as one of their favorite books. I love getting recommendations from folks in that way, especially for a book that I had not heard of and would never have otherwise read. I found the book overall pretty tough sledding, as it is densely written and filled with specialist vocabulary. The introduction acknowledges that, but then suggests, "Rieff's terms and formulations can be read the first time through for the general sense of the interpretation and lingered over later at length once the end is grasped." I think that is generally correct, but will warn that in this review, I'm still at the "general sense" end of understanding. The main thrust of Triumph of the Therapeutic is about the sociological implications of Freud's theories (i.e., the titular "therapeutic"). It is divided into roughly three parts of unequal size: an initial set of chapters focusing on background and Freud (~90 pages), three chapters each covering one of Freud's followers (~110 pages), and a brief concluding chapter (~20 pages). The first section, which I found completely fascinating, begins with the central question of the book, the so-called “religious question”: “How are we to be consoled for the misery of living?” Rieff says that, historically, this question has been answered by a society’s “culture,” and in particular, the specific set of demands a culture makes of those that participate in it. Complying with those demands (or, as Rieff calls them, “commitments” or “interdictions”) may be hard/painful for certain individuals, but the culture in turns holds out a promise of “salvation” to those who conform themselves. Although Rieff discusses Christian culture as one example of a culture that answers the “religious question” with a promise of “salvation,” he does not mean salvation in a theological sense. For example, Marxism has its own culture that holds out a promise of “salvation” through progress toward a non-theistic worker’s paradise. Rieff discusses that most cultures go through stages of development, moving from “commitments” to “remissions” (i.e., stages where cultural control over various impulses relax). At some point the remissions fall out of balance with the commitments, and a cultural revolution occurs, culminating in a new culture with its own particular set of commitments. In many cases, a culture is tied to a specific society, and the culture rises and falls along with that society. But Rieff points out that one distinctive feature of Christianity is that it self-consciously divorced itself from any particular society and so has endured beyond its original Jewish/Roman context. (Incidentally, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Rieff is Jewish—the book discusses Christianity extensively but has almost no talk of Judaism). In any event, this model of salvation through culture is what Rieff calls a “therapy of commitment.” Throughout history, an individual’s well-being and stability was established through full participation in the culture. Mental illness and other psychological problems (self-doubt, anxiety, etc.) are addressed through the process of the culture supporting its members in being good citizens. Rieff observes that toward the end of the 19th century, our culture became more remissive, consistent with the standard pendulum swinging toward another cultural revolution. But unlike past cultural revolutions, the ascendant new culture does not contain its own new set of commitments as would be expected. Rather, the ascending culture is intensely individualistic and requires only minimal commitments of its members—and, as a result, it provides no mechanism of salvation. Rieff characterizes this as the “impoverishment of western culture.” He writes that, “Western culture is changing already into a symbol system unprecedented in its plasticity and absorptive capacity. Nothing much can opposite it really, and it welcomes all criticism, for, in a sense, it stands for nothing.” Into this vacuum steps Freud and his psychoanalytic approach. To oversimplify: Freud believes that all psychological problems stem from conflict within an individual between the id, ego, and super-ego. Previously, that tension would be resolved by the cultural influence on the super-ego (i.e., the “therapy of commitment”) crushing the id, but with the ascendent culture no longer providing a “therapy of commitment,” some other mechanism is needed. Thus, rather than relying on a uniform “cultural therapy” from society, Freud proposes individually analyzing and treating each patient to resolve the id/ego/super-ego tension. And because Freud has no interest in suggesting alternative cultures with different “therapies of commitment”—indeed, he does not think the “religious question” is worth asking—he is agnostic about the “right” way to approach each patient. Instead, he believes that through psychoanalytic testing, an individualized “cure” can be scientifically devised to relieve the psychological tension within a patient (the so-called “analytical” or “therapeutic” approach). The second part of the book discusses the approach of three of Freud’s followers, all of whom started from Freud’s basic analytical approach but tried to go farther and provide an answer to the “religious question” Freud refused to ask. The most gripping of these to me was Wilhelm Reich, who started as a political, psychoanalytic Marxist and ended his life hawking pseudoscientific “orgone energy” machines. The chapter on Carl Jung was also interesting, but I confess that I could not really follow the discussion of D.H. Lawrence. Overall, it was enjoyable to read about three very different approaches, but this section did not have the kind of enduring relevance of the first part of the book. The short third part is a brief conclusion returning to the themes of the first part. It was shocking to read the accuracy of cultural insights in a book written more than 50 years ago. For example, long before people were complaining about social media reinforced political bubbles, Rieff writes: “In its reasonableness, the triumph of the therapeutic cannot be viewed simply as a break with the established order of moral demand, but rather as a profound effort to end the tyranny of primary group moral passion (operating first through the family) as the inner dynamic of social order. Crowded more and more together, we are learning to live more distantly from one another, in strategically varied and numerous contacts, rather than in the oppressive warmth of family and a few friends.” There’s a lot to get through in Triumph of the Therapeutic, and I’m certain that I only scratched the surface on my first read (and probably misunderstood other things). But I'm glad I read it, and I would definitely commend it to others. (I should also note that my version contains two academic commentaries at the end discussing the book, but I have not yet read those.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Rieff has been on my radar for a long time, and I’m glad that I finally got around to reading this. I’d read Charisma before, and while I enjoyed it, the prose was impenetrable, so I think that put me off on reading him for a while, which is a shame, because this book was excellent and surprisingly accessible. This version comes with a few good essays as well, but they aren’t necessary to understand the text. It’s been a while since I studied Freud in depth, and Rieff explains his ideas well. Wh Rieff has been on my radar for a long time, and I’m glad that I finally got around to reading this. I’d read Charisma before, and while I enjoyed it, the prose was impenetrable, so I think that put me off on reading him for a while, which is a shame, because this book was excellent and surprisingly accessible. This version comes with a few good essays as well, but they aren’t necessary to understand the text. It’s been a while since I studied Freud in depth, and Rieff explains his ideas well. While his ideas have been more or less empirically disproven, his impact on our culture is enormous and undeniable. Even if you despise Freud and his, you are influenced by them in ways you may not even know. Rieff explores the idea of the cultural revolution that has followed in Freud’s wake, and how Freud’s followers, most notably Jung, Reich and Lawrence, bastardized some of Freud’s ideas utilizing religious language (this book also helped me understand Jung more—and the Jordan Peterson phenomenon as a result—who I’ve never studied directly). Rieff’s concept of psychological man helps to understanding of “psychological man” helps to show how the psychoanalytical conception of human nature has affected everyone in western society, whether they are religious or not. (I also think the concept of the therapeutic is particularly helpful for understanding many contemporary religious feelings. Religion for many has become a therapeutic issue. People believe in God and go to church as a means of expressing themselves and to find solace in comfort in our modern, consumer culture—they don’t really go to have contact with the Gospel).

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

    Fascinating, heavy read. Essentially, Rieff sees Freud as a marker in the history of western civilization, someone whose ideas have moved us into the era of the therapeutic. For Rieff, this means that we live in a culture that, through the venue of psychoanalysis, points people toward finding fulfillment through being able to exercise their freedom of choice, whereas in the past, all civilizations pointed people toward "therapies of commitment" to a broader, societal vision of morality and belie Fascinating, heavy read. Essentially, Rieff sees Freud as a marker in the history of western civilization, someone whose ideas have moved us into the era of the therapeutic. For Rieff, this means that we live in a culture that, through the venue of psychoanalysis, points people toward finding fulfillment through being able to exercise their freedom of choice, whereas in the past, all civilizations pointed people toward "therapies of commitment" to a broader, societal vision of morality and belief. This means that a concept like a communal faith becomes meaningless in contemporary society, since all faith expressions would tend toward the individual. The tensions I have felt around aligning myself with broader society or, more narrowly, distinct communities, seem to bear out much of what Rieff was writing about in the 1960s. In detailing the damaging work of Freud and others who came after him (Jung, Reich, and Lawrence), Rieff also offers regular pointers toward a healthier and more robust vision of culture.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    Read it for the introduction and the first five chapters, up to the chapter on Jung. Rieff writes in a peculiarly and pleasingly abstract idiom that may take some getting used to. You should read Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents beforehand, or at least understand its basic thesis. In some ways, it's a shame that this book is being presented as an "Essential Text of the Conservative Mind" because that may distract others from reading a book which is hardly conservative. Read it for the introduction and the first five chapters, up to the chapter on Jung. Rieff writes in a peculiarly and pleasingly abstract idiom that may take some getting used to. You should read Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents beforehand, or at least understand its basic thesis. In some ways, it's a shame that this book is being presented as an "Essential Text of the Conservative Mind" because that may distract others from reading a book which is hardly conservative.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Whew... Definitely can't say I understood it all so I don't really feel that qualified to review / rate it yet I finished it so here I am. I bought it because Tim Keller mentioned it and it's not a layman's text (or at least an extreme layman like me). He uses a number of terms / phrases throughout the book without first defining them, which was confusing. But there were some zingy and eerily prophetic one-liners - one that comes to mind is the reality that our culture has arrived at the point o Whew... Definitely can't say I understood it all so I don't really feel that qualified to review / rate it yet I finished it so here I am. I bought it because Tim Keller mentioned it and it's not a layman's text (or at least an extreme layman like me). He uses a number of terms / phrases throughout the book without first defining them, which was confusing. But there were some zingy and eerily prophetic one-liners - one that comes to mind is the reality that our culture has arrived at the point of "having the freedom to choose anything yet having nothing worth choosing". I don't get the impression Rieff was a theist of any kind but I could be wrong. Sometimes it was difficult to tell whether he was presenting his own opinion or the positions of Jung, Reich or DH Lawrence. Dang, he was really good at burning Jung (which my husband, a one-time Jungian, appreciated more than me as I read him a particularly critical passage).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Mcgregor

    I have heard this book talked about and quoted so often it seemed on par with water in an ocean. The book however is a tough read. He is dealing with really complex ideas, histories and concepts that he assumes you are already familiar with. Most of those ideas etc. I had only a passing understanding of. Nevertheless I still feel like I am coming out of this book with a greater appreciation of our culture and the dynamics of the age. It would be helpful to read through Freud, Jung and company pr I have heard this book talked about and quoted so often it seemed on par with water in an ocean. The book however is a tough read. He is dealing with really complex ideas, histories and concepts that he assumes you are already familiar with. Most of those ideas etc. I had only a passing understanding of. Nevertheless I still feel like I am coming out of this book with a greater appreciation of our culture and the dynamics of the age. It would be helpful to read through Freud, Jung and company prior to reading Rieff’s work. I am glad I worked through it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Annie Crawford

    Rieff's analysis is very important and but I found his writing style difficult to the degree that I would have never made it through without the accountability of a reading group. I can read Heidegger, Kant, Derrida, and many a difficult writer, so perhaps my lack of familiarity with the disciplines of psychology and sociology was the issue, but I suspect that Reiff is one of those scholars that has developed the sad habit of considering erudite obtuseness to be the mark of intelligence. Rieff's analysis is very important and but I found his writing style difficult to the degree that I would have never made it through without the accountability of a reading group. I can read Heidegger, Kant, Derrida, and many a difficult writer, so perhaps my lack of familiarity with the disciplines of psychology and sociology was the issue, but I suspect that Reiff is one of those scholars that has developed the sad habit of considering erudite obtuseness to be the mark of intelligence.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    Appreciated this book. Reading through his chapters is like an experience of reverse engineering my thought patterns and western cultures thought patterns. Thanks Rieff for your prophetic efforts, its seems, for the conservative perspective.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Very enlightening book on how Western culture and society has been changing since Freud. Written in 1966, it was very prophetic in how culture is and would change.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erik Bonkovsky

    Rieff is super dense. This is one of those “important books” that very people have read and fewer have understood (including me).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lance Kinzer

    Dense and at times difficult this book deserves its reputation as among the most compelling considerations of our desiccated cultural condition to be written in the last 50 years. A must read for anyone interested in better understanding "The systematic hunting down of all settled convictions [which] represents the anti-cultural predicate upon which modern personality in being reorganized..." Dense and at times difficult this book deserves its reputation as among the most compelling considerations of our desiccated cultural condition to be written in the last 50 years. A must read for anyone interested in better understanding "The systematic hunting down of all settled convictions [which] represents the anti-cultural predicate upon which modern personality in being reorganized..."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This is the book that made my intellectual life. It was not the Catholic faith that turned me against a belief in enlightenment modernity but this book. I read it in 1966 and can remember how difficult it was to read. I have gone back to parts of it on occasion, especially when dealing with the shifts of modern culture and the splits within the Catholic Church.

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Wise

    A helpful resources to understand how Freud and his primary disciples (Reich, D.H. Lawrence, Jung) have impacted the West.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    None

  26. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

  27. 5 out of 5

    Seth

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Alexander

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

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