Community and Political Thought Today

By Peter Augustine Lawler; Dale McConkey | Go to book overview

7
Readings of Therapeutic Culture: From Philip Rieff to Robert Bellah

ALAN WOOLFOLK

To reserve the capacity for neutrality between choices, even while making them, as required by this new science of moral management, produces a strain no less great than choosing itself. The analytic capacity demands a rare skill: to entertain multiple perspectives upon oneself, and even upon beloved others. A high level of control is necessary in order to shift from one perspective to another, so to soften the demands upon oneself in all the major situations of life -- love, parenthood, friendship, work, and citizenship. Such conscious fluidity of commitment is not easily acquired. In fact, the attainment of psychological manhood is more difficult than any of the older versions of maturity; that manhood is no longer protected by a fantasy of having arrived at some resting place where security, reassurance, and trust reside, like gods in their heavens. The best that one can say for oneself in life is that one has not been taken in, even by that "normal psychosis," love.

-- Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic

In the past several years, a growing body of scholarly work has added theoretical and empirical weight to the original case made by sociologist Philip Rieff in The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith After Freud1 for the rise of a revolutionary personality type in western culture. Rieff first sketched the skeletal structure of this new personality type in an earlier work, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist,2 under the rubric of "psychological man," and then proceeded to flesh out the implications of his theoretical intimations with the ideal type of "the therapeutic" in the former and subsequent works. The ideal type of the therapeutic has, in turn, figured prominently in the calculus of a variety of scholarly efforts to

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