Saturday, April 02, 2016

Review of Rieff book... R.R. Reno, to be found here at ISI's First Principles. The link was sent along by a friend who dropped it in comments here.


One Response to Review of Rieff book…

C.A. Sebacher says:

April 2, 2016 at 8:16 pm (Edit)

Rieff in The Triumph of the Therapeutic:

“Literature and sociology have long supplied eloquent and knowing professional mourners at the wake for Christian culture. After Matthew Arnold, much of modern poetry constitutes an elegiac farewell … to the religious culture of the West. After Auguste Comte, much of modern sociology has struggled for diagnostic ideas refined and yet wide enough to encompass the spectacle of a death so great in magnitude and subtlety. Now the dissolution of a unitary system of common belief, accompanied, as it must be, by a certain disorganization of personality, may have run its course…”

Maureen Mullarkey:

“Prevailing culture lulls us from viewing ourselves as agents of our own moral predicaments. Rather, we are victims of difficult situations. Pope Francis’ promiscuous hawking of mercy, disconnected from acknowledgment of personal sin, epitomizes the modern inversion: ‘I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.’

Small wonder that parish priests report an steeper drop in confessions on Francis’ watch. Under this flexible dispensation, the word sinful is out, injured is in. Palliative theatre jostles aside the old confessional box and the symbol system it sustained. Philip Rieff, writing The Triumph of the Therapeutic in 1966, saw it coming:
‘At the breaking point, a culture can no longer maintain itself as an established span of moral demands. Its jurisdiction contracts; it demands less, permits more. Bread and circuses become confused with right and duty. Spectacle becomes a functional substitute for sacrament.’

[Rieff in 1966!: "There will be more theater, not less, and no Puritan will denounce the stage and draw its curtains. On the contrary, I expect that modern society will mount psychodramas far more frequently than its ancestors mounted miracle plays, with patient-analysts acting out their inner lives, after which they could extemporize the final act as interpretation. We shall even institutionalize the hospital-theater the Verfremdungseffekt, with the therapeutic triumphantly enacting his own discovered will." Great.]

Spectacle displaces cultural memory and substitutes, also, for a society’s ability to function on its own behalf. A people who have abandoned a sense of sin are incapable of responding adequately when they are sinned against. Instead, they extend even to their enemies the remissions they offer themselves.”

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