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Understanding Our Liquid, Therapeutic Age

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Perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of this present age is the sheer speed with which unquestioned orthodoxies—for example, the nature of marriage, or the tight connection between biology and gender, or the vital importance of free speech to a free society—are either crumbling before our eyes or have been completely overthrown. If cultural conservatives are to respond to these changes, it is not enough to address each of them as isolated, discrete phenomena. We must first understand them as symptomatic of deeper cultural pathologies; and that requires a broader theoretical framework that sets the iconoclasm of today in the context of wider, deeper, social and cultural changes.

One thinker who can help us with this is Philip Rieff. Rieff is today justly famous for his 1966 book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud. With this remarkably prescient analysis of how personal, psychological well-being would become the primary purpose of life, Rieff spoke more truth than he could possibly have anticipated. The world in which we live today, where everything—even biological sex—is to be subordinated to how we feel inside, was barely conceivable in 1966. Today it is hard to imagine a world where the therapeutic is not normative. Read more»

Carl Trueman, “The West is a Third World Country: The Relevance of Philip Rieff”

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