Sociology and the Sacred: An Introduction to Philip Rieff's Theory of Culture
Published: April 2016© 2005
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 216 Pages
Dimensions: 6.01 x 9.00
216 Pages, 6.01 x 9.00 x 0.50 in
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The acclaimed American sociologist and cultural philosopher Philip Rieff gained great academic prestige with his thesis on the emergence of ‘Psychological Man’ in western culture and with his classic book, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, published in 1959. In this work and the later The Triumph of the Therapeutic (1966) he not only offered a highly original interpretation of the work of Sigmund Freud, but critically evaluated the enormous influence of psychotherapeutic thinking on Western culture. However, Rieff’s later work on the theory of culture did not garner the same attention, and his most recent writings have received very little critical engagement. In Sociology and the Sacred, Antonius A.W. Zondervan sets out to remedy this neglect, arguing that Rieff’s work is ripe for intellectual reconsideration.
Zondervan begins by presenting an outline of Rieff’s entire body of work, focusing on his theory of culture, and explaining how the sacred is a key notion, pivotal to the overall understanding of Rieff’s work. The author argues that the present upsurge in religion, in many varieties throughout the world, cannot be explained by the classical secularization thesis, making Rieff's theory of sacred order in culture an essential contribution to a new social theory of religion.
Including material from personal interviews with Rieff that enabled Zondervan to clarify important aspects of his work, Sociology and the Sacred is an essential contribution to the understanding of contemporary culture’s maintenance of its ties to religion.
1 A Bird’s-Eye View on Rieff’s Life and Work
2 Rieff’s Reading of Freudian Metapsychology
3 The Emergence of Psychological Man in Western Culture
4 Blueprint for a Theory of Culture
5 The Limits of Modernity
6 Late Modernity as Second Culture Camp
7 Rieff: Prophet of a Post-secular Culture
‘Zondervan’s Sociology of the Sacred is a valuable companion to Reiff’s works. He provides a comprehensive interpretation … and he skillfully draws connections among theories about modernity across disciplines.’Pamela Leong, Sociology of Religion
‘Zondervan's summary and analysis of Rieff's career is ably carried out, and he concludes with several sharp observations regarding the continuing utility of Rieff's ideas about culture.’Alan Sica, Canadian Journal of Sociology Online
‘This is a terrific book. Antonius Zondervan has done an excellent job distilling Philip Rieff’s theoretical insights and presenting them in a sophisticated, critical, and informative way, drawing connections and bridges where necessary with other discourses. The use of language is lucid and elegant, and the information Zondervan has received directly from Rieff through interviews is fascinating.’Yiannis Gabriel, Tanaka Business School, Imperial College
‘Sociology and the Sacred is groundbreaking work. There is a scarcity of secondary material on Philip Rieff, and he has, for a very long time, deserved a major study. Antonius Zondervan’s book is a thorough and well-informed exposition on Rieff’s work, and an excellent extrapolation of his implications for discussions about modernity.’Hamid Dabashi, Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University