29 Apr

R. R. Reno Recognizes Philip Rieff's Work

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/29/07

Professor and MARS HILL AUDIO guest R. R. Reno describes why the late Philip Rieff is one of the most important social theorists and cultural critics of the modern era. In "Philip Rieff's Charisma," published on the First Things blog, he attends to one of the sociologist's later works, Charisma. It explicates Rieff's beliefs about culture, the origins of authority, creeds, personality, and the gap between true charisma and modern culture's understanding of charisma. True charisma is not mere personality, Reno notes, it is authority deeply instilled in a person through creeds and commandments. Rieff recognized the difference and society's refusal to instill such authority. Reno writes: "By Rieff's analysis, our refusal to teach the commandments of God to our children and ourselves leads us to destroy what we promise to cherish and nurture—personality."

Rieff's best-known work, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, is discussed at length on volume 82 of the Journal. [Posted April 2007, ALG]