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Fire Backstage

Philip Rieff and the Monastery of Culture

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Christopher Cain Elliott

At present, the name and writings of Philip Rieff (1922-2006) hang under a sign of neglect. This book is an attempt to identify precisely what has been lost through this lack of critical attention, arguing that Rieff’s lifework marks a singular contribution to the fields of reactionary apocalyptics and social and cultural studies. Providing a working definition for the horizon of contemporary Jewish philosophy, this book also suggests how Rieff uniquely contributes to this field of speculative inquiry with an insufficiently appreciated, but essential, theory of psycho-theology

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Acknowledgments ................................................................................................ 9 Abreviations of Works by Philip Rieff ............................................................... 11 An Introduction ................................................................................................. 13 Primal Scenes in Jewish Philosophy ............................................................ 13 God Fearing. Philip Rieff ............................................................................. 21 Note of Caution. An Outline ........................................................................ 28 Chapter One The Logic of Sacrifice ....................................................................................... 33 1.1 The Reactionary Lexicon. ...................................................................... 33 1.2 Culture as Piety. ..................................................................................... 38 1.3 The Doctrine of Last Things. The Kingdom of God ................................. 42 Chapter Two Everything Profaned ......................................................................................... 51 2.1 Dark Nights ............................................................................................ 51 2.2 World Order. Capitalism ........................................................................ 53 2.3 Profanation. Without Remainder ............................................................ 54 2.4 The Symbolic of Limits .......................................................................... 55 2.5 General Remarks on Tradition and Memory. ......................................... 59 Chapter Three Images of Man ................................................................................................... 67 3.1 How to Be Forgotten, Without Really Trying ........................................ 67 3.2 Sons of Safed, Almost ............................................................................ 71 3.3 The Jewish Negative. Freud ................................................................... 77 3.4 Exile into Achievement, And Back ........................................................ 82 3.5 The Jewish Negative. Kafka ................................................................... 85 3.5.2 A Remarkable Piece of Apparatus ................................................... 90 Contents 8 Chapter Four Fear to Anger .................................................................................................... 99 4.1 Authority. ............................................................................................... 99 4.2 Taking Leave of Genius ....................................................................... 100 4.3 Genius Abandoned ............................................................................... 104 4.4 Creedal Vanguards. Sacred Messengers .............................................. 106 4.5 Denials. Obsessions .............................................................................. 117 Conclusion End Game ........................................................................................................ 125 Setting the Stage ......................................................................................... 125 Final Wager ................................................................................................ 135 Another Dandyism. The Jew of Culture ..................................................... 139 General Bibliography ........................................................................................ 147 Translations of Scripture and Related Documents ........................................... 157

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