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Fire Backstage

Philip Rieff and the Monastery of Culture


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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The generosity of various institutions and individuals have brought this text to print. The original draft was abridged and corrected with a manuscript grant from the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, and its publication was supported by the Polish Academy of Sciences and the ResPublica Foundation. Having spent years in study, I have happily acquired debts of gratitude to many teachers and friends, especially Todd Armstrong, Adam Lipszyc, Henry W. Morisada Rietz, Agata Bielik-Robson, and Tyler Roberts. Additionally, I have to thank Charles Turner for having introduced me to the writings of Rieff. Thanks are also in order for many members of my family. Monika Elliott and Benjamin Elliott were especially considerate in continuing to play with me, de- spite interruptions resulting from studies and writing. Meagan Elliott, Benjamin Herman, Nancy Lerner, and Paul Wainright all have to be thanked for taking exhausting turns in listening to me. This essay is dedicated to my parents, Rich- ard Elliott and Linda Elliott. Their devotion and understanding has made the un- usual itinerary of my life both possible and enjoyable. C. Cain Elliott Warsaw, 5773/2013

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