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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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Chapter Four Fear to Anger


But why, R. Yohanan asked, did he not cite the tradition [he taught] as having come from me? As he was asking the question, R. Ammi and R. Assi came by, and, find- ing him very angry, cautioned him: A like outburst of anger occurred in the syna- gogue in Tiberias when R. Eliaezer and R. Yose differed concerning a certain mat- ter, until in the end, because of their anger, a scroll of Torah was ripped apart. A cer- tain elder, R. Yose ben Kisma by name, who happened to be there, said, “I shall be surprised if this synagogue is not converted into a shrine for idolatry.” Indeed this is what happened. - Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Part 2, Chap. 1: 412, translated by William G. Braude So I do not ask that anyone should mark an X on the calendar or go to the trouble of noting whether it comes true or not, for if it comes true, he will have other things to think about than my fortuitousness, and if it does not, well, then I remain just a prophet in the modern sense, for a modern prophet prophesies something, nothing more. - Søren Kierkegaard, Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and the Present Age 4.1 Authority. As was previously indicated, Rieff’s initial line of attack was run against the thread of Freudianism and the psychological subject (the afterbirth of the mod- ern), which resulted in his first significant publications: Freud: The Mind of the Moralist and...

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