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Sacred Order/Social Order

The Crisis of the Officer Class: The Decline of the Tragic Sensibility
Philip Rieff. Edited by Kenneth S. Piver. Introduction by Alan Woolfolk

BUY Cloth · 224 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813926766 · $43.50 · Feb 2008

Philip Rieff earned recognition as one of the most profound social theorists of culture and authority of the twentieth century. Through such works as Freud: The Mind of the Moralist and The Triumph of the Therapeutic, he proved himself an incisive interpreter of Freud and his legacy. His work now culminates with the long-awaited trilogy, Sacred Order/Social Order, a three-volume work on social theory and contemporary culture.

In Volume 2, The Crisis of the Officer Class: The Death of the Tragic Sensibility, Phillip Rieff continues his assault against the deathworks of our modern age. Invoking his theory developed in Volume 1, he develops his critique of our current culture as distinguishable only by its rejection of any and all visions of sacred order.


"Rieff, who died this past year at age eighty-three, was indisputably one of the most powerful American intellects of the past century, a man of almost staggering erudition who developed a faith-based critique of modernity and postmodernity that we ignore at the peril—let me say it—of our souls. His theory of the rise of ‘psychological man,’ or... ‘the therapeutic,’ is one of the most durable concepts we have for grasping the inner dynamics of our culture.—BookForum"My Life Among the Deathworks is a hauntingly beautiful blend of poetry, ethical inquiry, and lament.—The New Republic"... Rieff is one of the most important philosophers in America. He has grasped with both hands the most important problem facing Western civilization and throttles it into submission. Anyone at all concerned with joining him... must read this book.—The Weekly Standard"Forty years ago, in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, the sociologist Philip Rieff described the predicament of modern culture in terms so comprehensive, spacious, and authoritative that they were swiftly detached from their author to become part of the general understanding of things.... Now, at the age of eighty-two, he has published My Life among the Deathworks... it is a specimen of a type of sociology that has fallen from fashion: an attempt to ask the largest possible questions about the meaning of society and its institutions.


About the Author(s): 

Philip Rieff (1922–2006), Benjamin Franklin Professor of Sociology and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, was the author of the classic works Freud: Mind of the Moralist, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, and Fellow Teachers, and the editor of The Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud. Kenneth S. Piver is a psychiatrist in private practice in San Diego, California. Alan Woolfolk is Professor of Sociology, Associate Provost, and Director of Core Curriculum at Oglethorpe University.

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