Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just for the fun of it . . .

I'm working on Philip Rieff, or he's working on me. Anyway, his prose (if that's the name for it) is littered with intentionally convoluted passages by which Rieff tries to weed out his readers, and against which I have had to fortify myself. It's very slow going, but once you're on to him, it becomes less off-putting. Re-reading one of Rieff's books tonight, I came upon the passage below and decided to share it with you in case you might find it as delightfully and devilishly wonderful as I do.

We all need at least a momentary break from the madness in Washington, DC.

The passage below occurs in a section of Rieff's book Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us in which he analyzes the great sociologist Max Weber's treatment of charisma. According to Rieff, Weber reads the charismatic upside down, as a transgressive rather than as a restorer of what Rieff calls the "interdictory order." The agility with which Weber accomplishes this, Rieff asserts, "may be hidden behind the awesome never-ending waves of post-Protestant Germanic erudition, drawing the poor student swimmer, himself traditionless and directionless, in a vast 'heterogeneity' of charisma."
"Heterogeneity" is the modernist voraciousness intellectualized, its ultimate refinement, harmless only as it remains buried in a historical sociology so erudite that it remains all but indigestible to the modernist reader, who is completely beyond all continuities of learnedness. Weber's learnedness serves to protect most of his young readers from the total subversiveness of his theory of culture.
And then, as a bonus thrown in, he adds a few lines later:
Western society [is now] infected by fee-collecting swarms of academy-debased "prophets," every one of them hawking a therapy that, in their aggregate, leaves nothing in which we need to disbelieve.
It's hardly surprising to find that one of Reiff's last books, written shortly before his death in 2006, was entitled, My Life in the Deathworks.

I'm just enjoying this man's genius as part of my Saturday evening entertainment. Thought I would pass it along for what it's worth.

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