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Freud: The Mind of the Moralist Paperback – May 15, 1979

ISBN-13: 978-0226716398 ISBN-10: 0226716392 Edition: Third Edition
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Freud: The Mind of the Moralist + The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud (Background: Essential Texts for the Conservative Mind)
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Philip Rieff is the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Sociology and University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Feeling Intellect: Selected Writings; Fellow Teachers: Of Culture and Its Second Death; and The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Third Edition edition (May 15, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226716392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226716398
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Frank Bunyard on October 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Philip Rieff was 83 years old when he passed away in 2006. By coincidence he died at the same age as Sigmund Freud (l856-1939), whose concepts Rieff spent much of his life studying, analyzing and explaining. A universal scholar, Rieff was described by colleages as a "kind of genius." The critic Gerald Howard pronounced "Freud: The Mind of the Moralist" "one of the most lucid interpretations of a major thinker ever written".

Philip Rieff remained obscure throughout his life (conservative to the point of being reactionary), producing a vast and profound work in the quarterlies, written mainly for culture elites (professional intellectuals and academics). He wrote in a condescending and hard to understand style with jargon derived from the Social Sciences. If he was unable to find a word to express his exact meaning he created a neologism. From 1950 to 1959 he was married to the soon to be famous radical chic political activist and literary icon, Susan Sontag. They had one son, David Rieff, a well known polemicist and pundit.

When this, his seminal work, came out in 1959 it was read in the groves of academe, and, on the strength of this book and his teaching reputation, Rieff was awarded a fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. He remained at UofP, a legendary figure in the classroom, until being forced by failing health to retire in 1993.

"Freud: The Mind of The Moralist" is impossible to summarize. A critic once remarked that reading Rieff is like "chewing ball bearings and finding the occasional cherry." This book is a rigorous exposition of the labyrinthine intellectual and moral implications of Freud's thought. Reading the footnotes alone is like attending a seminar in The History of Ideas. Rieff's erudition is staggering.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Irony Proof on June 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is definitely Rieff's best book, and one of the great works of 20th century social theory. As an exegesis and analysis of Freud, this text stands unmatched. As another reviewer said, it would be impossible to summarize it here. So I'll just say that Rieff's masterful perception of the subject is often breathtaking, he seems more aware of Freud's thought than Freud does.

As a social theory of it's own, this book was extremely prescient. As far as I can tell, Rieff is reading Freudian psychoanalysis as a response to the disenchantment of secularization, to the "death of God". The subject matter may be Freud, but the figures of Durkheim and Weber loom very large over the text.
Rieff's argument is that the loss of religion as both existential orientation and collective conscience means that the tools we have for coping with contingency and limitation have been fatally diminished. Freud's solution to the malaise is a rational one, a turn inwards to an examination of the psyche. But far from liberating us from the impediments of prejudice and tradition, Freud's inward turn was meant to be reconciliation with the inevitability suffering and constraint. The super-ego and the reality principle are the new bases of morality in a world without Gods. Hence, with fuller knowledge of our mental capacity, we are better able to accept our fate. This stands in stark contrast to the liberatory left-wing interpretations of psycho-analysis that Rieff later attacks in Triumph of the Therapeutic.

The paradox, however, is that with the interrogation of the mind, the process of secular rationalization has now rooted itself even deeper; inside the very inner life of the self. We are more trapped in the iron cage than ever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Saundra A. Rose on September 3, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I could give a separate review for content quality and physical quality, I would (5 stars and 1 star!).

The content is really solid. I'm using it for a psychoanalytic literary theory.paper. Reiff is awesome. But if you're looking at this book, you probably already know that...

What sucks super hard is the binding. Preface: I am not usually a book flattener (I don't completely break the binding to flatten it on the table) but I think you should be able to without harming it. Particularly with an academic text like this. That said, I've opened the book, done some note taking and underlining. I've flipped around a bit and been pretty reasonable with the book for all of four days and the pages started falling out!


This is not an old copy (printed in 2014) and not a cheap copy ($30). I have dollar copy fiction books that I can completely fold and flop open without harming the pages. What's the deal, University of Chicago Press? Get better binders! Jeeze!

Anyway. Summary is: You should get this book if you're interested in the subject but find a better copy if you're actually going to open it and read it. Maybe try it on Kindle if it's available.
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Format: Paperback
The primary goal of this book seems a demonstration of the author's erudition. Terms like "the Hegelian Freud" are bandied about with greatest of ease, like balls in a scholarly solo squash court. Thhhhhhhwock! Very impressive if you don't know who Hegel was.

Also, copious quotations from Freud's entire ouevre, including his letters. Yessiree, you're certainly getting your money's worth of erudition with this Rieff fellow.

The template of the first 370 pages is "pick an area where Freud made some kind of intellectual choice, and expound on how other choices could have been made"; this quibble-template is utilized ad nauseam: Rieff is consistent, much the way tapioca pudding is consistent.

On page 371, I had enough; if the text suddenly improves after that, I'm sure the other reviewers will say so.
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