Friday, February 04, 2005

Psychoanalytical Critique Of Therapy Culture

Patrick Turner reviews Rob Weatherill's Our Last Great Illusion: A Radical Psychoanalytical Critique Of Therapy Culture, a Freudian look at the "therapy culture. . .[that] tackles the subject from a psychoanalytic perspective informed by postmodern cultural theory. Intended for a general audience, the book nonetheless assumes a fair degree of familiarity with a wide range of thinkers and critical concepts." Indeed, if the review is any reflection of the book, readers better prepare for some thick reading. Nonetheless, Weatherill's conclusion, as interpreted by Turner, is interesting.
What we now have in the progression from modernity to postmodernity is the absolute hegemony of a generalised, new age therapeutic ethos of 'care' and 'well being' that has dissolved all previous boundaries between private and public self and is impervious to the ideological divisions of an earlier age. For Weatherill, this triumph of a liberal, as opposed to radical, progress finds its apogee in the current emphasis within government public policy on promoting emotional skills and self-management rather than equality and control. In the commercial sector the dominance of the therapeutic can be seen in contemporary forms of marketing, customer care, product design and service provision that speak to a desire to be looked after, flattered and stroked. The explosion of personalised, 'new age' forms of expertise that offer eclectic strategies for gaining 'emotional intelligence', self mastery and overcoming barriers to achievement in any domain imaginable from sex to creativity to work is further evidence of the triumph of the therapeutic.
Is this an intellectual way of wondering whether it is more important to be free or well-cared for? Perhaps.

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