Saturday, September 26, 2009

Does therapy support useful commodification?

In his blog post,"Dysenchanted Worlds: Rationalisation, Dystopia, and Therapy Culture in Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit", Eric Repphun writes about the possible utilitarian role of therapy that supports disenchantment, while naming one of Thomas Moore’s popular books that calls for renewal of enchantment.

After quoting from Slavoj Žižek’s book, The Monstrosity of Christ, Repphun continues,
"This paints the whole of The Unit in a new light and draws out the fact that the novel voices a criticism of the whole edifice of contemporary spiritual/therapeutic culture, most visible in the New Age movement, which often calls for a reversal of disenchantment and the creation of a 'reenchanted' world (and here Thomas Moore's best-selling book The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life is but one example). Viewing it from the angle set out by Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit, what is going on in the development of the whole therapeutic ethos is in reality very different. In important ways that go largely unspoken, the world of universal individual achievement, the world where we can go to a yoga class or purchase ancient Mayan herbs to mediate the effects of a stressful life, is a world not unlike that of the Unit, and we, as its residents, are not unlike the human capital that is corralled there to serve a purpose and then to be discarded when our usefulness is finished. All of this raises a series or vital, necessary question: Is therapy really just another management technique and, worse, one that many people gladly submit themselves to? Are we concerned with all of this healing and wholeness because it allows us to more effective employees, voters, and consumers? Is all of this a symptom of the commodification of the human subject? Is the New Age, rather than a new era of freedom and respect for the individual, in reality an ideal embodiment of disenchantment and a pathway to an even more dysenchanted world?
Repphun raises a concern that Thomas Moore and James Hillman address in their writings, given their concerns with "normalcy" and who decides its criteria. The publisher of The Unit responds to Repphun's post on his site.

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