Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Saving the Modern Soul

Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Saving the Modern Soul
    Book Description:

    The language of psychology is all-pervasive in American culture-fromThe SopranostoOprah,from the abundance of self-help books to the private consulting room, and from the support group to the magazine advice column.Saving the Modern Soulexamines the profound impact of therapeutic discourse on our lives and on our contemporary notions of identity. Eva Illouz plumbs today's particular cultural moment to understand how and why psychology has secured its place at the core of modern identity. She examines a wide range of sources to show how self-help culture has transformed contemporary emotional life and how therapy complicates individuals' lives even as it claims to dissect their emotional experiences and heal trauma.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94131-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    Studies and critiques of therapy have steadily accumulated for the past three decades. Although differing in method and outlook, they agree that the therapeutic persuasion is quintessentially modern and that it is modern in what is most disquieting about modernity: bureaucratization, narcissism, the construction of a false self, the control of modern lives by the state, the collapse of cultural and moral hierarchies, the intense privatization of life caused by capitalist social organization, the emptiness of the modern self severed from communal relationships, large-scale surveillance, the expansion of state power and state legitimation, and “risk society” and the cultivation of...

    (pp. 22-57)

    In 2006,Newsweekran a cover story on the enduring legacy of Freud and asserted that he had been “the great engine of an ongoing middlebrow bull session that has engaged our culture for a century. Without Freud, Woody Allen would be a schnook and Tony Soprano a thug; there would be an Oedipus but no Oedipus complex.”¹ How and why did the Freudian outlook, which after all started as a scientific theory of the mind, become a pervasive and popular language seized and endlessly recycled by the commodified realm of mass media? How did psychoanalysis—“Freudian, neo Freudian, and...

  6. THREE From Homo economicus to Homo communicans
    (pp. 58-104)

    The impact of capitalism on social relations has beenthecentral puzzle of classical sociology, with most of the founders of the discipline agreeing that capitalism posed a serious threat to our capacity to create meaning and maintain social relationships. Cultural sociology has ambitiously undertaken the task of unraveling the tangled points of intersection between the material and symbolic constituents of action and has exposed a far more complicated picture than that painted by early sociologists. As Jeffrey Alexander suggests, “Because both action and its environment are indelibly interpenetrated by the non-rational, a pure . . . rational world cannot...

  7. FOUR The Tyranny of Intimacy
    (pp. 105-151)

    The therapeutic language is the privileged language for talking about the family: not only has it emerged from the social transformations of the family, but it has been from its inception a family narrative, that is, a narrative of self and identity that anchors the self in childhood and in one’s primary family relationships. This narrative is to modern people what the family genealogy might have been to our ancestors—a way of mapping the self both diachronically and synchronically in kinship relations—but with one crucial difference: the therapeutic persuasion not only defines and explains the self in terms...

  8. FIVE Triumphant Suffering
    (pp. 152-196)

    In 1859, in a widely popular book calledSelf-Help, Samuel Smiles offered a series of biographies of men who had risen from obscurity to fame and wealth (self-help was masculine, and women had little or no room in narratives of success and self-reliance). Immensely popular, the book made a powerful case for Victorian notions of individual responsibility. With the characteristic optimism and moral voluntarism of the nineteenth century faith in progress, Smiles evoked the “spirit of self-help in the energetic action of individuals who, rising above the heads of the mass, knew to distinguish themselves from others.” Their lives, he...

  9. SIX A New Emotional Stratification?
    (pp. 197-237)

    In 1883, before the birth of psychoanalysis, writing a letter to his future wife Martha Bernays, Freud commented on the differences between the pleasures of “the masses” and those of the middle and propertied classes. He wrote:

    The mob gives vent to its appetites, and we deprive ourselves. We deprive ourselves in order to maintain our integrity, we economize in our health, our capacity for enjoyment, and our emotions. We save ourselves for something, not knowing for what. And this habit of constant suppression of natural instincts gives us the quality of refinement. . . . Why don’t we get...

    (pp. 238-248)

    Intellectual queries frequently have their origins in questions that nag our personal lives. Like others, I have witnessed the frequently palpable successes of therapy. Yet, when encountering “the therapeutic” in books, turns of phrases, and popular advice literature, I have often been struck by the banality of a language that has curiously flattened our emotional imagination and experience. As this book has argued, the success of a cultural idiom as ubiquitous as therapy is in need of an explanation that is not predicated on an a priori normative and political vision of the social bond. Instead, by working through the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 249-286)
  12. Index
    (pp. 287-294)