The prior post on Triumph of the Therapeutic may be found here.
Community and Therapy, Chapter 3
In this chapter, Rieff begins with an understanding of mental health as provided by means of a symbolic system. By means of a symbolic system, the society creates a matrix in which the individual person can achieve a character ideal. To be a functioning person, the person must belong to a “positive community” which “offers some sort of salvation to the individual through participant membership.” (60)
In this scenario, the system works if the individual functions reasonably well. The system will need a sufficiently robust symbolic format and mechanism for involvement in that system.
For the individual to function well, the individual not may but must participate in the communal life: it was only the life of the community that the life of any individual would be sufficiently well served.
Rieff then subsumes the history religion and culture into a concept of therapy:
Ultimately, it is the community that cures. The function of the classical therapist is to commit the patient to the symbol system of the community, as best he can and by whatever techniques are sanctioned. (57)
Rousseau provided a seeming break from this concept by introducing the idea that the individual must break free from the confinements of the community. But in the end, Rousseau ended up in the same place, because he merely posited the creation of a new community in the future.
Marx took Rousseau a step further and argued that the community was utterly broken and that all that currently existed is cash interactions. But Marx was still looking for a community, just a new future community where the individual could finally be integrated into the communal whole.
From a slightly different perspective, De Tocqueville considered the possibility of a wholly democratic society where all communal bounds would be broken down and all life would be private.
But for all that, Rieff contends that prior to Freud, mental health was a matter sociology: it was obtained by means of integrating the individual to the society’s system to simultaneously define and give room for expression of the individual.
At this point, Rieff places Freud as the one who provides a therapy to the individual when no positive community exists.
Always find your interaction with thinkers fascinating