Also now available at The New Pantagruel is Jess Castle’s review of Philip Rieff’s Sacred Order/Social Order, Vol. 1: My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority. Here is an excerpt:
For Rieff, the unprecedented aspect of this third culture is that it makes no effort to translate sacred order into social order, which is for him the true task of culture. Rather, it is devoted to the destruction of previous cultures’ sense of sacred order, especially the sacred order of second culture, inseparable as it is from divine commandment. As he puts it, “I intend to describe that unprecedented condition of fighting against the cultural predicate that organized all human societies until almost our own time. That predicate I call sacred order.”
Sacred order, hierarchy, seems to be an inescapable structure of life, but it is one, like so many other permanent structures of our condition that we are intent on resisting in the present age. The political and social consequences of this anti-hierarchical fight are plain for all to see, and the struggle against the structures of politics, economics and religion detailed in Icarus Fallen finds its common ground in opposition to various kinds of hierarchy. Indeed, we have reached a point in our history where sacrality and rule–which were once assumed to be intimately related–are assumed to be opposed, and dissent against arche and rebellion against order are taken as new kinds of sanctity. But if done without any qualification as a general protest against the hierarchical order of things, dissent and rebellion do not undermine lawless men of power though they do negate the sacred boundaries that impose constraints even on lawless tyrants.