Illiberal unguilt

The reason I asked that question about being born again is that I've been reading this interesting book by a (recently deceased) French psychoanalyst named Pierre Fedida, called Les bienfaits de la depression, or "the benefits of depression." The subtitle means approximately "in praise of talk therapy," so you can see where he's coming from. He has all kinds of interesting things to say about depression, but one almost throwaway comment he makes is that we've gone from a society in which the guilty conscience is central to subjectivity, to one in which what he calls "adaptation performante" is what matters -- adaptation to the behavioral demands of increasingly "flexible" economic circumstance. (Though the term "performante" has other resonances; steroids are referred to as performance-enhancing too, and one might throw Viagra into the pharmacological mix -- the imperative being to perform properly at a moment's notice.)

Anyway, I would find it interesting if fundamentalism were eroding the notion of the guilty conscience because fundies think they're automatically saved. There was a really smug Republican delegate on the news who was asked if she was afraid to be in NY and she said "no, because I'm a Christian." It used to be you were afraid BECAUSE you were a Christian. Different forms of social control, etc., but what Fedida is concerned with is also a loss of memory and dialogue that goes along with the loss of the guilty conscience...


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