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Our Last Great IllusionReview - Our Last Great Illusion
A Radical Psychoanalytical Critique of Therapy Culture
by Rob Weatherill
Imprint Academic, 2004
Review by Talia Welsh, Ph.D.
Jun 14th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 24)

Advances in diagnosing and treating the mentally disturbed have been marked in the last several decades.† Although the social system--health care providers especially--has been slow to catch up, one can be reasonably optimistic that future research in both the physiology and psychology of mental illness will provide more breakthroughs.† Thus, for serious pathologies, one has now some hope of treatment which may provide some reasonable standard of life.† Previously never-ending hospitalization seemed the only course of action.† At the same time, one can see an increasing tendency to medicate and counsel individuals who would not have previously been considered to suffer from mental illness.† Although this can be attributed to simply understanding some more "everyday" illnesses such as depression better, one might skeptically wonder if we are being fed a consumer product which we no more need than an off-road Hummer for suburban life.†

My favorite example of this curious pathologizing of normal existence is an ad for an anti-depressant.† A soft voice asks the TV audience questions like "Have you ever felt down and you don't know why?" and, my personal favorite, "Have you ever felt awkward in a social situation?"† I wonder at the individual who could confidently say "No" to such questions.† Wouldn't that person be a bit monstrous--someone who experiences 24/7 happiness and comfort in every situation?† One also can't help but wonder at the deeply anti-political drive of such pathologizing of the everyday--you aren't unhappy because you work two jobs to make ends meet--you are unhappy because you lack X-pill or Y-self-help philosophy.† As Oprah and Dr. Phil tell us--it is all in your mind.† It isn't the situation, it is you!† You are sick because you feel awkward, ill-at-ease, socially impaired.† You need help.

Perhaps therapy--both pharmaceutical and psychological--makes us more unhappy, more ill-at-ease.† Thus, one can see a great need for critical discussions of precisely this contemporary tendency.† Our Last Great Illusion would appear to be precisely the book.††† However, this text is the worst written and most ill-conceived text I have ever read.† I have read a great number of obscure and complicated texts in the history of philosophy and in psychoanalytic theory.† By no means do I think "easily digestible" is a virtue.† However, Our Last Great Illusion is not complex; it is incomprehensible.† I would provide a review of the text if I could understand what it was about.† As is, it is merely gibberish.

To let the reader of this review consider just what I mean--here are some examples of the text.† Under the subheading "The Death of Therapy." Weatherill writes, "Therapy is hyperventilating to enter the Real of emotional life.† Intoxicated with power, therapy proliferates with new forms, new mutant strains to meet explosive demands in hypereality.† What will be the life cycle of this caring phenomenon?" (pg. 17)† After this set of claims, one does not continue to read what "Real" means or what "new forms" or "new mutant strains" are.† Nor does one exactly understand what is hypereality or what these "demands" are. After some more incomprehensible (rhetorical?) questions, we find such gems as "The symbolic is the domain of the pact, the gift of sacrifice, of obligation, of ceremony and ritual, of a secret brutality (the wrath of God) and formalized and significant marking (castration)." (pg.19) And one of my favorites "The subtle masters of the world are tourism and therapy.† Tourism is postmodern: a creeping prostitution.† The world is made to give herself, make herself available without commitment or protest, for abundant play time." (pg. 82)

Now, any text worth reading will have some quotes taken out of context which would seem silly, needlessly obscure, or just incomprehensible.† Thus, I would normally feel guilty about pulling out a few random sentences.† However, the entire text is from one of these masterpieces of mutilating psychoanalytic theory and the English language to another.† There are no transitions, no arguments, no clear definitions, just an endless surfing upon po-mo jargon.†† Let me also note, I read postmodernism for a living.† I am not Alan Sokel.†† I am firmly in the camp which considers Jacques Derrida one of the 20th century's greatest philosophers, who thinks Jacques Lacan is a brilliant theorist, who teaches Marx and Marcuse to undergraduates.† If I cannot make sense of this text who can?† I can only conclude Rob Weatherill must be the lone soul.† Weatherill does, to his credit, note that one does not need to read the chapters in order (I might add one also does not gain much from reading the sentences in order).†

It was clear from page ten onward that this text was not actually going somewhere.† However, I was still surprised at the end to find out that this "radical critique of therapy culture" managed to connect therapy, the apocalypse, and the Internet.† I can only leave this review by quoting Weatherill's conclusion: "Only the protective illusory shield of therapy and total care can hide and deter, the apocalypse.† The Internet, which has enabled the rapid globalization of therapeutic logic, began as a net for American strategic defense.† It now presides over our very own electronic intimacy and transparency, the digital veil that at every site marks the disappearance of the other and a loss too great to record, to be measured increasingly on a global scale." (pgs. 102-103)


© 2005 Talia Welsh


Talia Welsh, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


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