• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

What are the consequences in American society when social and political activism is replaced by pursuit of personal, psychological change? How does such a shift happen? Where is it visible? In wide-ranging case studies, Control and Consolation in American Culture and Politics points out this change in American culture and attributes it to the “rhetoric of therapy.” This rhetoric is defined as a pervasive cultural discourse that applies psychotherapyæs lexiconùthe constructive language of healing, coping, adaptation, and restoration of a previously existing orderùto social and political conflict. The purpose of this therapeutic discourse is to encourage people to focus on themselves and their private lives rather than to attempt to reform flawed systems of social and political power. Author Dana L. Cloud focuses on the therapeutic discourse that emerged after the Vietnam War and links its rise to specific political and economic interests. The critical case studies describe in detail not only what the therapeutic style looks like, but how and why therapeutic discourses are persuasive. These studies include: the rhetoric of “family values”; media coverage of “support groups” during the Persian Gulf War; Gloria Steinenæs Revolution from Within; the film Thelma and Louise; and literature of the New Age Movement. Cloud concludes with a chapter urging resistance to the therapeutic persuasion she describes envisioning in its place engaged public politics. At once unique and engaging, Control and Consolation in American Culture and Politics is a must read for academics and students interested in communication studies, cultural studies, sociology, political science, and media studies.

Perspectives on the Therapeutic
Perspectives on the therapeutic

If we psychologize and medicalize every human action by ridding it of any significant political cause, we condemn ourselves to denying the effects of the macro structures of our society. Therefore we will leave those structures intact while we blame the only positions in our cultural clearing that show up as responsible, culpable entities: the individual and the dyad. If we cannot entertain the realistic possibility that political structures can be the cause of personal, psychological distress, then we cannot notice their impact, we cannot study them, we cannot face their consequences, we cannot mobilize to make structural changes, as we will have few ideas about what changes to make. We will become politically incompetent.

—Phillip Cushman (1995, 337)1

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