THE PRIVATE LIFE: WHY WE REMAIN IN THE DARK by Josh Cohen – review

[ Thu. Nov. 21. 2013 ]

Jonathan Derbyshire on the collapse of the distinction between public and private

What is at work is a powerful vision of a world without inwardness, one in which the external record of a life is the same as our experience of it. He quotes something the science writer John Brockman said about the "collective externalised mind" promised by the internet. For Brockman, that's not dystopia, it's utopia. Yet, as Cohen points out, there's another name for it: "totalitarianism"–the slogan of the Khmer Rouge, for example, was "Destroy the garden of the individual".

Cohen suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy, which has grown dramatically in popularity in recent years, nourishes a similar fantasy of total liberation from the burden of the inner life. What many people find so threatening about psychoanalysis, by contrast, is its insistence that the self is never whole. It tells us that our best hope, as Cohen writes at the end of this unsettling book, lies in accepting that part of us will forever remain in the dark.

[ED. NOTE: The phrase "collective externalised mind"(above) is from the Introduction to DIgerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite, 1996.]