but isn't this analysis [of mine, below,] of the interconnection of a Weberian nihilism (at least as Strauss views it) and therapeutic religiosity and consumerism already in chapter 3 of Alasdair Macintyre's "After Virtue" [?] -- scriblerus
Glad you asked. In several respects clearly yes, particularly the bit about emotivism and management, and MacIntyre's analysis of how social science methodology is the same as management ideology runs like a babbling brook through much of what there is to read here on related topics.
But there are important differences. First, MacIntyre is very firm that a tradition, and thus authority, begins to die when it stops changing, and that Burkean conservatives do woeful harm to the theory of tradition by arguing that we must not get too conscious of our traditions. For MacIntyre, unconscious heirs to a tradition help kill it off by not re-performing it constantly, and indeed re-performance requires in MacIntyre's estimation a healthy exercise of critical reason. I think this is a little overdrawn, and that the survival of traditions and authorities is not hostage to their moment-to-moment performance by human agents; following Geertz and Freud (and Rieff, I think) I judge that authoritative shared truths, and shared convictions in the verity of traditions, virtues, and so on, can fluctuate in their degrees of presence in the world.
In Geertzian terms, cultures, by their patterns of ritual, play up certain verities at some times and keep them in the background in others. There are seasons of urgency, and in societies with organized religions these take the form of holy days, fasting months, etc., etc. In Freudian terms, and on a longer time line, certain important contents of the unconscious (which is already collective to begin with) can and do stay latent for significant periods; they then appear as the 'return of the repressed.' Crucially, for Freud, the traditions contained in the collective unconscious -- and certainly we cannot be comprehensively conscious of everything contained in our past and its intersection with our present at every moment (or even most) -- only can become conscious because they have been incubated in latency; there is no other way to carry traditions, or to see them expressed, than for large, even decisive, portions of them to be latent.
Of course, this drives lots of social scientists nuts because of its metaphysical implication that real things can seep into some kind of invisible nether-world, in which no human agents perform them and structures only carry them as sort of forgotten memories, only to reappear later from 'nowhere' in identical or nearly identical form to the way they used to be. I suspect that what makes this possible is that humans are, in a very complex and mysterious way, fundamentally not rational creatures, as MacIntyre might wish them to be, but mimetic -- imitative and contingently memorious -- creatures. (I think Rieff can be read as confirming this in his discussion of why Borges' Zarathustra of the campo, Funes the Memorious, is such an unnatural and disturbing and inhuman being.)
With this settled I can address your question more squarely. The key to my analysis is that what Strauss offers us as an antidote for psychological historicism, which he only roughly grasps, is reason whereas what Rieff offers us is revelation. The MacIntyre of After Virtue is a bit more retroactive than the MacIntyre of today, I think, in so far as the point of After Virtue is that modernity is screwed and ought to be abandoned in favor of premodern virtue, but the point of Whose Justice? Which Rationality? and subsequent works is more amenable to moving forward with traditions that can be kept alive despite, and perhaps even in conjunction with, modernity. So my analysis departs from MacIntyre's to the degree that I've got my eye more on the viability of returning (in Rieff's words) repression itself to the culture in the future rather than returning ourselves to the politics of the past.
But this is oversimplified. Tocqueville represents a sort of middle position between Strauss and Rieff in that he reads a certain type of politics as indispensable to enjoying the responsible freedom of equality (as opposed to servitude, or 'truant's freedom', in equality). That is, Tocqueville does not offer us revelation, at least not up front; but nor does he offer us reason up front either. The line he walks is eminently captured in the observation that it "would often be easier to get [lethargic citizens accustomed to obedience] interested in the details of court etiquette than in the repair of their common dwelling." As local political institutions decay and governmental power centralizes administration, the pull of local politics which brings us out of ourselves by obliging us to engage actively in relationships with our strange fellow men and women dies. Replacing it is the pull of delocalized psychology, premature in its intimacy because so disconnected from true relationships. A debased interest in the internal intrigues of emotional virtuosos replaces the healthy interest in the external exigencies of local political administration.
I would suggest, following Tocqueville, that we pay more attention to the significance of political institutions in helping us live in a fashion that psychology mimics poorly and unnaturally. This is an essentially forward-looking posture politically somewhat out of step with MacIntyre's type of communitarianism (which on other grounds I do rather appreciate culturally). But, still following Tocqueville, it is also an upward-looking posture, because it recognizes the important role that revelation plays in undergirding the whole coherence and pattern of local political organization -- namely, the equality of citizens in their capacity as beings made in the image of God. Things get interesting when we compare Tocqueville's Christian essence of religion -- love God above all others and love thy neighbor as thyself -- with Rieff's Hebraic emphasis on Old Testament interdicts, sacred Nos rather than sacred Yeses. But that's a story for another day.