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The mdeology of the Aesthetic

The Ideology of the Aesthetic

Terry Eagleton

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Introduction 1

1 Free Parneulars 1.3

2 The Law-ofme Hean; ShaItesbury. Hume, Burke 31

:3 The Kantian.lmagin;uy 70

4 Schiller and Hegemony .I 02

5 The World as Artefacti Ffchtc, Schelling, lZO

6 The Death ofDesite: .Arthur Schopenhauer 153

7 .at\.bsolute Ironies: Saren Kierkegaard 173

8 The Mu::ris[ Sublime 196

9 True Illusioas: Friedrich Nietzsche 234

10 The Name: aCme Father! Sigmund Freud 262

lIThe Politics of Being:' Manin Heidegger 288

12 The Marxist Rabbi: Wa1ter Benjamin 316

13 An after' Auschwi~; TheodQr Adorno 341

111 From. thePo/isro Postntodemism 366

[ndex: 418

ror Toril

The Ideology of the Aesthetic


This is nota history of aesthetics, There are many impertant aesthetieians whom I pass over ill silence in this book, and even in the case of the thinkers I do consider it is not always theirmost obviously aesthetic texts which atuactmy attention. Th.e book is rather an anempl to find inmecate.gory of the aesthetic a way of gaining· access to certain central questions of modem European thought- - to light up, from that parttcular angle, a range of :wider social. political and ethical issues. who inspects the history of European philosophy since the Enlightenment must be struck by the curiously high priority assigned by it ro aesthetic questions. For Kant, the aesthetic holds OUI a premise of reconciliation between Nature andhumanily. Hegel grants art .a lowly status within his theoretical! system, but nerertheless produces an elephantine treatise on it. The aesthetic for Klerkegaard must yield ground to the higher truths of ethics and religious faith, but remains 3 .. recurrent preoccupation of his thought, For Schopenha,uerand Nietzsche~ in sharply conrrasdng' ways, aesthetic experience represents a supreme form of value. Marx's impttssively erudite allusions to world literature are matched by Freud's modest confession that the poets had said it aU before him. In our own centuty, Heidegger's esoteric meditations eulminate in a kind of aestheticized ontology. while the legacy of Western Marxism fWID bdcics to Adorno aUotsOOan a theoretical privilege surprising at first glance for a materialist current of thought. I In the contempotary debates on modernity, modernism and postmodernism, "culture;' would seem a key category for the analysis and understanding of late C!lpJralisl society.


To claim such a lofty status for aesthetics in modern. European thought in general might seem roo unqualified a gesture." A)most all of the thinkers I discuss in this book are in fact Gc . rman, even if some of the concepts I bring to bear upon their work stem from the intellectual milieu of modem France. It: would, seem. plausible to argue, that the characteristically idea.list cast of German thought bas proved. a more hospitable medium for aesthetic e,nqu[ry than the, rationalism of France Of the empiricism of Britain. Even so, the influence of this largely German legacy has spre,ad far beyond its 'own national frontiers, as the so-called English 'Culture and Society' tradition would attest; and the question of the strange tenacity of aesthetic matters in modem Europe as a whole thus insists upon posing itself: Why, more paniculadYi should this thtomiad persistence of the aesthetic typify an historical period when cultural practice might be claimed to have lost much of its tradltienal social relevance, debased as it is to a branch of general oommodity production?

One simple but persuasive answer to this, question springs frrom the :progressively abstract, technical nature of medem Europeen thought. In this rarefied context, art would still appear to speak of the human and the concrete, providing us with a welcome respite from the alienating rigeurs of other more specialized discousses, and ,offering'. at the very heart of this great esplosion and division of know ledges. a residually common world. As far' as scientific or sociological questions III1e concerned, only the expert seems licensed to speak; when it eomes to art" each of us can hope eoeoatrlbute our twoha'pence worth. Yet the peculiarity of aesthetic discourse" as opposed to the languages of art themselves, is that, while p.reserving a root in this realm of everyday experience, it also raises and ·elaborates such supposedly natural, spontaneous expression to the status of an intricate intellectual discipline. With the birth ef the aesthetic. then. the sphere of art itself begins to suffer so.methlng of the abstraction and formalization characteristic of modem theory in general; yet the aesthetic is nev,enhdessrhought to retain Q. ,e.aar:ge of irreducible particularity, providing us with a kind of patllJdigm of w.hal a nonalienated mode of cognition :might look like. Ae.sthetics is thus always a contradictory, self-undoing son of preieer, which in promoting 'lhe theoretical value of its; obiect risks emptying it of exactly that specificity or ineffability which 1IO'as thought to rank among its most


precious features. The very language which elevates an offers perperuaUy to undermine it.

. lethe aesthetic bas played S1l1ch a dominant role in modern thought, it ls no doubt in part because of the ... ersatility of the eoncept.Fora notion wmc'h is supposed to signify a. kind ef ftmctioruessness', few ideas can have served so many disparate fun.ctions. Some readers wiU doubtless find my use of the category ~nadmissibly loose and broad, not least when it comes at times to merge into the idea 'of bodily eJq.'Ierience .as such. But iftbe aesthetic returns with such pcn;lstcnce:, it is partly because ofa certain indeterminacy of definition w:hicb allows it to figure in at varied span of preoccupations: freedom and legaUty, spentaneity and necessity, self-determination, auto.nomy, paniC1:llarity and universality, alQngwith several others .. My argument, broadly speaking; is that the <:ategory oftilile aesthedcassumesthe importance it does in modem Europe because in speakin,g of art it speaks of these other matters too, which are at the heart of the middle classis struggle for polidcal hegemony. The construction of the modem, notion of the aesthetic artefact is thus inseparable ffomthe construction ·of me dominant ideological forms ofmodern classsociety, and Indeed from a. whole new form of human .subjectiV'ity approPriate to' that social order, It is on this account, rather than because men and women. have suddenlyawoken 1:0 the supreme value of painting orpoetry, that aesthetics plays so obtrusive: a role in the intellectual heritage of the present. But my argum.ent is also thatthe aesthetic.. understood in a certain sense, prrovides an unusually powerful challenge and alternative to these dOffi_rnant ideological forms, and is in dlis sense an emmendy tonttadictCllI}' phenomenon.

In charting any lnteUectual current, it is always difficu1t to know how far back 10 go .. I do not daim dun, as far as dlscoursesof art are concerned, something entirely noeel sprang into beIng in the mideigbtee.ntn century. Several of the aesmeticmotiifS 1 trace coUld be pursued back to the Renaissance or even to classical. ,anriqulty.j and little of what is said ofse]f-tealizatioil.3S1 agoa~ in itself would have been unfiuniliar to Aristotle. There is no' theoretical cataclysm at the centre of the EnUghtcoment which threws up a manner of talking about art utterly devoid .of inteUecrual. antecedents. Whether as rhetoric or poetics, such debates extend bad. far beyo.nd the earliest historical moment of this srudy, which is the writing of that devoted disciple of Renaissance neo-Piatonlsm, th.e Earl ,of Shaftesbury. At



the same time, i( belongs to, my argument iliatsomethin.g new is inde.ed .afoot in the periOd which. this work. tales as its'starting_;polnt. If ideas of absolute, breaks are <metap.hysiC31", so also are notions of wholly unrupnaed continuity. One of the aspects ofl'bat novelty has, indeed, already been alluded to.., the fact that in Wis particular epoch. of class-society. with the emergence (If the early bourgeoiSie. aesthetic concepts (some of them of distinguished historicalpedigre.e) begin to play, however tacitly. an unusuaUy central, intensive part ~it the: constitution ofa dominant ideology .. Conceptions. ofthe unity and integrity of the work of art, for exampic', are commonplaces of an 'aesthetic' discourse which sb'ewhes back to c1ass~cal! antiq,uity; but what: emerges (rom such fa.milia:r notions in the late eighteenth century is the: curious idea of me work of art as a kind of subjtct. it is, to, be sure, a pec,uliar kind of subject, this newly defined artefact. 'but it is a subject none,the~ess. And the historical pressures wbich give rise to, such a stfaogest:yle ofthQugbt, unlike concepts of aesthetic unity or autonODlY :in general, by no means extend back to the epoch or Aristotle.

l1rls!is a Marxistsrudy - at once, if migmt be claimed"100 much and too little so. Too so, beca.use:the book could be: accused at times of stnying into a species of <J.e:ft~functionalism' which reduces the internal complexity of the aesthetic to a. direct set of ideolOgical functions·. It is true that for a certain lIdnd of contemporary critic, any historical or contexmali2;a.tionof an whatsoever is ipsofaao reducdonist; the only diffcIeOtC be'tween such 'criti(:s and old-style r.; ~~1:~. ,. c th - ·h:l.~" I~'t" -.- ,-di·dly-. ··lmwl .. d: -Ii ~Id

mrmausts IS .at W It lite .... ucr can . _. ac o e_gtu IIUIS

prejudice, elevated it indeed to a whole daoorate tbeoryof art in itse~f, the former' tend to be a little more elusive. It is nor, they feel, trun therelarlonbetween art .and history need be in principle ,a reductive one; it is just tbatsemehow, in all actual manifestations ont, it always is. I do not really intend tosuggcst that the eighteenth.cenlW"y bourgeoisitassembled around :a table overtheir claret 10 dream. up the conceptofth.e .aesthetic as a selufion to their political dilemmas, and the poUrlcal conlradictDriness of the categolj' is itself testimony tothemistakenness.of such a viewpoinL The' political left always needs (0 be on guud against reductionism and oonsp.iracy theories ~ though as far as· the ~attetareoofice,med :it would be unwise for radicals to wax so subde and. sophi5ticated, become so coy of


appearing crude, as fO forget that certain theoretical concepts are indeed from time to time put to the uses of political power, and sometimes in quite direct: ways. If it may seem forcing the issue somewhat to discern relations between the turn, to the aesthetic in the Enlightenment and certain problems of absolutist: political power; one bas only to read Friedrich Schiller to find such relations explicitly fonn:Wate~ no doubt to the embarrassment of those 'anti-:r:edoctlonists' who mi,gRt have wished him to be somewhat more discreet about the matter, If the study Is, on the other band, tOQ little Ma'OOst. it is because a satisfactory historical materialist account ofth,e work of any one ef the wri[ers with which. it deals, placingthe:ir thought in the context of the mare rial development, forms of state power and balance of class forces of their historical moments, would, have required a Y01Umeio itself.

In the current left triptych. of eoncemswith class, race and gender, it: is sometimes felt that an excessive emphasis on. the fust ofdlese categories is in danger of dominating and distorting enquiry into the other two, which are at present somewhat less securely established in the left theoretical canon and thus vulnerable to appmp.nation. by a narrowly conceived class politics. It would be fooUsh for those

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p ] concerne 'Wl . po lOCi*!. ema:nc~pauon III .. e sp. eres 0 . race.

and gender to' relax theinigilance in this respect _, to accept the mere, good intentions 01' bleeding-heart liberalism of those white male radicals who~ products as they are of a political history which has often violen.tly marginalized mese issues,cannol now be trusted to have miraculously voided such bad habits fmmth.eir systems overnight. At the same time, it is difficult not 10 fed, in surveying certain quarters of the left pelitical scene in Europe and above all in the USA. tha.t the complaint that socialist discourse: nOW universally oYenhado'Ws. these alternative poli1ii.caI projects is not onlyiJ1creasfugly iJnplausible but, m. some contexts at least, darkly ]rome. The truth is that a combination, of factors has contributed in many areas of contemporary left,..wing thought to the, open or surreptitious denigration of .such, questions as social class, historical modes, of production and forms of state power, in the name of a commitment to more 'topical' modes of political struggle .. Paramount amon,g these factoJ:S has been the newly aggressive tum. to the political right of several Wesrern bourgeois regimes, under pressure of global capitalist crisis - a dramatic shift in the-political spectrum and ideological climate· which


has succeeded in muting and demoralizing' many ohhose who earlier spoke up more .com.batively and ·confidently for arevolutionaJ)! pc:!utics'. l1u':l',e has been in. this respect wha.t· one can. oniy characterize as tpenasive failu[·e of ne·rve', and in some ·cases: lID accelerating, sometimes squalid. process ofaccOlilDiodatton by sectors of the ll!!tt to dle priorities of a capitalist politics. In such a ,context, where (:enain long-term forms of etn:andpatory politics appear either .intractable or implaUS:iblej it is understandable 'ma~ some 00 the potitinl left shQuld turn more readily' and h.opefully malte.mative I.:~ .. ., of ~"., .. ·s· ....-.:&.e .... · m' "re· imme ... • .. t .. O!lIinlil might s-m nn<:c.ihle - LIllu.ll ........ ue ·wn -..... .... ...... ., w .. " ~ ..... - --_. . . ...... .t'~~-~.

issues which a narrowly class-based politiics 'has too often demeaned, mavesti.ed and exduded.

To claim. that this attention to non·dass str~es ofpoUtics is ln IPan: a response, oonsci.ou.sly or not, to me cumin difficulties of more traditional political aspirations is in nO· sense to unde-tw1uethe intrinsicimportmce of these al:temative mm'ements. Any project of ~ialist traItsfQtmatinn:wbich h.oped to succeed without an ,alliance with such currents which. .fully respected their autonomy would deliver no more than a hoUow mockery of human emancipation .. It is: rather [0 remind ourseivecS that, just as a. socialist strategy which left unaffected those oppressed in thelir race; or gender would. be resoun.diogly empty: so these :particuJar fOnus (If OppressiQD can themselves only be finaDyundone in the context ofanend 110 I~pitd_ist socW re1atiom. The former point is n.owadaysoften enough emphasized; the lanc.r is insome danger of being obscured. The paucity of socialist thought in the USA 1m partiwlar- in. dIe socie.ty~ that [s to say, wheNmu~b emancipa[Oty cultural theory has 'been elaborated - bas gravely inteosifi.ed.tbis more diffi.culty. Of

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class: which has been :in sueh quarterslihe subject of the most polile,. perfunctory halwtlpping, as the: feeble American conceptof'dassisrn" bears witness. But the preblem is a. pressm;g one in Europe 1.00. We have nowprodueed a generation. of left-inclined theorists and students who,. far I'ct:asons for which :they are innostnse culpable .. have often. little politicalmemol')' er socialiSt edueatinn, Little political in the sense mat a post,.,ViemaJD generation 'of Ir3dica'ls has often nOI much of radical political substance to remember within the confines of the West; little socialist education, m that the 1::151 rhing ma.t can now be bke,R for granted Is a. c~ose familiarity with the



complex history of mternational socialism and its attendant theorelica1 debates. We: live: within societies whose aim is not simply [oco:mbat radical ideas - that one would readily expect - but to wipe them from living mem.ory: 10 bring about an amnesiac condlnon in which it would be as tboughsuch notions had never existed, placin.g them beyond our very powers of conception. In such a. :siwation,it isvi:ra1 that the more recently prominent forms of poUtical engagement should DOt be allowed to erase" distort or oversbildow the rich legacies of the i:nternad.onal socialist movement I write as one born iOln and brought up within a working-class sociallsttradhion one who has been reasonably acti:vein sucbpoHtics since adolescence, and who believes mat any fonn ofpoUtical radicalism today which attempts to by .. pass that is bound to be impoverished. There are n,QW, predominandy in the USA but also in many areas of Europe, those whose undoubted radicalism on pam.cular :potirical issues co-exists with an insouclanceand ignorance of socialist struggle typical ·of any middle-class sublltbanite; and I do not believe l!hat socialist men and women should acquiesce illl this indifference for fear of being thought sectarian or unfashionable.

There is a relation between these issues, and the faJ:tthat one constant' theme of this book concerns me body. Indeed I am haif inclined to apologize for the modlshneas of this topic~ few literary tats are likely to make it nowadays iato the new historicist canon unless they contain at least one mutilated body. A recovery of the importance of the body has been one ·of the mostprecio~ aohievements of recent radical thoughr.and I hope that this boot may beseem as extending that fertile line of enquiry in anew direction. At the same timet it is difficult to read the later RQ1and Dries, or even the la,ter ,Michel F oucault~ without feeling that a certain ;style of meditation on 'the body, on pleasures and surfaces, zones and techniques, has acted among other things as a convenient displacement of a less: immediare1y corporeal politics,and acted "'I]5Q as an ersatz kind ofetb:ics., There is .3. privileged. privatiZed hedonism about such discourse"emerging as it' does at ~ustthe historical point where certain less ,exotic forms of politics, found themselves, suffering a setback. I try in this book. then,toreunite me idea of tlu; bodywith more traditional political topics of the .sln.te.crass conflict and modes ofproducUon, through the m.ediatory categOlJ of the aesthetic; and to this extent the stUdy distances itself equally from a class polhics which



has little of significance to say of the body. and from :a post-class polit:ics which takes refuge from such! rebarbatively 'global' matters In the body's int~nsides.

In writing'this book; I am. clearly concerned 001 argue against th.ost critics for whom an)' linkage of acslhedcsa_nd political. ideologies must appear scandalous or merely bemusing. But I must ICOnfl:·$S thar:

I also. ,have in my sights those on dIe political left for whQmthe aesthetic is simply 'bourgeois idc€\ to. be worsted and Ql,Isttd!by a1temative forms of wlruml politics. The aesthetic is mde.ed~ as :1 hope to show. a bourgeois concept ill the :most literaJ historical sense, hatched and nurtured in, the Etrl~gfnenmcfit;but on1~ for' the dr:asticaIly undialectical thought of a vulgar rdarxist: or ~post-Mu:xist' trend of thought oouldthisi fact cue an automatic eondemnation, his; left moralism, nOrM1(1riQ} materi1llism,wh:iGh haring ,mablishedthe bourgeois provenance of It pat:de:ulat' concept. practicei lor-institution" then disowns it in an a,ccessofideologicai: purity. FfOm, the Communist Manifesto oawards, Marxism bas never' ceased rosing' the;pralsesof the bou~i5ie - to cherish and ~econect ,lhat in its great reYolutionary heritage from which radicals-Must , enduringly team, o:r faoe the prospect of a closed, illiberal! socialist: order in the future'. Those who have now been com:ct1y programmed t.o reach for their deeentred at the very mention of the: dread phrase 'liberal humanisf repressively disavow the \I,ery history which constitutes them, which is by no means umforndy nega,tive or oppre,ssive. We forget at our political peril me heroic struggles of earlier 'liberal humanists' against the b.rutal ~DtOCJ1l.cies of feudalist absolutism. If we can. all dmJ,J-st 'be'se:Ver'C QritiCS;Q.f Eulighterun.ent, it is Enlighte-mnent which. has empowe~d US m be so. Here, as alwilY5:l the most intractable process of emancipation is thiu which involves freeing ourse]ves from ourselves. One of the- tasks ofradkal critiqae, as 1\.obrx, Brecht: and Waber Benjamin understeed, lS to salvage illd redeem for left patincd uses whate.ver is S.tiU viable and valua:ble in the dass legacies to which we are heirs,. 'Use what' you can' is a sound enough Breehtian slopn- with, of couese, the implicit' coroUary that what tums eetto be unusable in such traditionssnould be jettisnned without nostalgia.

his the oonmdi.ctoriness of the aesthectic wbich, I would claim. only a dial~callhoughl of this kind ¢!In .adequ·atelJ! en.compa5S. The emergence of the aesthetic as a, theeretleal category is closely bound



up with the material. process by which cultural producdon, at an early stage of bourgeois society. becomes 'auronemous'wautoaemous, that is, of the various social functions which it has traditionally served. Once artefacts oe.come commodities: in the market place. they exist for nothing and nobody in particular. and can consequendy be .rationalized, ideologically speaking, as existing entirely and gloriously for themselves. It is this notion of autonomy orself-·referentiality which the: new discourse of aesthetics is centmll.y concerned to elaborate; and ~t is clear enougO. from a radical political viewpoint, just how disablin.g any such idea of'aesthedc autonomy must be. It is not only; as radical thought has familiarly insisted, tfun art: [s thereby conveniently sequestered from all ether social practices, to become an isolated enclave within whichthe dominant social erder can find an idealized refuge from its own. aerual values of competitiveness, ~loitation and rna.lenal possessiveness. It is also, rather more subtly, that the idea of autonomy - of 3. mode of bemg wmch is entire~y self-:regulating and self-determlolng ~provides me middle class with just the ideological model of subjectivity it requires for its material operatiens, Yet this concept of autonomy is radically double-edged: if,on the one hand it provides it eemralconsdment of bourgeois ideology, l[ also marks an emphasis on the self-determining nature of 'human powers and capacities wruch becomes, in the work of Karl Marx and others. the anthropological foundation of Q. revolutionary opposition to. bourgeois: utility" The aesthetic is at once, as I tty to show. me very secret prototype of human subjectivity in early c.apitalist socieijfl and !l vision of human energies as radical ends: in themselves which is the implacable enemy of all dominative or instrumentalist thought. It signifies a creative tum to the sensuous body, as well. as an inscribing of !fiat body with a subtly oppressive law; i~ represents 'OA. zheone hand .a Uberat.o.ry concern with concrete parti.cu1ari.ty, and on the other hand a specious form of maiversalism. If it offers a generous utopian image of reconciliation between men and women at present divided from one another. it also blocks and mystifies: the real poUticai movement towatdssuch historical community. Any account. of this amphibious concept which either uncriticaDy eelebrates Or uneqUivocally denounces it is thus likely to' nverlook ib; real historical complexity.

An. example of such one-sidedness cantle found, among other places. in the later work of Paul de Man. between which and my 'own



enquiries I am glad to observe a certain unexpeceed convergence,' De Man.'s later writing rep.fesents a. bracing; deeply intricate demystification of the idea of the aesthetic which, it could be claimed, was 'present in his thought: throughout; and there is much that he bas to say on. this score with which m find myselfin entire agreement., For de Man, aesthetic ideology involvesa phenomenatist: reduction of the linguistic to the sensuously empirical. a confusing of mind and world, sign and thing, cognition and percept, which is censecrated in the Hegelian symbol and resisted by Kant's rlgorous demarcadon of aesthetic judgement from the cognitive, rewcil and political realms. Such aesthetic fdeol,ogy. by repressing the eontlugent, apor,etic relation which holds between the, spheres of ~anguage and the real, nateralizes or phenomena IRes the former; and is rhus in danger of converting the accidents of meaning Ie o~nic namral process inl1l.e characteristic manner of ideological thought. A valuable, resourceful politics is undoubtedly at work here, pace those left-wing critics for whom de Man is merely an unregenerate. 'formalist'. But it is a politics bought at an enormous COSL In. what ene might See. as an excessive reaction 00 his own earlier involv;ements with organicist ideologies of an estreme right-wing kind, de Man is led to suppress the potentially positive dimensions of the aesthetic in a way which perPetuates,if now in a wholly new style, his earlier ho-stility to an emancipatory politics. Few critics have been more bleak);y unenthused by bodillness - by the whole prospect of a creative development of the sensuous, creamrely aspects of human existence, by pleasure, Nature and self-deUgbting powers, all of which, now figure as insidious ·,~~L ·tJ.· .. i sed ..... t. b· ':,,· - lste dl Th I st .'''; ~'wh m a~Ule c se .uc .. ons (I e man'MUJ restS .... eas en .. c ""J .... 0 .. _

ODe: can imagine de Man berng in the least: enehanted is Mikhail Bakhtin. One rnightquestion some of we assumptions of de Man's later politics - not least the unwarranted belief that all ideology, without exception, is cruciaTly concerned to inatural.izeior organicize seeialpractice, But there is no doubt that de Man is indeed a thoroughly political critic from the outset. It is simply mat the consis.trcncy of that iPoUtics, me figure. in the carpet of his. work, lies in an unremitting hostility to the practice Qfpol:iiticaiemancipation. 1n this sense Antonio Gramsei was. right when. in a remarkable Hash. of prescience. he wrote in his Prison Notebooks that 'It could be asserted that Freud is the last of me Ideologues, and that de Man is also an "ideologue". !3



Th,ere are two .major omissions in this wo:rkwhich ~ should perhaps clarify •. The first is 0' :any extensive reference to the British traditions of aesthetic thought .. Readers wi.lJ!no doubt find a number of echoes of tha!t history, of Coleridge and Matthew Arnold and WiUiam Mortis, in the main1y Gennaa writing 1 examine; but this particular terrain has been weU enough. ploughed already, and since much in the Anglophone: tradition Is in fact derivative of Gemtan philosophy, I have thought it best to have recourse here, so to speak, to the horse's mouth. The other omission, perhaps a. more imtatlng one for some readers} is of any examination of'actual works ofart. Those trained in literary critical habits of thought are usually enamoured of 'concrete iUustrationtj but since J reject the idea that 'th.cory' is acceptable if and only if it' performs the role ofhunible handmaiden to the aesthetic work. I have tried [I) frustrate thIs expectation as far as'possible by remaining for the most part resolutely silent about particulsr artefacts. m must admit. however, that I didorigfuaUy conceive of me book as 3, kind of doubJed text, in whi.cb an account of European aesthetic theory would be coupled at every point to a consideration of the litetaryculture of Irelimd. Ta.1dng my cue from a passing reference of Kant to the revolutionary United ~rislunen. I would have looked at Wolfe Tone and his political colleagues inllhe centext of the European EnJighrcnment, andreviewed Irisbcultuml nationalism from Thomas Davis to Padraic Pearse in th.e light of European idealist thought, I also intended to harness: semewhat loosely such figures as Marx, James ConnoUy and Sean O'Casey, andto link Nie:tzsche with Wilde and Yeats, Freud with Joyce~ Schopenhaue.T and Adorno with Samuel Beckett, and (wiJder flights. these) Heideggerwith certain aspects ,of John Synge: and Seamus Heaney. The result of this ambitious project would have been a volume which. only readers in, regularweight-training would have been able to lift; and I will therefore reserve this work either for a patented board game, in which p1ayers would be awarded points for producing the most fanciful possible coaaeeticns between European philosophers and Irish writers, or for some future study.

I: hope it will not be thought that I consider the kind of research. embodied in this book som.ehow prototypical of what :radicalrcridcs should now most UnJKl'rtantiy be doing. An analysis of Kant's third Critique or an inspection of Kierkegaard's religious m.editations are ha:rdiy the most urgent tasks facing the political left. There are many



forms of radical cultural enquiry of considerably grea.ter political signifiance than such bigh dleore.licall ... labonfj, but a deeper under-standing of the mechanisms, by which. pdlitieorl hegemony is currently maintained is Ii necessary prerequisite' of effectiv:epolitical action,and this is one' kind ,1:)( in~:ight which I believe an enqtliiy into the a.esdlebc can yie~d. While. such it project is by no m.eans eve:rything~ his not; perhaps, to be sniffed at: either.

J am not a professionaJ phUosepiLer, as the reader is no doubt: illsl about 10 discover:; and lam therefore de,eply grateful to various mends and colleagues more, expert in ·this area than myself, who have read :this book in whole or pan and olfe,red manY~Qable critieisms and. sU,ggestions.I m.ust· thank In pattlicular John .Barrell. Jay Bemstein,. Andrew Bowie. Howard Cay,gill. jerry Cohen. Peter .~Joseph Fell, Patricl Gardjnecr. Paul Hamilton, Ken Hirschkop, 'Toril Moi;Alexander Nehamas, Peter OSborne, Stephen Priest', Jacqu.eline Rose and Vigdis SOtlge MoUet. Since mese individuals ,oharitably or cardessly overlooked my·mis:takes. Ihe:yar'eto 'that extent partly responsible for them. I am grateful as always to my ,editors Philip Ca:!]leRteI and Sue Vice:, whose aQUmenand effidenqr .remain undiminished since the days of their student essays .. FinaUy. since I am now raJdng my lea:ve ,of it, I would like te record 'my ,gratitude to Wadham College, Oxford, which for almost twenty years has supported and encouraged me in the building of an English school there ttruJe to ia own longttaditions ofnonconfomnty and critical. dissent.


1 .5« Pcn-yAndel:SOO, ColUidmJlioru an WtItm'I Mar::rism (London, I 979)>, chap~r 4.

2 See In particular Paul de Mao,'PhC!n~mt!1dity ilnd Mal:eti!lliq.- in Kant', in G. Shapiro and A. Sica (eds), HtmrmruJ.ia: QlUltiolU and Prosprol (Amherst, Mass'" 1984).

3 Antonl'o Gmnsci. Se.f«tions frtnn tire Prison HO.ltlmb,. edited and tnn$Lued byQuintirl Hoare and Geoffrey NoweU-Smith (Londo"" 191W), p. 316.



Free Particulars

Aesthencs is born as a discourse of the body. In its o.riginal formulation ~' the, Germa-n philosopher Alexander .Baumganen.the term refers not in the first place to art, but" as the Greek aisrhais would suggest, to the whole region of human perception and sensation, - in contrast to the more rarefied domain of conceptual

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au, . 1.' ,. e lsuncuon w .. C 1:.lle term aesmeec UU~l e • OKes

in the mid-eigIiteenth century is not one between 'an' and '~ife', but between the material and th.e immaterial: between. dtinp and thQughts, sensations and ideas, that which is bound up with our creaturely Ure as opposed todlat which conducts some shadowy existence in the recesses of the miad, It is as though .philosophy suddenly wakes up to the fact tba.t there is a dense, swarming territory beyond [t5 own mental enclave which ~atens to ran UKeclyoutside iiS sway. That territory is naming lessfhan the whole of our se.nsate Ofe. together - the business of :affections and aversiens, of how the world strikes the body on its sensory surfaces, ofthatwmcb tikesroot in me gaze and the guts and all that arises from our most banal. biological insertion into the world. The aesthetic concerns.tais most gross a:ndpalpable dimension of the human. which post .. Cartesian philosophy, 1n some curious lapse of attention, bas somehow managed to overlook. It is thus the first stirrings of a p.rlmitive materialism ... of the body's 10Dg inanicuJate rebellion against the tynm:ny of the theoretical

The oversight of classical philosophy was not without its, political cost. F Qr bow can any political! order DQurishwmch does not' ,address itself to this most tangible area, of the 'lived'. of everything that belongs 1[0 a sociezy's~ somatic. sensational life? How can 'experi.ence·


be allowed to fal10utside a society's ruling concepts? Could it be that this realm is impenetrably opaque to reasen, eluding its categories as surely as the smell of thyme orthe taste of potatme,s? Must the ,life of me body be given up on, as the sheer unthinkasle other ofthougbt~ or are [[5 my,sterious wave somehow mappable by-;'-t~U~""':- - ", ' h t

-'---~. __ --_ •. , ~ -"J~------~'--- .- .... _t'~ leo , ,me e .. uonlRwa

would then prove a, wholly novel science, the science of se.n.sibility itself? If thephrase is nothing more than an oxymoron, then the political consequences are surely dire. Nothing could be more disabled thana ruling rati.onalirywhiC:b ean know nolhing beyond its own concepts, forbidden from enquiring into the 'Very sliUff of passion and perception. How canthe absolute monarch of Reason retain its legitimacy if what Kant called the!rabble' of dIe senses remains forever beyond its ken? Does not power some ability to anatomize the fedingsof what it subordinates, some science or concrete logic at its disposal ~bich would: map fromtlliJ.e inside the very structures of breathing, sentient life?

The call for an aesthetics in eigbteenlh-cennuy Germany is among othertbings a response to me problem of political absolutism. Gennany in that period was a pareelllzed territory of feudal-absolutist Stales, marked by a. particularismand idiosyncrasy consequent 'o.oilS lack of a general culture. Its princes imposed, their imperious diktats through elaborate bureaucracies, while a wretChedly exploited. peasantry languished in conditions often little better than bestial Beneath this autocratic sway, an ineffectual bourgeoisie remained cramped by the nobility's mercantilist poUcies of ssate-controlled industry and tariff;.proteclcd trade, overwhelmed: by the conspicuous pewer of the COllrts, alienated from the: d egradedmasses and bereft of any cotperate influence in :na.tional life. The Junkerdom~ rudely confiscating frem th.emiddle class their historic role. themselves sponsored muchef what industrial development there Was for their own fiscal lormilltary purposes" leaving a. largely quiescent middle class to do business with the state, rarher than force the state to shape its policies to their own interests. A pervas:ivel:ack of capitaland enterprise. poor communications and locally based trade, guilddominated lawns marooned. in a backward countrySide: such were me unpropitious condhions of the Gennanoourgeoisie in this parochial, benighted social order, Its pnlfessional and intellectual strata, howe ... er, were sreadilygrowiag, ttl produce for the first time in the later eighteenth century a. professional lherarycaste; and this greup



showed all the signs of exerting a culturaJ. and spiritual leadership beyond the reach of'the self-serving ~aristocracy. Unreoted in political oreconomic power. however, dUs bourgeois enlightenment remained in many respecg enmongaged to feudalist absolutism, marked by that profoUlild tesped for authori~y of which Immanuel !Kant, courageous Aufiliirer and docile subject of the king of Prussia, may be tateH as exemplary.

What germinates in the eighteenth eemury as me strange new discourse of aesthetics is not a challenge to that political authority; but it CIIn be read as symptomatic of an ideological! diJemDUl. inh.erent in absolutist power. Such power needs for its own purposes 'to take account of 'sensible> life, for without an understanding of this no dominion can be secure. The world of feelings: and sensations can surely not just be surrendered to 'the 'subjectivet, lO what Kant scornfully termed the 'egoism of taste'; btsteadJ it m.ust be brought Within the majestic scope of reason itself If the LtbeM1Pttlt is not r:a.uonally formalizable., have not all the most vital ideological issues been consigned to some limbo beyond one's control? Yet. how can. reason, that most immate.rial of faculties, grasp the gmssly sensuous? Perhaps what makes things available to empirical knowledge in the first place. theirpalpable materiaUty, is also in a devastating irony what banishes them beyond cognition. Reason must find some way of penetrating the world of perception, bll.tin doing so must not put at risk Its own absolute power .•

It is just this delicate balance which Baumgarten's aesthetics seek to achieve. Ifhis A~tlraka (1750) opens up in an innovative gesture the whole terrain of sensation, what it; opens it upto is in effect me, colonization of reason. For Baumgarten, aesthetic oognition mediates between me generalities of reason and the particulars of sense: me aesthetic is that realm of existence which partakes of'the penection of reason. but in a 'confused' mode. 'Confusion' here means not 'muddle' but 'fusion': in their organic interpenetration, the elements of aesthetic representation resist dtat: discriminatiDn into discrete units which is characteristic of conceptual thought. But this does not mean. that such representations are obscure: on the oontrary, the more 'confused' they are -we more unity-in-variety they attain - ehe more cleanperfect and determinate they become. A poem is in this sense a perfected fonn ofsensate discourse. Aesthetic unities are thus open to ranonal analysis, though they demand a spedaliz.ed form. or


idiom ofreasen, and this is aesmenc:s. Aesthetic$~BauI!lganen writes, is the 'sisler' of logic, a kind of rQlio infmot lor feminine analogue of reason at the lower level of sensational life. Its task is to order this domain tnto clear or perfectly dete:rminate represeatatiens, in a mall!oer akin to (ifrelauvely autenomeus of) the operations of reason proper. Aesthetics is born of the recognition that me world. of perception and experience cannot simply be derived from abstract universal ~aws, but demands its, own appropriate discourse and displays its own inner, ifm.feriof" ~ogie., As a kind of concrete thought. Of' senSuQusanaJ.Qg:Ile or the concept, the aesthetkpam!kes at once: of the 'rational and the real. suspended between me two somewhat in the manner' of ithe L€v:i.~StratlSSian myth. It is oo.mas a woman, subordinate to man bur with heir own. bumble, necessary tasks IO perferm,

Such :i. mode .of cognition is of vital Importance if me ruling order is to understand 'its own history; For if sensat!!oQ is: <:haracterized bya complexindMdu.ation which defeatsthe general concept" ,SIlII is histcny itself. Both phenomena are marked by an iItedurible particularity or concrete determinateness wmch threatens to put them beyond the bounds ofabm'act thOl.lght. 'fudMdu:al.s:', wrltesBaumganen.',1U'e determined tn e.very respect • • • pamciular representations are in the highest: degree poetic." Sinee history is a. question lof'individuals'. it is ~tic' in. precisely this sense,a matter of determinate specificities; and it would therefore seemalanningly 10 fall ou.tside tbecompass of reason. What if the history of the n:diag class we~ itself opaque to its knowledge, an. unt:nowable exteriority beyond the pale oflhe concept? Aesthetics emerges as a theoretical: discourse in response to such dilemmas; it is a kind of prosthesis t£l reason, extending a reified Enligh[enment rationaUty into Vital regions which are ome.rwise beyond itsreach. It can cope. for example, with q,uestions of desire and rhetorical effectivity; Baumgarten describes, desire as ':a sensate representation because: a confused I'ep.resentation of the good? and examines the ways in which poetic sense-impressions can arouse particular emctiveeffects .. The aesthetic, ~hen,is s:imply the name giNen to that hybrid form of cognition which can clarifY the .raw stuff of perception and historical practice, disclosing the Ianerstructure of the concrete. Reason. as such pursues .its lof~ends fiar removed from such lowly' particulars; 'but a wo.rking' replica. of i.tselflmown as the aesthetic .springs inm 'being as a kind of oogni.tive underlabeurer, to


know in its uniqueness all that to which the higher reason is necessarily blind, Because me aesthetic exists, me dense particulars of perception can be made luminous to thought" and. determinate concretions assembled into historical narntive. (Science', writes Baumgarten, 'is not to be dragged down to the region of sensibility, but the sensible is to be lifted to the dignity afknowledge,") Dominion over all inferior powers, he warns. belongs to reason alone; but this dominion must never degenerate into tyranny. It must rather assume the Conn of what we might now, after Gramsd, term '.hegemo:ny'. ruling and informing the senses from within while allowing them. to thrive in aU of their reladve au,tonomy..

Once in possession of such a 'science of me concrete' ~ 'a contradiction" in tenus'. Schopenhauer was later to call it - mere is no need to fear that history and the body will slip through the net of conceptual discourse to leave one grasping at 'empty space. Within the: dense welter of our material life, with aU its amorphous nux, certain objects stand out in a sort of perfection dimly akin to reason. and" these are known as the beautiful. A kind ofideality seems toinfonn their sensuous existence from within, rather than noatin,g above it in some Platonic space; so that a rigorous logic is, here revealed to us in matter itse1f~ felt. instantly on me pulses. Because these are objects which 'We can agree to be beautiful. nor by arguing oranalysin.g but just by looking and seeing, a: spontaneous consensus, is brougD.t to birth within our creature'ly life, hringing with itthe promise that such a life~ for all its .apparent arbitrariness and obscurity, mighr:mdeed work in some sense very like a rational law. Sucb, as we shall see, is something of the meaning of the aesthetic for Kant, who will look to it for an elusive third way between tbevagaries of subjective feeling and the bloodless rigour of the understanding.

FO.r a modemparallel to this m.eaning of tile aes~etic, we might look less to Benedetto Croce than to dIe later Edmund Husserl, For Husserl's purpose in The Crisis of European Stimas is precise~y to rescue the Ufe-world from its troubling 'opacity to reason, thereby renewing an Occidental rationality which has 'cut aJar:rnlngly adrift from its somatic; perceptual roots. Philosophy cannot fulfil irs role as the universal. ultimately tp'Ounding science if it abandons the life-world to its anonymity; it must remember that the body. even before. it has come to think, is alw.ays a sensibly experiencing organism posldened in its world in a way quite distinct frcm the placing of ,!UI object ln a


box. Scie,n.tific :mowledge of an obj.ectiYe reality is: always already grounded lin thiS! intuimepre-:givenness of things tome wlnerably perceptive body~ in the pdmordia1 pb.ysiality of IOU[ being-:m-theworld. We' .scientists, Hussedre.m.aiks with faintsWiJlrise. are' after all human beings; and :it is beca:use: a misguid.&d .~tionalism bas ,ovefloaked this Cact that: EuropeanWlture 'is, in \the, cfisis, it is. (Husseil, viC!lim. of fascism, is Writing in dIe 1930s.) Thought: must ·thusrounduPQn. itself, retrieving the: L~1Il11 fr<ml wb.oSe murb depths it 5prings, 'in a new 'universal sci'enee <of subj:eotmty'. Su'Ch it :scien'ee. howcver~ is not in: lfilet new in die least; when Bussed :admonishes us that we mUSt~'OOnsider: the surrounding life .. world. concretely. in its neglected relativity _ . " the world mwhich 'we live intuitWe)y. together 'with its realmtir:ies"'· he :isl speaking, in the original sense afme term, as an. aesthenclan. It ,, of course, II 'CJ,UCStkm of S\llTf;nd~'g:o~lvC$to, fthi$, whoie' merely subj~tive ,and" incomprchenscible "Heradliuan, nux;"" which is our '. experience,. but rather of rigorously formalizing if ... Fior the lif~ world exhibits a genlZralstt:ucture, and dds S'lJuctul'e, to whIcb

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:attend tn it in its, gtnemily and. ·w:ith,su.fifiOicnt care, tb: it I),nee,and fer :aU in a w~y e:quallya:ca:ssible to, all. Iii Indeed it nuns out. Icon\'cnieotly enough that the life-world discloses fust the same struetures that scien'tl6c thought presupposes in its cOI1Sti'u'Ctlon ef an. ohjl!Ctivei rea1iqr. lUghe.rand lower :~ o.f Baumganeniart terms, a common fonn. ,Even :50, tbe project ,ofform~tizing me life-world is nota simple onCI and Husseril is frank enough to

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·"gm.undi" that !is' rcacbed.points to furthcr jgrGDfids, .. et:C-fY' borimn opened up awakens :new bOmoos"_1 P:au'sing to console us with the thoughtrhat 1bk"end1ess 'whole. in its! infinilY of aQMng Mll\'l!.tQ.ent" is oriented t:mwnt th:e unity' of one manfng\Hosse-f~: brutally undoes this: solace in the rn-e'Xt bream by denying"that dtisii:s 1b'lU.C lin such a 'way that we could ever simplygraspl and underStand the whol.e',· Lite KaJh:'s: hope" it would appear thatt'here is plen1J IOf totality:, but .not :far us. The projeeti O'f formaiizing the life-world 'would seem to scupper itself before geumg [()fT the ground. and with it the, proper gr:ounding of reason. It 'will 'be lefrm Maurice Metl:ea--Il- .. POrity· to develop tbis'Tetum' to living histol)' aDd the, spoke.1Ii word' -but in doing SolO qUe!Jticmthe: :assumption that thls is :simply 'a preparatory



step which. should be followed. by the properly pbllosophical task of uafversalcanstitution/," From Baumgarten te phenomenologj, it is a question: of reason deviating, doubling back on itself, taking a tklOur

.L_ u ,.4,- ~ ~,-- .~ - ~- ," __', .' ~.. ,- Husserl _n .. it in the uu.-{lUI5l& sen:sation, expenence, ruuve~J as ~ _. ...~ _ __ _

Vienna lecture, so that it will not have to suffer the embarrassment of arriving at its, te/Qs empty-handed, big with wisdom but deaf, dumb and blind into the bargain.

We shall see a little later. especially in the work of Friedrich Schmer, how such a detourthrough sensation is politically necessaTY. If absolutism does not wish to trigger .rebellion, it must make generous accommodation for sensualinelinatinn, V,et this tum to the affective subject is not withQut its perils for an absolutist law. If it may succeed in mscn"bing that law all the more effectively on me hearts and bodies of those it subjugates, it may also. by a self-deconstructive [ogic. come to subjectivize such authority our .of existence, clearing the ground fur a new concept of .legality and political power altogether. In a strilcinghistorical imnyrecorded by Karl Marx. the very idealist cast into whichoonditions of socia1 backwardness had forced me thinking of the late eighteenth-century German middle elass led [.0 theprefiguratlon in the mind of a bold new model of social life as yet quite unachievable in reaUty. Fromme depths of a benighted late feudal autocracy, a vision could be projected of a uruversai order of free, equal, aumnn.mollS human. subjects, obeying no laws but those which they gave to themselves. This bourgeois public sphere breaks decisively with. the privilege .and particularism. of the ancien rigfme, installing the middle class. m image if not in reality, as a t:ru1y universal subject, and compensating with the grandeur of this: dream for its politically supine status. What: is at stake here is nothing less than the production of an new .kind of human 5ubject- one which. like the work of art itse:lt disooverstbe law in the depths. of il:5 own free identity. rather than in. some oppr,essive external power. The, llbenl,ted .subject is me one wh.o has appropriated the law as the very principle alits own autonomy, broken the forbidding tablets of stone on which that law was ori.ginaUy inscribed in order to rewrite it ontae heart of flesh. To consent 'to the law is thus to consent tnnne's own inward being. 'The heart', writes Rousseau in ,Emile, 'only receives laws from. itself; by wanting to c:nchainit one releases 1[; one only enchains it by' leaving it fr,ee.,1D Antonio Gramsel wiD write later in the Prison Noubooks of a form of


civil! society 'in which me individual can govemhlmse1f wilhout his self-government thereby en.tering' into conflict with political society - but rather becoming its normal continuation, its organic complement'," In a classic moment in T1r~ SodaJ Omtraa~ Rousseau speaks afthe most important form. of law as one 'which is not: graven on tahlets of marble or brass, btl:t on the hearts of the citizens. This fermsihe real constitution of the Stare, takes on e.vel)' day new powers, when other taws decay or die nut, resteres them or takes their place, keeps a. people in tbeways it was meant: 10 go. and insensibly replaces authority by the force of habit, I .am speaking of morality., of custom, above all of public opinion; a power unknown to political

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The ultimate binding forceef the bourgeois social order, in contrast to the coercive apparatus .of absolutism, will be habits, pieties" sentiments and affemons. And this is equivalent to saying that power in sucih an order has become atSIMlicirLJ., It is at one· with the body's sponW1.eous impulses, entwined with. sensibility and the affections. lived out in unre.t1ective custom, Power is now lnscribed in the .minutiae of subjective experience, and the fissure between abstract duty and pleasurable inclination. is accordingly healed, To dissOlve the Ia:w to custom, to sheer unthinking habit, is to identify it witb the human. subject's own pleasurable well-being, so that to transgress that law would signify a deep self-'Yiolatinn. The :new subject, which bestows-en itself self-referentially a law at one with its immediate experience, finding its freedom in its necessi.ty. is modelled on the aesthetic artefact,

This centraUty of custom, as opposed to some naked reason, lies at the root of Hegel~s critiq,ue of Kantian morality. Kant's reason, with its uncompromising appeal to absrr:act du~ as anend in i,tse]~ smacks rather too much of the absohrtism of feedalisrpower. The aesthetictheory of the Critique ofJiUlgemml suggests, by contrast. a resolute tum to. the subject: Kant retains the idea. nfa universal law. but now discovers this law at: work in the very structure of our subjective; capacities. This ibwfulness without a law' signifies a deft coOmpromise, between mere subje{:tivism on the one hand, and an excessively absnacrreason on the other. There is indeed for Kant a kind of 'itaw' at work in aesthetic judgemenr, bur one which seems inseparable from thevery particularity of the artefact .. As such, Kant's <[awfulness without a law' otTers a parallel tolhat ~a1:1tblJlrity which is



not an authority' (The Social Contraa) which Ro11SseaU finds in the smrcture of the ideal political state, In both cases, a universal law of a Idndlives whou:y in its free, individual incarnations, whether these are politiicaJ subjects nrthe elements of the aesthetic artefact. The Jaw simply is an assembly of autonomous, self-governing particulars working:in spontaneous reciprocal hannony. Yet Kant's tum 00' the subject is hardly arum to the' body. whose needsand desires fall outside the disinterestedness of aesthetic taste. The body cannot be figured or represented within the frame of Kantian aesthetics; and Kant ends up accordingly with a. fonnalistic ethics, an abstra.ct theory of political rights, and a 'subjective' but ncn-sensuousaestheties,

It is all of these which Hegel's more capacious notion of reason seeks to sweep up and transform, Hegel rejects Kant's stern. opposition between moral.i.ty and sensuality, definin.g instead an idea of RasOR which will encompass the cognitiVe,. practical. and affective together," Hegelian Reason does not only apprehend the good, but so engages and transfermsour bodily inclinations as to bring them into spontaneous accord with universal rational precepts. And. what mediates between reason and expeeience here is the self-realizing praxis of human 5ubject5in political life. Reason., in short, isnot simply a ton.templative facwty, but a who'le project for the hegemonic reermstruction of subjects -: what Sey]a Benhabibhas called 'the successive transfQnnation and reeducation of inner nature'," Reason works out its own mysterious ends through human beings' sensuous; self-actualizing activity in the realm of Sittlidtkeit (concrete ethical life) or Objective Spirit. Rational moral behaviour is, tbusmseparable from questions of human happiness and self-fulfilment, and {r this is so then. Hegel has in some senseaesthedcized' reason by anchoring it in the body'saffections and desires. It is not of course aestheticised away, dissolved to some mere hedonism or intuitionism;. but it has Japsed from the lofty Kantian domain of Duty to become an active, transfigurative fotce in materia] life.

The 'aesthetic' dimension ormis programme can best be disclosed b.Y suggesting that what Hegel confronts in emergent bourgeois :society is a. conffict between a <bad' particularism on the one band, .and a 'bad' unlversalism on the other. The fanner is a matter of civil .society: it stems from the private economic interest ofth.e solitary eitU:en, who as Hegel comments in the Philosophy ofRigirl is each his own end and has no regard far ethers. The ~atler is a question of



the political 5tate~where these unequal, antagonistic monads are deceptivelY constituted asabstracdy free and equivale.nt. In this sense, bourgeois society is a grotesque. travesty of the aestheticart.efact, which harmoniously .intenelates general and' particular.wtiVersal and mdividual, form and content;, spirir and sense, In the dialcc::;tical medium of Silllidtlteitt however) me subject's participation m. uruve.tW: reason takes the :sbape at each moment of a unified, concretely par:iticular fann of life .. Iris through '1Jildll"i. the rational edu.cation of desire througfa.pr4Xis. or as we might say a programm.e of spiritual.begemony,. that. the bond between indMdual and universal is ceaselessly corwJruted. Knowledge, lDondpraeticean.d pleasurable self;.fulfiI.ment are, thus coupled in tb:eoo,mplex: interio.r unily of Hegelian Reasen, The ethical, Hegd remarks in the Philosophy of RighI, appeus nota law but as CUS[om, an ,habitual! form ofaciiQn which. becomes a ~second nattue'.Custornis.tbe law of rhespirit of freedom; me project of to show individuals, the way t.O a new binh, convertingmeir 'first' nature of appetites and desires to a second, spiritual one which will then become customary to them. No longerto,m asunder between. blind individualism and absttact universalism. tbere'bom.subject lives its existence, we might:. c1alnt, aesthetically, in accordance with a 1a:wwhich is now entirely at: one with ilS spontaneous being. What finally secures. soei.a1 order .is that realm. of cuslOmary practice and instinctual piety:, mere supple and r~e~t thana&.stract rights'. wbere: the living energies and affections of subjects are mVe5tcd.

That this should be so fGRows necessarily [rom th.t social co.nditions of the bourgeoisie. Possessive in.di:ridualism abandons each subject to its ,own private space', dissolves allposltive bonds between them and tbrus1s-them into .mutual antagonism., <By ".antagonism.!' ',write5; Kant in his ~ldea for a Universal Histo-r:y'" 'I mean the unsociable sociability of men" i.e, tbeirpropensity to ,enter into society bound togetherwitb a. muEualqppoSitiolt"w&ich constantly threatens to: break. up the society~,'lS In a striIWlg irony. the vel}' practices which reproduce bourgeois sodetyaJsa, threaten to undermine k.lfno positive social bends are possible at dte level,of'material production. or 'civil society'. one might perhaps; look. [0' the political arena of thesta:te to bear dl.e burden of such. interreLnioitship .. What: one nods here, however~ is.a merely notional oommunity of .bstractly syDllMwcal subieds. too rarefied andltheoredc to provide a rich



e:xpr!rirott of consensuality. Once the bourgeoisie has dismanded the centralizing :political apparatus of absolutism, either in firntasy or reality, it: finds itself bereft of some of the Lnstitutionswhic'h had previously organized social nfe as a whole. The questiiontherefo.M arises as to where, it is to locate a sense of unity powerful enough to reproduce itself .by. In economic life,. individuals are structurally isolated and antagonistic; at: the' political leselthere 'Wou[dseem nothing bur abstract rights to link one subject to the other. This is one reason why the '·a.esthetic' realm of sentiments;.aff"ecUons .and spon.tlneous bodily habits comes to- assume the significance it does .• Custom, piety. inwition and opinion. must noW' eoherean otherwise abstract,. atomized social order. Moreover, onceabsolulist power has been evernaned, each subject. must function as its own seat of selfgovernmenL An erstwhile centralized authQrity must beparcellized and localized:ab.solved from continuous poUtica] supenis~on. the bourgeois subject must assume theburden of its own. inte.rnalitcd governance. This is not (0 suggest that absoIutisJ: poweritselfrequires no such internalization: like any successful political authority, it demands complicity andcellusion from those it subordinates. It is not a question of Some start contrast between a purdy heteronomous law on me one hand, and an insidiouslY consensual. one on the other. But -Mm the powth of early bourgeois society, the mtiOI between coercion and consent is undergoing gradual ttansfom:atiion: only a role weighted towards the latte:r can effectively regulate iDdividlflW;l whose economic activityn.ecessitates a rugh degree of autonomy. It:is lin this sense. too,that the aesthetic moves into the foregr:oundin 5uth conditions. Like me work of art as defined by the discourse of aesthetics, the &ourgeoissubj'ect is autonomous and. self-determining:, ackn.ow.ledgesno .m.ercly extrittsk: b,w but instead, in somemysteriotlS fashion. gives the law to itself. In doing so, the: Ilwbecomes the form Which shapes mlO harmonious unity the ttttbulent content .of the subjeu's appetites and lriclina,tions. The compulSion of ilUlotratiC power Is replaced bylbe more gratiJYjngcompulsion of the subiect.~s:

se1f~identity. - ....

To rely 00 sentiment as ;a source of one's socW cohesion is: not as prec::uious a matter as it looks. "The iOOurgeois .state,after :all, still has its coercive instruments a.ttheread'yshouJd thi's project falter; :and what 'bonds could many case be slronger.more unimpeachable, than. those' of the senses, of <natural' compassion and instinctive :alIegiance?

Such. organic Uaisons are surely a more trustworthy fonn of political rule than the morganic, oppressive structures of absolutism. Only when governing imperatives have been dissobed into spontaneous reflex, when human subjects are linked to· each other in their very flesh, ean a. truly corporate existence be fashioned., .IiI. is for this reason that the; early bourgeoisie is so preoa:upiedwil'h virlUI-' with the Uved habit of moral propriety, rather than a laborious adherenceto some external nom. Such II belief naturaUy demands an ambItious programme: of moral education. and eeconstruetion, for mere is no assurance that the human subiects wh.o emerge from. the ancitnr«/me will prove refined and enl:igblen.edenough for power to. fouod ibelf on their sensibilities. It is thus that Rousseau writes the Emikand the NOuvelle Hdufst, inrervening in. me realms of pedagogy' and sexual mor_ality to construct new fonns of subjectivity. Similarly, the law in The Social Contrad has behind it a, Legislator" whose role is the begem.Qnic one of educating the people to receivethe Jaw's decrees. "The {Rousseauan} state'. cammeats Emst Cassirer, 'does Dot simply address itself to already existing and given subjects of the will; rather its first aim Iste atal~ me sort of subjeas rowhom it can address its calVII'> Not just any subject can be'intelp(:Uated'. in Althusserian phrase;"the rask of pelttlcalhegemonyis to produce the very forms of subieclhood which will. form the basis 'of:political unity.

The virtue of Rousseau's ideal citizen lies in his passionate affection forhls fellow citizens and for the shared ennditions of'thelr common life. The root of this civic virtue is the pity we experience for each etherln the state of nature, and. this pity tests on. a kind of empathetic imaginatien, 'transporting ourselves outside ourselves, and identifying ourselves with the suffering animal. leaving our being, solO speak. m order to take his ••• Thus no one becomes sensitive except when his imagjna:lion is animated and begins to transport himse~f outside of mmscJf..'18 At the 'very root. of social relations ties the aesthetic, source of all hamanbonding, If bourgeois socie,ty releases its individuals into lonely autonomy:,d!.en orily by such an imaginative exchange Or appropriation of each other's identities can they be deeply enough united. Feeling, Rousseau claims in Emile. precedes knowledge, and the law of conscience is such tha:twhat ,I lui to be right is right. Even 5Q, social harmony cannot be grounded. in such sentiments alone, which suffice only for the state of nature, In the state of cM;liumon. such sympathies must find their fermal



ani.cula.tion in law; whkh involves a similar 'exchange' of subjects: 'Each of us puts his: person and all IUs power .in. common under me supreme. direction oCthe general wiU, and, in oW' corpor:atecapacity, we receive each member as an [ndivisible part of the whole:" ht Rousseau's view, fbr the subject to obey ,my law. other than, one it has personally fashioned is slavery; no individual is entided to (:ommand another, and the only legitimate taw is thus uf a. self-conferred Idnd. If all citizens alienate their rights entirely to me community, 'each man, •• "":'.1 . h· If . '. all'· . ve ... ~ . ·If, . n . MAo," "" d s; receives m InlSe to ..• Jumse ~ to .. OVV'Ol' aIL _0 _ .. "" .

himself back again as a free,autonoffi.oUS being. The citizen surrenders his ~bad' particularism-his narrowly selfish in.terests - and through the 'general win' identifies instead with. the good of the whole; he retains his unique individuality, but now in me form. of a disinterested commitment to a common weU.-being. This fusion ef general and pani:cular. in which one shares in the whole at: no one's unique specific~ty. resembles the very fQrm of the ,aesth~ti:c artefact - thou.ghsince Rousseau is not an organicist dtinker) me analogy is oIrl}' approximate. For the mystery of the aesthetic object is that e-a:ch of its sensuous parts, while appearing whony autencmnes, incarnates the 'law' of the totality. Eaeh aesthetic particular, in the yery. act of determining itself, regula.tesand is regulated by all other self-determining pamculars. The enheanening expression of t!his doctrine, pourica1ly speaking,would ber 'what appears !IS my subordination. toethers is in fact self-determination'; the. more cynical view would run: 'my subordination to others is so effective that ![ appears to me in the mystified :guise of goveming :myse~f.'

The emergent middle class, in ~. historic deve1opm.en.t,. is newly defining itself:as a universal subieet, But the abstraction this process ,entails is a source of :anxiety .for a class wedded in. its robust individualism to the concrete and the pani.cular~ If tile aest!hetic intervenes here, it is asa dream of reconciliation ~of individuals woven into intimate unity with no detriment to their ~specifici~t of an. abstract totaJity suffused with all the flesh-and-blood reafityof the individual being. As Hegel writes of classical art in. his . .Philmophy of Fine Art: 'Though no violence is done . .. . to any feaMe .of e;q>ressiQn~ any part of the whole, and eve.ry member appears :in. its independence. and rejoices in. its own existence, yet each and all is eontenr at the same time to be only an aspect in the totd. evolved prresentation/zo Rousseau'S general will, as a kind Qfmightytotalizing



artefact, might be seen as imaginative empathy assaming a rational, objective form,

Rousseau. does not thlnlthat' feellng can simply replace rational law; but he does hold thatreason in, itself is insufficient for social unity, and that to become a, regulative force in socie~ it must be animated by love and affection. It is thus that he ql.larre'Ued with the Eocyclopaedi:srs, whose dream of reconstructing society from pW'e reason seemed to him simply to erase me problem of the .subject. And 10 overlook the subject is to ignore thevItaJ question of political hegemony, which the ultra-rationalism of the Enlightenment is powerless in itself 10 address. 'Seo,sibility'. liIlen. would seem un,eql1ivocally on the side ofthe progressive middle class, as the aesthetic foundation of a new form, of polity. Yet if the conservative Edmund Burke found Rousseau's sentimentalism offensive" he was also revolted by what: he saw as his impious rationalism. Such rationalism seemed to Burke just: mat effort to reCQ.DSll'Uct the social order from metaphysical first principles which was most calculated to undermine an o:r,ganic cultural tradition of spontaneous pieties and affectiens." Rationalism and sentimentalism do indeed in this sense go together: if a new social order is to be oonSUiUC!ted on the basis ef virtue,. custom and opinion. men a radical rationalism must first of'all dismantle the political structures of the pr:csent,submitting 'their mindless prejudices and traditionalist privileges rei disinterested critique. Conversely, bolb rationalism and an appeal 'to feeling can be found on the potitica.l:right. If the given. social order defends itselfin Burkelan fashion through 'culture'» through. a plea for the values and affections richly i:mplicit In national ttadi.tion - it will rend to provoke an abrasnre rationalism from the political left. The leftt will round scathingly on. the 'aesthetic" as. me very locus. of mystification and irratio.1Ul prejudice; it will denQu:nceme insidiously naturaliz:ing power' Which Burke has in mind when he comments t:bat customs operate better than laws:, 'because they become a SOli' of'Namre both to the governors and the govemed' .. ll: If; however, tbe existing order ratifies itself by an appeal to absolute taw, then the 'subjective' instincts and passions which .such law seems unable to encompass can become me basis ofaradical cridque,

The form which these conflicts take is partly detennlned by the nature of the political power in question. In late elghteentn-century Britain!. atr evolved tradition ofbourgt:Q1s democracy had produced a



social order which sought on the whole to work'hegemonically'. however savagely coercive it could also show itself: Authority, as Burke recommends, has regard to the senses andsentiments of at least some of its subjects; and in this situetion two alternative counrer-strategies become available. One is to exp.lore therea1m of affective life which authority seeks to colonize and turn it against the insolence of power itself. as in some eighteenth-century cults of sensibility. A new kind of human subject - sensitive, passionate, individualist - poses an Ideclogical challenge to the ruling order, elaboratin.g new dimensions of feeling beyond its narrow scope, Alternatively, the fact that power utilizes feelings for Lts own ends may give rise to a. radical rationalist revolt against feeling itself, in which sensibility is assailed as the insidious force which binds subjects to the law. If, however, political dominance assumes in Ge.nnan fashion more openly coercive forms, then an 'aesthetic' cOllnter-strategy- a cultivation of the instincts and! pieties over' which s1ll.cb power rides roughshod - can .always g;lther force.

Any such projet:t~hQwever, is Ukeiy to 'be deeply ambivalent. For it is neser easy to distinguish an appeal 10 taste and. sentiment which offers an alternative to autocracy from one' which allows such power to ground iuelf all the more securely in. the .living sensibilities of hs subjects. There is a world of political difference, between a law which the subiectreally does give to itself, in radical democratic style" and a decree which still descends from on hlgh but which the subject now <authenticates'. Free consent may thus be the antithesis of oppressive pewer, or a seductive Conn of cOUUSiOfi with it. To. view the emergent middleMclassorder from either standpoil1ta[one issutely too undialectieal an approach. In one sense, the bourgeois subiect is indeed mystified into mistaking necessity for freedom and oppression for autonomy. For power: to be indmduaUyauthe.nticated, there must be. constructed within me subject a. new form of inwardness which wiJ] do the unpalatable work of the law for it, and all the more effectively' since that law bas nowapparcntly evaporated. In another sense, this policing belongs with the historic victory of bourgeois liberty and democracy over a. barbarously repressive state, As such, it contains within itself a genuinely utopian glimpse of a free, equal commllnity of independent subjects, . Power is shifting its location from centralized institutions te the silent, invisible depths of lhe subject. itself; but this shUt is also. part ofa profound political



emanclpation in W:rudl freedom and compassion, the imagination and the bodily affections, strive: to' make themselves heard within me discourse of a repressive rationalism.

The aesthetic, then. is {l(lID the beginning a. contradictory, doubleedged concept. On the 'One hand, it figures as a genuinely emancipatery force - as a community of subjects now linked by sensuous impulse and fellow-feeling rather than by heteronomeus law, each safeguarded in its unique particularity while bound at the same time into social harmony .. The aesthetic offers the middle class a superbly versatile model of theirpolitical aspirations, exem:pUfying' new forms ef autonomy and self-determinatinn, transforming me relations between law and desire, morality and licnow'ledge" recasting the links between individual and totality, and revising social relations on the basis ofcustom, affection andsympatby. On the other hand. the aesthetic signifies what Max Horkh.eimer hascalIed a kind, of 'internalised repression', inserting social power more deeply lnto the very bodies of those it subjugates, and so operating as a supremely c:lrec:tive mode of politi,cal hegemony. To lend fresh signifieance to bodily pleasures and drives, however, uooly for the purpose of coionizing them more efficiently, is always to risk fore grounding and intensi:t}iltg them, beyond one's cenrrol, The aesth.etic as custom, sentiment spontaneous impulse may consort weD enough with political domination; but these phenomena border embarrassingly on passion, imagiaation, .sensuality,. which are not alWays so easily incorporable. As Burke put it in his AppealjirJm Ihe' NttP to me Old WhigJ; ~Tbe,fe is It bound3IY to mea'spassions when they act from feeling; none when they are under the influence of imagination.'n 'Deep' subjectivity is just what. the ruling social order desires, and exacdy what it has most cause to fear. Iftheaestheric lis a dangerous. ambiguous affair.i( is because. as we shall see In dUs study. there is in the body which can r~o1t against the power which inscribes it; and th.a.t impulse could only be eradicated by extirpating along- with it me capacity to authenticate power itself.


1 Alexander Baumgarten, Rtjieaiom on pomy. translated by K .. Aschenbrenner and W. B. Hohher (Berkeley, 1954),p. 43. For auseful reeenr


essay on Baumgarten, see RodO:lphe Ga.scM, 'Of aesthetic and historical determination', in D. Attridge,. G. Benningtonand R. Young {eds}, PouStruauralism and IhrQUfltion of /ijjlory (Cambridge, 1987). See also David E. WeJlbery, 1.essing~ LtmroiR;' Smr.iol;a 4IldAlSrhttia in the·Age of RtMtm (Cambridge, 1984), chapter 2, and! K.E.. Gilbert and H. Kuhn.A HUIory of E$tha.ics (New York, 1939), chapter 10. For a splendi d survey of English and German aesthetics from which I. have benefited a good deal in chapters I and 2, see HowardCaygill. <Aesthetics and Civil Society: Theories of Art and Society ]64f}..1790', unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Sussex, 1982; and see Caygill, Art of Jurigtmttlt (Oxford, 1989).

2 Baumgarten, R4I«tions QtI p()t.try, p .. 38.

3 Quoted by Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of.tht Enlighlromtnt (Boston, 1951), p .. 340 ..

4- Edmund! Husserl, The Crisis of European Samm and Trllnscmtkntal

Phmommo/Qgy (Evanston, 1970:),p. 156. 5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., p. 139. 7 Ibid., p, 170. 8 Ib:id.

9 .Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Signs (Evanstcm" ~964!), p. 110.

10 Rousseau, Emik au .tk ntducation (paris, 1961), voL IV, p.388.

11 Antonio Gramsei, Stl«tiims[rom tht' Prilon NOltbooks, ed. Q Hoare and G. NoweU Smith (Londoll., 197]),.p. 268 ..

12, Jean~Jacques Rousseau. Tnt SQciQJ C(}frtnJ(t and Disrrru~t$.ed.GD,H.

Cole (London, 1938).p. 48.

13 See Benhabib, Critiqur, Norm. and Utopia (New York, 1986), pp. 8()...4. For the relation between custom and law in the Enlightenment, see 1.0. Wade, The Structure r:md Form of Ih~ Fu:nch EI11ightmmmt (Princeton, 1977), vol. 1, Pan 11.

14 Benhahib, Critique-, No.rm,arnt UtrIPia. p. 82.

IS' Immanuel Kant, <Idea for 3. Universal History', in I. Kanr, 0,. History, ed, Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis, 1963). p, 15.

16 EmSt Cas5iier:, The Q_Udli(]lto/ Jtan-JfUt[im RtJilJSe4U (Bloomington, 19.54), pp .. 62-3.

11 See louis Ahhusser, 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses', in

Lm;,. andPhilosopIJy (London, 1971). 18 Rousseal.l, Emilt, vol. IV. p. 261.

19 ROllsscall,'lJre Social Corrlrrm, p .. l5.

20 G. W .. F. Hegel. 17u Philosophy afFine Art (londO'n, 1920)., '10'1. n, p. 10 (translation slightly amended).


21 See .Annie Marie Osborn, Raussmu and Durie (London,. 1940). a work which at: one point smngely speaks ofBurLleasan. E'ngUshman. See also, for Rousseau's political thought; J. H. Broome • .RorustQu: A S1tIdy of his ~, (London, 1963); SlepIlen F.lIenbwg, ~~. POIitiaiJ PhiltJwpfry (Ithaca, 1976); Roger O. Master, 11u: .Politiazl Pltflosophy O/ROUSSNU ~rinceton. 1968); LuciQ Colletti; FrtIin Rl)USft414 /oUnin (london. 1912), Pan 3.

22 Edmund Burke, An Abridgtmmt of E~pis1r ,HiJ/ory. quoted in W.1- T.

Mitdldl, iw1Wi<1g (Chicago, 1986),. p ... m40.

Z3 '11u wo,z. !?f Edmund Bum;,ed. Geotge Nichols (Boston, ~865-7)" vol. 4; p. !9,Z.



The Laso of the Heart:

Shafiesbury, Hume, Burke

While the German middle class languished beneath the yoke of nobility, their EngliSh counterparts had been energeilicaUy at wor.k transforming a social order still heavi1y aristoeratic in nature to their own. advantage. Uniquely among European nations, the English landowning' elite had itself iong been a capitalist class proper, already accustomed towage .labout and commodity production as early as the sixteenth century. They thus antiCipated bya considera,bleperiod that conversion from feudal to capitalist agriculture which the Prusslan Junkerdom would accomphsh, more partially 'and precariousl,y, only in. the wake of its defeat in. the Napoleonic wars. At oncelhe most stable and wealthy estare-owners in Europe. the English patridate succeeded superbly in combining high capitalist: produdivity 0:0 the land with an enviable degree of cultural. solidarity and unbroken. cantin.oily .. It was within this unusually favourable matrix" .offering' at once me general preconditions fOf' further capitalist development and 2 resilientpoUtical framework to safeguard. it, thai the English. mercantile classwas able to inaugurate its own key instirutions (the: stock exchange. the Bank of England). and seeure the predominance of im own form of political state (p.arl:iament)', in me aftermath of the 1688 revolution. Under these propitious .conditions. Britain was able to lemerge in, the eighrecnm ,centuty as me wodd's leading commereialpower, vanquishing its forei,gn rivals and extending its imperial. sway across the globe. By the mid-eighteenth. century •. London. bad become, the largest centre of intem.ationm trade, the premier port and warehouse of the world, and wimessed the :rorging of some spectacular fortunes. n.e Han.ovei.ian state, staffed and controlled ~ by the .aristocracy, protected and promoted mercantile


•. -c ··m . .. .. ,,1. .• C B· .. ·d'""·· ~!-

mterests WI ' .. tmpres51Ve ze,"> s«unng .or. ntam a rapl'J ~wng

economy and an immensely profitable empire,

In eighteenth-century Britain, then, we encounter a robust, wellfounded unity ofagrarian and. mercantile interests.nccempanied by a marked ideological rapprodlement between new and traditional social elites. The idealized self~1mag,e of this ruling social bloc is Jess of itself as a 'state' class than asa 'publie sphere' ..... it poiitical formation rooted in civil society itself, whose members are at once .stoutly indMduaUst and linked to their fellows by enlightened social intercourse and a shared set of cultura~ manners, Assured enough of its political and economic stability. this governing bloc is able to disseminate some of its power in the 'OrIDS of a general culture and 'civility', founded less on the potentially divisive realities of social.rank and economic interest than on common styles of sensibility and a homogeneous reason. ;Civilized' conduct takes its cue from traditional arisroeratisnnlts indexis the fluent, spontaneous, taken.-for-granted virtue ofthe gentleman, rather than the earnest oonformity to some external la.w of the petty bourgeois. Moral standards. while still implacably absolute in themselves, may thus be to some extent dlffused into the textures of person ali sensibility; taste, affect and opinion testiry more eloquently to one's particlpatiion ina universal common sense thamcither moral Sl'reIlUOUSneSS or ideolo.gica1 doctrine. Both of these [lOW catty w[lh them ominousremlnlscences ofa disruptive puritanism .. Yet if the prototype of this public sphere is drawn from the realm of gentility, the predominance it grants to individu::d sensibility, the free circulation of enhghtened opinion. and the :abslractiy equalized status of:its .socially diverse participants, mark it: also as a peeullarly bourgeois social formation. A community of sensibHiry consorts as well with the bourgeoIS-'s stout lempiricist disregard for metaphysical abstraction, and also with his deepening domestic: sentimentalism, JlS 'it does with that carelessness of theoretical justification which lsthe badge of arist~cy .. Por both strata, an abstract rationalism DOW sinisterly rcecaUs we metaph,ysic3l excesses of the Commonwealth. If social power is to be effectively naturalized, it must somehow tale root in the sensuous immediacies of empirical life. beginning with the affettive, appetitive individual of civil soeiety, and tracing from there the affiliations which might bind him to a greater whole ..

The project of early German aesthetics, as we have seen, is to



mediate between general. and particular, elaborating a kind of concrete logic which will clarifY the sensory world without abstracting it: away. Reason must grant experience its peculiar density, without all owing it for a moment to escape; and this is bard:ly an easy tension to maintain. The proto-materialist impulse of this project soon surrenders to a full-blown formalism; indeed no sooner has sensadon been ushered into jhe court ·of reason then it is subjected to a rigorous discrimination, Only certain sensations are fit suhject for aesthetic enquiry.jand this means for the Hegel of the Philosophy of Fint An -', Iy. -···-1.t . n d ·h - . ", g-_ - - "''''e-s which are, ashe says 'ideal'. ViSIon for

on Sign an cann, seH~ .. _ ,._ _ _ •.. _ _ _

Hegel js'appetitel.ess·; all true looking is without desire. There can he no aesthetics of odour, texture or flavour, which are mere debased modes of access to the world. 'Botticher's mere feeling with the band of'tbe effeminately smooth portions of statues of goddesses', Hegel remarks frostily, 'is not a. pan of artistic contemplation or enjoyment at all," Reason, then, in some sense selects those perceptions which already appear to collude with it. The aesthetic representation of a Kant is quite as unsensual as theeoacept, expeUingtbe materiality of its object. But if German rationalism has a. problem in descending from the universal t:o theparticuIar. the dilemma of British empiricismis quite the reverse: how to move from the particular to the general without the latter merely collapsing back into the former. If rationalism 'is politica1lyvulnerable, it is because it risks a mere empty totalization which expels the experiential; if empiricism is politically problematic. it is because it has difficulty in totalizing at all, mired as it is In a web of peniculars, It is the impossible conundrum of a. 'science of me concrete': how isa ruling order to root itself in me sensuously immediate, yet elaborate this into something more compeUing than a heap of fragmenrs! Empiridsm risks ending up trapped here in. some intolerable impasse. either undoing its own totalizations at every step •. or subverting immediacy in the very effort to ground it. more securely. If rationalism. feels the need to supplementitself with the logic of the aesthetic, then it wouJd seem tha!t empiricism was all along too aestheric for its own good. How is a thought already so thoroughly sensationalized to break. the hold afme body over it, drag itself free of the clammy embrace of the senses and rise to something a little more cooceptually dignified?!

Theanswer, perhaps, is that there IS no need. Could we not stay with the senses themselves, and find there our deepest relation to an



overall ranonal design? What if we could discover me trace of such a providential order on. the body its.elf, in its most spontaneous, prereflexive instincts? Perhaps there is somewhere within. OUf immediate experience a sense with all the unerring' inmition ofaes-thetic taste, which discloses the moral order to us. Such is the celebrated 'moral sense' of'the British eighteenth-century moralists, which allows us to experience right.and wrong with all the swiftness of me senses. and so lays the groundwork for a socii! cohesion more de,eply felt than any mererational tQt;luzy. If the mOM values which go:vem social life are as self-evidenrasthe taste of peaches, a good deal of disruptive wrangling can be dispensed with. Society as 'a whole, gi:ve,n its fragmented condition, is incr,easingi;y opaque- to to:ta_iz_ing reason; it is difficult to discern. :any rational design. in the workings of the market place. But we might tum nevertheless to what seems the opposite of alilhat, to the stirrings of individual sensibiUty, and find there instead. Our surest incorperation into a common body .. In our natural lnstincts of benevolence and compassion we are brought by some providential law, itself inserutable to reason, into harmony with. one another, The, body's affections are no mere subjective whims, but the key toa well .. , ordered state ..

Morality, then, is becoming steadily aestheticized, and this in two related senses. It has been meved closer to the springs of sensibility; and it concerns a virtue which like me artefact is an endin itself We live well insocfety neither from duty nOfutility, but as a deli.ghtfUl fulfilment of our nature. The body has its reasons, of which the mind may know little: a benign providenc-e has so exquisitely adapted our faculties to its, own ends as to make it keenly pleasurable to realize them .. To fol1ow out our self~de)jghting impuises, provided they are shaped by reason, its un",ittingly to promote the; cemmon good. OUf sense of momIin".ilie Earl of Shaftesbury argues, oonsists in 'a real. antipathy or aversionto lniustice or wrong. and in. a real affection or lovle towards equity and right,. for its owa sake, and on account of its naturaf beauty and worth',' The objects of moral judgement are for Shafresbury as immediately attractive or repul.siveasrhosc of aesthetic taste, which is not: to convict him of moral! subjectivism. On the contrary, he believes s.trongly in an abselute, objective moral law, rejects the suggestion that immediate feeling isa sufficient: condition of the good, and holds like Hegel that the moral sense must be educated and disciplined by reason. He also rejects me hedonist



creed that: the good is simply what pleases us. Even so, all mora] action for Shaftesburymust be mediated through the affeetiens, and wha[ is not done thIougb affection issim:ply non-moral. Beauty,truth and goodness are ultimately at one: what is beautiful. is harmonious, what is harmonious is true, and what iSM once true and beautiful is agreeableandgeed .. Themorally virtuous indIvidual lives with. the grace and symmenyof an artefact, so that virtue rna)' be known hy its irresistible aesthetic appeal: 'For what is there on earth a fairer matter of speculation, a goodllerview or contemplation, than that of a beautiful, proponion'd, and becoming action?'J, "oUrics and aesthetics are deeply intertwined: to lov.e and admire beauty is 'advanrageeus ID social affection. and highly ass is tant to virtue, which is ltselfno other thanthe love: of order and beauty in society';i Tnnh for this passed A over Platonist is an artistic apprehension of the world's inner design: 'to understand something is to grasp ils proportioaed place in the whole, and so is at oncecognitive and aesthetic. Knowledge is a ¢r>tative inwhiQn which discloses the dynamic forms of Nature, and has about it a brio and exuberance inseparable from pleasure. Indeed Nature for Shaftesbury is itself the supreme artefact, brimful 'witb all possibilitiesofbe'ing; and to know it is to share in both the c.reativity andthe sublime disinterestedness of irs Maker. The root of the idea of theaesthedc is thus theological: like the work of art, God and his world are autonomous. autotelic and utterly seLf-detcrmining.Tbe aesthetic is a suitab.y secularized version nf the A1mighty himself, not feast in its blending of freedom and necessity. Mere, libertinism must be rejected for a freedom based 00 1aw. restraint seen as the very basis ·of :emancipa.tion: in the work of ;lin, as in the world in general, 'the tnily austere" severe, and regular,restraintive character . . . corresponds (not fights or thwarts) with the free, the easy, the secure, the bold."

As the grandson of the founder of the Whig pa:rty) Shafiesbu.ry Isa firm upholder of civi,c liberties, and in. this sense an eloquent spokesman for the bourgeois public sphere of eighteerUh,-century En,gland. Yet he Is .aLso a notable traditionalist, anaristoctatie ncoPlatonisttiercely ant:lgl>nlstic to bourgeois utiiUty and' Horrified by a nation of Hobbesian shopkeepers, Shaftesbut)' speaks up for the 'aesthetic'as ils alternative: for an ethics :entwined with the sensuous affections,. and (or a human nature which isa self:" pleasuring end in itself. In this sense, he is able to fumish bourgeois



society. from his traditional aristocratic reseurees, with [some rather more edifying, experientiil principle of unhy than its poliricalor economic practice can. provide. HiS philosophy unites the absolute law of me old school wifh the subjective freedom of the new • . sensuaiwn,g the one while spiritualizing ehe other. His geniaUJ" aristocratic trust tba.t sodality is rooted in the very structure of the human animal runscounter to the whole: of bourgeois, practice; yet it can supply just me fell, inruiive Jinks 'betweenindivid.uaIs that the middle class urgently needs, unable as It isla derive .. any suchpositive corporate existence from either market place or poliitiica~stt.te ... Shaftesbury is in this sense !l central architect of the new political hegemony. of Justified European renown, Cusped convenIently between traditiona1ism and progress, he latroduees the bourgeois public sphere to a rich humanist heritage', aesthetidsing its social relations. But he also clings fumIy to that absolute rationa1iaw which will prevent such relations from. 1apsing into mere llbertinlsm or sentimentalism.

To live "aesthetically' for Shaftesbury is 10 flourish in the wellproportioned exercise of one's powers, ,confonning to, the law of one's free personality in. the casual .• affable.taken-fO.r-gr.mted style of the stereor;ypica1 arlstoorar, What Ole middle class cao learn Lromthis doctrine is its s-tress on. autonomy and self .. detennination. - its: deconstmcrlon of any 100 rigid opposition between freedom and necessity, impulse and law. If the aristocrat gives the law to himself individually. me bourgeoisie aspires to do so collectively, To this: atent, the middle classinhe:ri.t5 me aesme,uc as !1 legacy from its superioss; but som.easpects of it are: more usable thanethers, The: aesthetic: asthe rich, all-round deveIopmentof human capacities is bound to prove somelhing of an embarrassment for a class whose economic activi.ty leaves it ,spiritually irrtpoverishedand one-sided, The bourgeoisie canappreclate the aesthetleas self-autonomy, but much less as wealth of being, realized pUliCly for its own sake .. 8y the time it has embarked. upon its industrial career" its leaden. repressive Hebraism will seem Ught years removed fsem Schiller's 'Igrace\ Burke's 'enjoyment' or Sbaftesbury's delight in wit and ridicule. 'Wealm of being', indeed, will become in the hands of .Am old. Ruskin and William Moms a powerful critique of rniddl.e~lass individuaUsm. If the aesthetic is in part a bequest from nobility to middle: class, then. it



isa divided, ambivalent one - aser of key concepts for the new social order, but also for the critical tradition which opposes it,

In, the "moral sense' philosophers, then, ethics, aesthetics and politics are drawn hannomously' together'. To do good is deeply enloyab:le, a se]f~iustifying function of our nature beyond i311 crass utili~. The moralsense, as Francis Hutcheson argues, is 'antecedent to advantage and interest and is the foundation of them'} Like, ShaftesbulJ. Hutcheson speaksof virtuous actions as beautiful and vidous ones as 'ugly or deformed; fOf' him. too, moral intuition lS as swift in its iud,gements as aesthetic taste. 'Human society', writes Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments,

when we contemplate it in a, certain abstract and philosophicallighr, appears likea great, an immense machine, whose regular and harmonlous movements; produce a thousand agreeable effects. As in, any othe,r beautifu~ and noble machine that was the production of human art, whatever tended to render its movements more smooth and easy, would derive ;II beauty from this effect. and. on the contrarY. wha.tever tended to obstruct them would displease on that account: so virtue. which is. as It were, the one. polish to the wheels of society, necessarily pleases; while vi:oe. like the vile rust, makesthem jar and grate upon one another, is as necessarily offensive, ~

The whole of social life; is aestheticized; and what this signifies is a social order so spontan.eously cOhesive mal its members no .longer need to think about it .. Virtue, the easy habit of goodness, is like art beyond all mere calculation. A sound political regime is: one in. which subjects conduct themselves gracefulJ:y ~. where, as we have seed; the law ~5 no longer external to individuals but is lived out,with fine ca:valier.insouciance. as the"l1'e:ry principle of their free identities, Such an internal :appropriation of the law is at once cenk:a~ to the, work of art and to the process of political hegemony. The aesthetic is in this sense no more than a name for the: poHti.caI unconscious: it. is simply th.e way social harmony registers :itself on our senses, imprints itself on our sensibilities .. The beautiful is just poliriealerder lived out on the body, dte way it strikes the eye and stirs the heart. If itfs



ineXplicable, beyond . .u.t, rational debate. it is because our fellowsltip with mhers is likewise beyond all reason, as gloriously pointless: as a poem. The ,sociaUy dismptive., by coatrast, is a5iinshrndy offensi'Vc:as; a foul smell The unity of social life sustains irself"requiring no further legitimation,anchored as: it is iin <our most primordiaL instincts. Like the work of art, it is Immune foom aUnltionaJ analysis, and so from an rational criticism,

To aesthetleize momlity:md: society' in this way is, lin one sense the mark of a serene confidence'. If moral responses: are as self-evident as the taste of sherry, then ideological! consensus must run deep indeed. W!hat more flattering oompliment £ould there be to the rati'o.nality of the, social whole than that we apprehend It fume least' reflective aspects of our lives. in the most apparently p.rivate.; wayward of sensations? Is there even any need for some cumbersome apparatus of Jaw and the stare, yoking' us 'inorganicaUy together, when in the genial glow of benevolence we can experie.ItCe' our kinship with others as immediately as a delectable taste?' In anomer sense, one mlghtargue, moral sense theory tecStffie.s tua hanlrup:t tendency of bourgeois ideoiogy, forced to sacrifice the prespect oCa. rati"na/ totality to an intuitive logic, Unable to found idoological consensus in its actual socialrekitiollS, to derive the unity of hUinllinKind .nom the anarchy of the 'marketplace', the ruling order .must ground that consensus instead in the stubborn se]f~dence. of me gut. 'W,e know there is more 'to social existencethan self~intetl!St, because we feel it. What cannot be socially demonstrated has to be taken. on faith. The appeal is at once empty and patent: feeJings. unlike propositions, cannot be controverted. and 'if a social order 'nMis. to be, rati:onally j.ustified men, one might claim, the Fall has already happened. Yetta found society on intuition 1S: :not without .its problemS,as:the critics of thesetheorists were quick to see ... 9

If the moralsense philosophers help to oil me wheels of political hegemony, they also provide, co:n.tradictorily, what can be read as a discourse of 'Utopian critique. Speaking up from the' GaeUc margins (Hutcheson, Hume, Smith,Ferguson. and others), or from a threatened traditional culture (Shaftesbury), these thln~ers denounce possessive individualism and bourgeois utility!, insisting like Smith that the maladroit wotkmgs of rtasonc:an never renderart object agreeable or disagreeab1e to the mind for its own sake. Before we have' even begun . to reason.jhere is already tha~ faculty within us



whi~h: makes us feel the suffering!; of others as keenly as a wound, spurs 'us, to luxuriate in another's joy witbno, sense of self-amtantage~ stirs us to detest cruelty and oppression like a hideous wound. The disgust we feelat the sight of tyranny Of iniusnce is as previous to aU ranonalcalc:ulation as ·the ,fetchingoo.casioned by some ha:xious food. The body is anterior to se'lf~interested rationality,iudwill force its instinctual ,approbations and aversions upon our social practice. The vicious, Shaftesbury considers, must certainly be wretched; for how could someone 'violate the very core ofhis 0.[ her compassionate being and still. be happy? The Hobbesian ideology is fataRy flawed, and bound to come to grief: bow can any vision survive which flattens all mat makes men and women what they are - their tender delight in each other'S well-being, their relish for human compSifiyas an end in itself - to this basecaricaturd' If there is no developed language of political protest 'against such a trnvesty, then at least there is me. aesthetic, the very sign. and model of disinterestedness, Dis .. lnteresredness heremeans indifference not to others' interests, but to one's uwn. The :aesthetic is the enemy of bou:rgeois egoism: to judge aesthetically means to bracket: as: far aspossiale one's own petty prejudices in. the name of a common. general humanity. It is in the act of'taste above all, David Hume argues lnhls essay ·Ofm.e Standard of T,aste'.mal 'ccnsidering myself as a man in general, 11 must) forget, if possible" my individual being, and my peculiar circurnstances'}O Aesthemc disinte.restednessinvolves a radical dece:ntri.!lg of the sublect, subduing its seif-regard to a commooity ·Qf sensibility others. :It is thus in its vacuo'U.s~ idealist way the image ofa generous new conception ofsoclal relations, the enemy ofall sinister interests .. Only the imagination, Adam Smith consider:s,can furnish an anthemtc bond between individuals, carrying us beyond the selfish compass, of the senses inta mutual solidarity: '[our senseslnever did, and n.ever can, carry us beyond our own ~tson,and il is by the lmazination o ... li£, mal we can. forman e -nC C - ti--- f What . te (th

£1--. . _U>:J -- . -- _ _ Y -Q-_-eJ?-_Qn Q . a"t:

others) sensadons'," The imagination is frailer than sense but sb:ongcrthan reason: it is the precious ley releasing the; empiricist subject from the priscn-house of its perceptions. If the: access it allows us to or1le:rsis poorer man direct bodily experience, [t is at least more immediate than reason, for which the ·ve.l)' reality of others is bound to remain a specillalPlefiction. To Imagine is to have a kind of image, suspended somewhere oerween percept and concepf, of what



it feels like to be somebody else; and the moral sense philosophers are convinced that nothing less than this wiD ever be ideologically effeedve, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson and Hume are deeply sceptical of the power of mere rational comprehension to move men and women to politically virtuous action. From thisriewpoi.ntithe· British rationalist thinkers emerge as dangerously deluded: purveyors of an abstract ethics" they wantonly elide the entire medium of senses and sentiments througb which alone such im;peratives; could take on flesh in human lives. The aesthetic is in this sense the-relay er nansmlssloa mechanism by whichm.eol'Yis converted to practice, the; detour taken by ethical ideology lhMugh me feelings and senses so' as to reappear as spontaneous social practice.

If to aestheticize morality is to make it ideologically effective" it is also to risk leaving it meo:r;eti.caIly disarmed. 'OuI ideas of morality, if this account is right', complains the .rationalist: .Richar:d ,Price .• ',havtC the same origin with our ideas orlbe sensible qualities of bodies, the hannony of sounds,or the beauties ofpainting:utd sculpture . . . Virtu.e (as those who embrace this scheme say) isanafi'air of taste. Mow right. and wrong :signify nothing in the objects .thomelves to which dleyare .applied,any more than agreeable and harsb;sweet and. bitter; pleasant and painful; but only cmain effects in us .. ,. AU our di:scove.ries and. boasted knowledge Yanish, andthe whole universe. is reduced into a creature of fancy. Every sentiment of eyery being is equally just . .'12 Prieeis a militant anti-aesthetician, scandalized by I! rampant subjectivizing ofvalues, The senses and theimagina!tioo can take us nowhere inmoral enquiry, bur must yield, to the undemanding. Is torture wrong merely because we find it distasteful!? mf Ule moral, Uke the aesthenc, Is a qual:ity of our responses to. the obleet, are actions mere blank texts colo.uredsimply by OUT 'sentiments] And What if those sentiments disagree?

Unable to derise values from facts- which is to say. to ground moral ideology in bourgeois soeialpractice= the moralsense theorists tum instead to thenotion of value as autotelic . But they do this. SO their opponents daim,at the cost of aesthetiching; It away~ dissoWing it. into the v.agaries of .subjectivism. In seeking to lodge an objective ethics more securely in the. subject, they end up dissevering therwo, leaving a delicate sensibility oo:nfronring a cOID1llodified object stripped of its inherent properties. To be sentimentaJiis tlll eensume less the object itself than one's own fine: feelings about it. If ideology



iSlowor.k efficiently., it must be pleasurable, intuitive,self-rati!Ying: in a 'Word, aesthetic. But this, in a striking paradox, is exactly what threatens II;! undermine its objective; force. The very move of inserting ideology more deeply in. the subject ends. up by subverting itself. To aesthetieize moral. value is in one sense to display an enviable confidence: virtue consists fundamentally in being oneself: Yet it also betrays a considerable anxiety:vimJ.e had better be its own reward, since in. this sort of society it [5 un1~ely to receive any othe,r,.We have something finer and subtler than Ute CQncept to bind us into mutuality, nameb- a sentiment which appears .everybit as metaphysically founded as one's taste; in stockings. To appeal to rational foundations, 00 the other hand. would seem little more of a solution in. a society where a ranonal grasp of the whole.grantedthat it: is even possible, seems to have linle influence on actual behaviour. The: ruling order is accordingly caught between a rational ethics which seems ideologically ineffectual, and an affectively persuasive theory whicb. ,appears t~ rest on nothing more intellectually reputable than what. Richard PricescomfuUy terms <a species of mental taste'.

Shaftesbury's unity of ethics and aesthetics. virtue and beauty, is most evident in theconcept of manners. MannefS Cl)rtheejghreentb century signifythal meticulous disciplining of lheOOdy which converts morality to style. de90nstr:ucting the: opposition between the proper andthe pleasurable. In these :regulated forms of ci:vif:ged conduct, a pen'asive ·of social practices gets under way: moral imperatives nn longer impose themselves with the leaden weight Q(sonte Kandan dUlY. but infiltrate m.e very textures of lived experience asract or Iall,)w-·hQW~ intuitive good sense or inbred decorum, If the process of hegemony is to· be successful, ethical ideology must lose its coercive Coree and reappear as a principle of spontaneous consensus within social life. The su'bjectitself is accordingly sesthedcised, living with all the instinctual rightness of the artefact Like 'the work 'of att.tlle human subj:ect introje(;1S the codes govern it as the 'very source of its free aUlon.omy.~nd :50 comes in AJthusserian phrase to work 'all by hself", without need of political constraint. U That 'lawtuJness without a law' wbich Kant will find In the aesth.~tilc representatioa is first of aU 'a matter ofthesocial lLbmswlt; which. seems 10 w.ork with. aU the rigorous encodemenr of Q. rational law, but where such a law 1S never quite abstractible fro.m the ooncre.tely partlcular conductwhich instantiates h.



The middle class bas won certainhistoric victorie-s within political, society, by dint of long struggle; but the problem with such struggles is mat, in rendering the Law perc,epmble asa discourse. the;y threaten ro denatnraltze it, Once the ~aw of auth.ority is. objeco.fied through polirical conflict, it becomes itself a possible' obiece of contestatlon, Legal" politica1 and eeenomic transformations must therefore be translated iota new forms of unthinking socialpracti:ce. which in a lUnd of crea.tive represslon or amnesia can come to forget the very conventions Ibey obey, Iris thus thaI Hegel writes in me PherwnmtfJ/ogy

,rs:"·'-·,, ith sard nk ' , n suli-' ' . .- "f"Cw- blessed :---'ru f

0)1'.1"'." Wl.,. a sa __ D -eye 10 y,Je mm, (l e, esse ,um., 0

the law with the heart'. ,. Struetaresef power musr become structures of feeling; and the aesthetie is a vital mediation in this .shift from propelty to p~riety., Shafiesbwy, comments EmstCassirer, requires a theory of beauty 'in order to atl.SWer me question of the true fashioning of character, ·of the law governing the structure ofthe inward personal worid'}S 'Manners', writes Edmund Burke,

are more important 'than laws, Upon them, ln :;:1. great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then .. Manners are what vex and sootheveorrupt or puri(y. exalt or debase. barbarise or refine us .... They give their whole form :and colour to our lives. According to their quality, they add moraJs,they supply them .• or m..ey totally destroy dIem.!!>

We eneoanterthe law, if we: are lucky, Dluy sporadically~ as an unpleasantly coerebe power; but in the aesthetics of socialconducr, or 'culture"as it would later be called, ihe law is :always with. us, as 'the very unconscious structure of our life. Ifpolitics and aesthetics, virtue and beauty, are deeply at one, it is because' p:leasumb~e conduct is the true index of successful hegemony. A graceless virtue: is thus something of acontradlctlen in. terms, since virtue Is that: cultivation of the instinctive habit: Ofgoodhess of which social fluency is 'lJhe outward expression. The maladroit or .aestheticaUy dis proportioned thus signals in its modestway a certain crisis of political: power,

mr the aesthetic comes m the eighteenth century to assume; me significance it does, it is because the wOli"lil is shorthand for a W:hole proiect of hegemony, the massbe irrtMJection .of abstract reason by the Life afthe senses, What matters is not m the fu-stplace art, but this



process of refashioning the human subject fr:om the inside, .informing its subtlest affections and bodily responses with this law Wibich is not a law. It would thus ideally be as inconceisable for the subiect to violate the injunctions of power as i1 would be to find a putrid odour enchanting, Tbe unde'rstanding knows well en~llgh that we live in 'confonnily to, impersonal laws; but in the aesthetic ~t is as though, we can forger about all trou: ,_ as though it is WI who freely fashion the laws to which we subject ourselves. Human nature, writes Spinola. in his Traaatus Tht%gico·Poiiticus" ~ nor submit 'to u_nlimiitcd coercion'. and the law must be accordingl}' framed to accommodate the interests and desires of those over whom it holds sway. 17

The moment when moral actions can be classified chidty as 'agreeable' or 'disagreeable', when the-se aesthetic terms wiD do service for more complex distinorions, marks a certain mature point of evolution in the: history of a social class. Once the dust .and heat of its struggles fo.r political powe:r have subsided, moral questions wh:ich were at that time necessarily cast in stridently abselu tin terms may now be allowed to crysrrulize into routine response. Once new ethical habits have been installed and naturalized, me sheer quick. feel or impression of an object will be enough for sure judgement, shortcircuiting discutSwe contention and. thus mystifyin,g the rules which regulate it. If aesthetic judgement iis every bit as coercive as the most bamarous law _ for there is a right and a wrong to. taste quite as ~bsolule as the death sentence ... this is not at all the w;ayit feels. The social order has grown beyond the point where it was at every moment the subject of apocalyptic debate, and its rulers can no.w settle down to en;'oying the: fruhs of their labour, :shifting from polemi'c to p!easu[iC., 'It has been the mlsfornme ..• ef this age". Burke: writes in 71te .'Prmdr RaJO/1Jtiflfl, 'that e\'erything is to be discussed,. as if the constitution of our country were to be aJwaysa subject rather of altercation. 'than enjczyIDem.'IJI The mostglorious work ef art is the English Co,nstiwtio:n itself. unfoI'Dllllizable yet ineluctable. Puritan utility will yield ground to an aestheticism of power only when society is redefined as aD artefact. having no insttuJllen,~ purpose beyond our self-de.Jight. It is then that the strenuous habits ofphil!osophy wiD give place to wit; thargenteel act of jouissan(( ,ihwhkh a thought lives and dies in 3. single ludic moment. If one wilih.ed to name the most important cultural Instrument of this hegemony in me nineteenth century. 'one which never ceases to grasp u~e~al reason in



concretely putiCtllar style, uniting within itself an economy of abstract form with the effect of lived e~rience, ODe might do worse than name the realist novel. As Franco MoretD has wrinen:

It is not enough thatdJe social order is ~legalti it must. also appear symbolically kgiiimak ... ' It is also necessaIj" that. as a "free individual', not as a fearful subject but as a convinced, citi.zent one pereeives the social norms as one J 0,""', One must intemal.ise them and fuse, external compulsion and internal ,impulse into a new unit until the former is no longer d_istinguishable fmm the un,er" This fusion is what we uSlIally call 'consent' ,or '!egitimation'. If the Bildungsroman appears to us, stil1today as an essential, pivotal point of our histOl),. tbisis because it has succeeded in representing this fusion with It force of QOrn:viCtiOD and opti:mis1ic daril)' that will never be equaHed again., 19

The growingaestheticlz.a.tion of sodallife, then, represents a, major b,e,gemonic advance 00 the part of the governing bloc. But. it :is DOt, as' we have seen, without [15 attendant dangers. Richard Price once more, in his /levin» oj Morals: 'But what can be more evident. than that nght and pltasure, IPJ'Ongand ,pain. are as different as a cause and. its effect; w'h:atis understtJod, ·a_odwbatis/tll; absolute truth, and its ~Jmm to the ,Dlind?'·lI! Price is well aware of the perils of this subjectiWzing current, as is his more celebrated namesake Fanny Price,he.roine of Mansfield Park. Toupho1d moral standards m a dissolute social order, Fanny must to some degreesacrlfice the'

esth b• I - - -c ~''''l '.- h - , ·V ~~d d· -u' fi t dUN whhl... ·I.n

a e J agree;w e In . ernam ,u .eva ~o_o __ ""', __ ~ld! ,!.!llL

renders th.e mora1~aw visible in all its unhwely imperiousness. That this gesture is at once admirable and, from an ideal standpoint, something ofa regrenable necessity Is the sign of an :ideological dilemma. In one sense. nothing could, snengthen power morethan its diffi:asionthrough the unconscious textures of everyday life .. Yet in another sense this diffusion. threatens fataUy to undermine it, debasing its diktats to the level of eniQying an apple~ 'SensibiIhy seems at once the surest foundation, and no foundation at alI.

Butthere is another danger 'tao. which is quite as potentially harmful. German aesthetics was born as a :kind of supplement to pure: reason; but we have learned from. Jacques Derrida that it is iii the


manner of such lowly supplements to end up supplanting what they are meant' to sUbserve.2,1 What if it were the 'case 'thatfiot only moraity, but cognition itself. was <aesthetic'? Tha.t :sensation and intuitio:n, far from figuring as its opposites. were in fact its very basIs?' The name forthls alarming claim in Britain is David Heme, wbo not content withreducmg morality to mere sentiment" threatens also, to reduce: knowledge to fictiona1 hypothesis:, belief to an intense feeling. the conOOui,ty' of the self to a fiction. causality to an imaginative eonstruct and history to :a kind 'of text,2llndeed Norman Kemp Smith helds that Hume'soriginatity lies precisely in his mvel1iDg of the ttaditiona1 priorities of reason and feeling, seeing Francis Hutcheson as the primal)' in.Huenoe on his thought..~ Hume brackets 'morals and criti.cism' together in the Introduction torus TTt'atise ,of Human Naturt,and holds that moralIty 'consists not many matter of fad, which can be discovered by the understanding . • ,. when you pronounce any action or character eo be vicious, you mean :nothing,. but that fro·m the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame fremthe contemplation of it'.1i Like other moral sense theorists, Hume argues in his: Enquiry Concerning thc Prituip.k:s of Mtnals tha.t 'virrueis an end, and is desirable on its own aC06l:lO'" wi,thout fee and reward, merely for'the immediate satisfaction which it ,eonveys:'.u

If'Hume lends hissuppol"t tothe aestliJ.eticiza:tion of e.thi.cs, he. also extends the gesture. to the understanding'. Probable resson, he claims Inthe Trtatist, .is nothing but a species of sentiment' (103J;andbelief is no more than 'a more' \livid and intense ,conception of any idea' (120)1 'more properly an act of the sensit:ive~ dum of the cogitative pan ·ofour natures' (183). All ~teasonings. he maintains, 'are nothing but the effect of custom; and custom. has noinfluence'J but by 'inlivening 'I!h.e imagination. and giving us a strong conception of any object' (1+9). It foRows for the EflI/u;ry that 'Cl1StOQl, then, is the great' guide of human life" ,(#), a case whose implications for-political hegemony Edmund Burke wiD not M s1owto seize on, Causality., in pe.ritaps the most notorious of all Hume's doctrines, is .radically

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detemrlnation of the mind to pass from oneto theother' (J66), -an impulse entirely conditioned by imaginative, expectadcn, Continuous identity, somewhalt similarly. is !'Ii quati!iy which we atlribut.e to things, a bond we fee] rather than perceive. Hume speaks in, a revealing



aesthetic lmage of the mind as "a lUnd of theatre, where several per.ceptions successive1y make their appearance; pass" re-pass. glide away. and mingle in. an infinitevariety ofpOstu1esand situations' (253).

The imagination. indeed, is; for Hume <the ultimate judge of all systems ofphilosQphy' (Z55) •. Lest dJis appear 100 fragilea. basis 0.11 which to erect: a theory. hemstandy distinguishes between those imaginative principles wmcbare 'permanent, irresistable Is,,], and universal'. and those which are 'changeable, weu, and irregular' (2.25). In the extraordinary Conclusion. to the .first book of me TftaliSt:. however! we observe the poignant spectacle of this distinctio.n crumbling away to nothing in. his hands. Hawng laid out his system with aplomb.. Hume breaks down before our eyes, turning helplessly to the reader iln an access, or anxiety. He: feels himselfto 'be 'some strange uncouth monster'! expelled from an human aocietyand <left utterly abandon.'d and disconsolate' (264). WhatpossmJe foundation, he asks himse1t does he have" for these scarrdalousassertiens .• which would seem to shake ra.lional.enquh:y 10 its very roots? IfbeHefis no more than a vivacious sort of feeling, must not his belief that: this is the case be DO more than this 'too, boomeranging pointlessly on itself? 'After the most accurate and exact of:myreasonings', he confesses. '1 can give no reason why F shoald assent to I[thls view); and fee[ nothing but a smmgprapensity 1.0 consider objects .1IronKW In tha.t view. under whichl!hey appear to' me!' (265). There can. he no appeal beyond experience and habit, which stimulate the imagination; .and it is on these slender ,suppons that all assent. and hence al1social conse.nsus, is based. 'The memory, senses. and understanding,. are, therefore, alJ ofdtem founded on the imagjnation, or me vivacity of our ideas' ·(2f5·). In . n int· nded addio.· n t .• L .• Tr;· (~ ., H· ,.-;-- ... ~I.~ . ~·l dzes

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bow completely this 'viVacity' slips through the ceneeptual net in. the effon to disdn,guish between beliefs and fictions; 'when I would explain this manner.l scan::e6nda~yword mat .fully answers the ease, but: am. ob:lig'd to haverecourse to every one's feeling, in order to give him. a perfect notion of this operation of the mind. An idea assented to fitls different from afictidous idea, that the fancy alonepresents to us • < .' (6Z9). The' iolaginati.on., source of all knowledge. is, so Burne tells us. an 'inconsistent and fallacious;' princip,le (265), which is why philosophy tends to come unstuck; two pages later. havi:ngjust reduced reason to imagination, he protests: that 'Nothin.g' is more



dangerous to reason than rh,eflights of the ,imllgination, and .nothing has been the occasion of more mistakes amongphilosophe!'lS' (267). The very ,principle of reason, in short, would seem the sunersion. of it. The due 10 ili:is apparent in,consistency lies in a distinction between ridet and more reliable; forms of imagining; we must :reject c:an the trivia1 suggestions. of the fimcy,and adhere to the UftdeJStanding~ that is, to the more general and more established properties of the irm:gillation' (267). What 'will rescue us from th~ imaginarion is reason, which is just another 'version of it; me imagination ml.iSt:be rej:ected for -lhe imagination.

This deconstruction is then in tum deconstructed. The understanding, when it acts alone, 'entirely subverts itself':; it (ionsislS in nothing more man a dizzying infinite regresaln which we check the probability of our assertions, then check our Checking and men, check that, at leach stage movUtg farther away from tbeoriginal evidence and introducing fresh uncemindes. What can arrest d:tis abysmal 'Plunge into scepticism is, of all dUngs, the imagination, which in the form of customary sentiment induc:esus to wew'certain objects in a. stronger and ruUer'light. upon. aOCQwJt of their customary conn.exlon with a presenrlmpression" (183)., What we feel of th.c certain.ty of the neat. in other words, 'countervails lheinfinite RgreSS of undemanding; It is bene6cial! dIa! our beUefs are based on feeling. on same 'sensation or peculiar manner of conception" (184),. for if they were not there would be nothing to stop reason spir:alling ceaselessly down iTS own indeterminacies, one doubt dOUbting anomer to infinity. However, in so far as this clinging rothe near whicharresc; reason's se]f-destrudion is itself a '.smgular and seemingiy tmial property of the rameY (268~),. it belongs to ,exactly the Illnd of inferior imagination whlch Home has just told 'us constitutes the chief threat to reason.

Either then. we may dismiss aU elaborate processes of --'-"''''''-'.-~-

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out of hand, adhering' to what feels closest and surest; or we may din.g, whatever its perils, to a :sophisticated rationality. The former option. is not only unpleasantly drastic, cutting us affat a. stroke from aU science and philosophy, but sdf-contradictory, since it is only by an elaborate process of reasoning that we aniv.c at it. If we stay faithful to reason, however, we land up with the self-undoing cognitions oCl:be sceptic, and so mi,ght asweU not haye bothered. 'We have,then:follc: Hume remarks: gloomily, ',no choice lell bat betwixt a



fme reason and none at: all' (268). His solution to the dilemma is, in effect" to farget about it,. since the problem Js itself an instance of highly refined reasonIng., and ~ery refined reDectioos have little or no influence: upon us' (268). Practieal.people do, well not to become engrossed by such metaphysical! questions·- though we can hardly formu1ate mis as a universal imperative, since this is preciseiy part of what. is in doubt. Hunte's solution. in brie~ is a carefully cultivated false censcieasness, which consigns the whole vexed alTair to comfortable oblivion: he goes off to play backgammon and make merry with his friends. and will later find his own. speculations so ridicwous that he; bas no heart to :pursue them furthe,r. Rather like some contemporary sceptics in the Reid of litef3ry th.eory, one continues to catch trains and rear one's children, cool food and lace one's boots, in cavalier disregard of one's theoretical! doubts about the ontological solidity ·ofaU this. Theory and pracnce, far from being mutuaIly supportive, are entirely arcdds, so that for Hume only some form of Nietzschean amn.esia would seem to hold society -oogellher. It is a sobering' thought. however, mat society survives only by dint of intellectual suicide. and Hume IS understandably rattled by his own. defensive strategy. Customary practice no. tonger mediates absolute norms, but actllally substitutes itseiffor them. P:ractices must provide

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disables them. If intuition persuades you that there is truth, theory informs you that there is just mtuition, In an iromc reve~. society itself, works by custom and blind sentiment in the manner of Nietzsche's: healing Apollonian Illusions, assumes thar there is somewhere some solid ground for its conduct, whi-chphllosophy can supply; philosophy, supposed to demonstrate such. grounds, brotaUy whirdes them away to custom and sentiment-Paradoxically. me

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P~UIOSOP • er IS an ann-socia .. moostfflsuy preClSe~" ecause ne re· Utes

ideas to social practices - because his thought imitates h.ow society actually is. Society itself, by contrast, is remorselessly metaphysical, gullibly convincedtbat its opinions ha:ve some unimpeachable basis. The layperson in fact lives by habit but trusts mat mere is more to the wo.tld than this; me philosopher faithfully reflects the ptagmatie truth of this condition. and so becomes an. outcast from it. He is a monster not because he comes bearing some outlandish message frombcyond the social pale. but because he arrives hotfQQtwiththe rather more disturbing news that the habits of human narure are aU there is. The


hairy prophet howling in the wilderness is the one who discloses the dreadful secret that backgammon is more Or less what it comes: down to. The sole lame justifia.tion Hum.e can then find for philosophy is that it is .relatively toothless - less socially disruptive; for example, than religious !SUperstition. If me me,ta(ihysicaJ is a natural: :possibility of the mind, :ifhumanitycannot rest content' with lts narrow eireult of sense impressions, then better for it to fantasize in. ilhe ':mild and moderate" style we term philosophy, man to cook up dangerously (anatical schemes. Philosophy may be somewhat absurdJbut at least it is unlikely to topple the state,

We seem, then. to have traced a kmd of circle. Reason, banng spun. off with Baumgarten the subaltern discourse: of aesthelics~ DoW' appears (0 have been. swa110wed up by it. 'The rational and 'the sensuous; far from :reproducing One another"s mer smseture, have ended up wholly a.t: odds. 'Thus there is', Hume comments in the Treatise, ~a direct and total opposition betwixt: our reason and our senses' '(231). Suiving to incarnate themselves in daily pracdce, rational ordinances are now a.t riSk of being reduced to it Reason seeks; in the 'aesthetic to encompass the experiential; but whar, to paraphrase Niett.sche,if experience were 11 wornan?What if it were that elusive thing 'that pl!ays fast and loose with. the concept? AtoDre intimate and unreliable, precious and precarious, ~rience would sC¢{O tohllve all the dupUdty of theeternal female. It is this treacherous tem1ntbat Baumgarten must subJect to reason. The British moral sense thinkers foUowa more Uberal path: the feminine, in the Conn of pure intuition, is a surer guide to than the masculine cult of calculative reason. But such intuifions dQ not h~ang in the air; they are the inscription within us ofaprovidentiallogic 100 sublime forratiooaI dcripbennent. The feminine is thus no :mo:re thana passage or mode of access tolihe masculine regimeofReason, whose sway, whatever the alarmed protests .of ratiQnatists like Price, remains largelyunchaUengeq in most moral sense: philosophy. It will not prove very hard; .however j to kick away this providtntilll platform altogether. and this in effect is what happens in Hume, who has: time patience, with the metaphysical baggage tied m the moral sense by some of his coUeagues. Humetakesover something of ,F'rancis HUlCheson'serhics but strips that case of :its stror:tglyptOVidentia1 cast, stibstlmting for this theharder-headed idea of social urillty. The experience of beauty for Hume is a kind. of ~pathy arising from



:reRected. utility: theaes.thetically appeaUng object pleases byvi:rw.e of lIS uses to the species alia whore~ His essay 'Of the Standard of Taste,' suggests just hew unstable sum aestheticcrileriaare!~thesentimen.ts of men', he writes, 'often differ with . regard to beauty and defonnlty',,16 and though he is insistent that there are indeedunlversal standards ,of taste. it is not easy for him to say where they are' to be found. Some aesthetic con.flicts" the ,essay ends by acknow.~edging, are simplY irresolvable, ':aT!d we seek ,m vain fora standard, by which we can 'reconcile thecQ:ntrary sentiments'.21 Indeed Hume seeks; in vain fbrasure standard in anything. Knowledge, belief, emics: all these, have now been remerselessly 'feminized", converted one by one to feelin.g" imagination, intuition.

Not only these. indeed. but: the: whole material foundation. of the bourgeois social order. Hume finds no metaphysical sanction undcnplnningpriv.atepropeny. which depends like ev.ery:thing else on the imagination. Our relentlessly metonjmlc minds simply find it namralto make a permanent state of affairs our of somebody's possessing something ~ata particulartime, We also tend to make a. natural imaginative connectien between obieets we own and others contiguous to them, like the work of our slaves orthe fruIlS of our gardent which we therefore fed we can claim as well, (Since the bnagination 'passes more easily from sma» to great rather than v.ia vma, it might seem more logica1 for a ,smalll proprieto.r to annex a larger centiguous object .rather thanthe other way round; so Hume has to engage in a deft piece of philosophical footwork. to j'ustify. for example, the Brilishpossess:ion of Irebmd.) If all ef this natul";lUzes

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metaphysical rights, There is ao inherent reason why my property should not be :yourstomorrow, were it noe for that imaginative inertia which makes it easier to associaleit with me. Sin,cethe idea of my constant possession of a thing is imaginativelyclo:se.r to my actual possession of it than. than is me notion of your ownership of it, the indolence of the imagination tends conveni.endy 'to, confirm my possession in,perpetuitY, Hume, in other words, is fUlly eensclaus of the fictional nature of the bourgeois economy. blandly proCJaiming that property '.is not ~al\Y thing real in the objects» but is the, ,offspring of the sentiments .... (509). The whole ofbow:geois soclety is based on meraphor, metoDym.Yt imaginary correspondence


The same Jove of order' and uniformity, which arranges the books in a.libmy,and the chairs ina parJour, contributes to the formation of society. and to the weU~being of mankind~ by modifYing me general rule concemingl!he stability of possessien, As p.toperty forms arelatiol!l betwm a person and an. object. 'tis natural to found it on some precedingrelationi and as property !is nothing but a constant possession, secur'd by the laws of society, 'tis natura] to add it to the present possession which is a relation that resembles it. (504-50)

What guarantees the property rights of me middle elass is less the law of economies than the instinctual economizmg of themind,

If imagination is in this way the unstable foundation of civil. society. it is, curiously enough, a lack of imagination which forms the basis of th.e polit:it':'al state. Since individuals are governed largely by selfinterest, their imaginativesympatby with what lies beyond this narrow circuit tends to be feeble; so mat though they aD share an interest in mai.ntaining social. justice. it is one they are likely to feel only dimly-. Objects close to us strike 1:15 with more imaginative force than those more distant; and the state isa regulativernechanism which compensates for this parochial defi.ciencYi composed as it is of inlii'riduals who have "1 direct interest in ensuring the observance of justice .. Politics springs from a failure .of imagination; civi1soclety is anchored in. It; and so also is the realm of moral or interpersonal relations. Pity and compassion, the vety ground of our social solidarity, .involve an. imaginative empathy with others. for Humeas much as for Adam Smith. 'AU humancreatures are related to us by resemblance. Th.eir persons, therefore. their inte.rests.their passions, tb.eir pains and pleasures must stril:i;e upon us in :a lively manner, and produce an emotion similar· to the original one; since a lively idea. Is easily converted into an impreSSion' (369). Relations whh others involve a. kind of inner artistic .miming {If their inwud condition. a set of imaginary correspondences; and~ HUlDe illustrates his point with an aestlrenc image, that of the sympathy for suffe.ring we experience when watching tragic drama.

Society, then, is based on a facu1ty which. in its 'proper' functioning ensures stability and condnuity, but which as Humerecognizes


carries within it the permanent structural possibility of prejudice and ex:travagant fan~. The principle of socid cohesion is thus at the same time a source IOf potential anarcl1iy., If this ''feminine' aesilie,ticizing is alarming. however, it has a 'masculine' counterpart which. ise'qually problematic. Like Josepb Butler or Immanuel Kant. (lnc can appeal away flOrn sentiment to a mor:a)i duty which has no direct relation to human pleasure ,or happiness. But this is to replace one lind of 'aesthetic' morality with a different lUnd: it leaves morality, like the artefact, self-groundin.g and self-detennining, a lofty end in itself beyond all utiUty. Womanly feeling is thus ousted by the phallic absolutism of conscience and the inner light. 11'1 neither case can moral values be de;.med from conerete social relations: either they must be validated byinstinct, or they must validate memselves.

It is not surprising, given what is at stake in these debates" that Edmund Burke should begin his work on. me sublime and the beautiful by seeking to defend the possib.ilityof :a seienee of taste, If beauty is merely relative. then the bonds which leash socie,ty together' are:in danger oflooscnmg. Beauty for Burke is not just a question of an:

.1 call beauty a social qualityj for when men and women, and not only they, but when. ot"beranimals .give us a sense ofjoy and pleasure in beho~dingthem (and there are many that do so), they inspire us with. semiments of tenderness and affection towards their persons; we like to have them near us, and we enter willingly into a kind of relation with them, unless we should have sb'ong reasons to the oontrary •. u

Burke is quite confident that such taste is unifonn and universal: 'I never remember that a:nythlng beautiful, whether a man. a beast, a bird,ora plant, was ever shown, mough it were to It hundred people. that mey did not all immediatelyapee that ir was beaudful ...... (0). If aesthetic judgement is unstable, then so must be the social sympathies founded on. it, and with them the whole fabric of political life. UnifQ.nnityof taste for Buske must be dependent on a. uniformity of the senses themselves; but be isrealisdc enough to recognize that the senses are actually variable, and aesthetic responses accordingly



diVe:rgeiiL Burke's political! conservatism is thus to some degree at odds with his empiricist psychology. These discrepancies of response • however, can be laldar the door of individuals ehemsebes, rather man of taste i~e]~ which. remains self-ldemical throughout its, manifold irreguJar ezpressions, 'Whilst we consider taste mereJy according to its nature and species, we shall find its principles entirely uniform; but the degree in which these principles prev;ail~ in the several indiVidua1s of mankind, is altogether as different as the princlples themselses are, similar' (78). It is as though: human ,size is absolute1y unalterable, even though individuals happen to be of differ,ent heights.

What ,knits society together for Burke, as with Hume. is fhe aesthetic pbenomenon of mlmesls.wblch ls It matter more of custom, than ofIaw: 4It is by imitation. far more, than by precept, that we learn everything; and what we leam thus, we acquire not only more effectually, but more pleasantly. This forms our manners, OUt opinions, our lives. It is one of the stto.ngest links of society; it is B. ~cics of mutual compllance, which all men yield to each other Without: constraint tothemselres, and which. is extremely Haltering to all' (101). Laws or precepts are simply derivatives of what is lUst nurtured through customary practice, and coercion Is thus secondary to consent. We'beGome human subjects by pleasuntbly imitating pra(:b.c~ forms of social life, and in dle enjoyment ·of this lies the relation which binds us hegemonica11y to the whole. To mime Is to submit to a law, but one so gratifying thal freedom. lies in such servitude. Such consensualizy is Jess an am6chrl social coJUract. laboriously wrought and maintained. than a kind of spontaneous metaphor or perpetual forging of resemblances. The on1y problem is where all this imitating ends: social life for Burke would appear a kind of infinite chain of representations of representations, without ground or origin. If we; do as others do, who do the same, then all of these copieS woufdseem to lack a transcendental original, ,and sociew is

shattered toa wilderness ofmirrol'S. .

This ceaseless mutual mirroring has 'about it something of me stasis of the imaginary~ and if taken too literally would spell. the death of difference and history. -.Althougb imitation is one of the great instruments used by Providence in bringing our na.ture t'OViards Us perfection, yet if men gave themselves up toimitaflon entirely. and each followed the other. and so 0.0 man eternal circle, it is easy to see



that there could never be any improvementamongstmem' (102). The vel}' conditi.onswmch guarantee' social order a1$o, paralyse it: sunk in thislnaroissistic closure, ,men, of affairs grow eifet~ and en1:rvated, ~athy becomes cloying and incestuous, and beauty sinks to a byword for stagnation. Some iCOunten",iUng' eoenD' is therefore n~ssary, which, Burke dis<;ovcPiinthe virile Sm:tlUQUSQCSS of lhe sublime. 'YQpmrent 'tIrls [complacency], God ,nasplafi'tedin, ,man. a sense of ambition. and a satisfaction arising from the contemplation of his excelling his fcUows in somethlng deemed valuable amongst th,emJ (102)., The sublime is on. the side IOf enterprise, rivalry and

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of dangcr~although a danger we encounter figura:tively,vicariousiy. in. die p~easUl'able ,knowledge that:we cannot; actually be banned. m\ dUs se.ns~, the: sQblbne is 3" ,suitably defused. aestheti<.Ued version. ,of the values of me ~ tigimt. It is: as th,ough. those uaditionaIist patrician, virtues of daring. reverence and free-booting ambition must be at onoe eancelled ad preserved w.ithin middlc-dass life. As actual qualities. they'mustbe outlawed by a, state devQtedto domestic peace,; but toa.void spiritual em.asrulation they must still be: fostered within it in the displaced form of aesthetic experieni:c .. The sublime is an irna,ginarycompensation for all the uproarious old uppes::-class violence, tragedy repeated as '»Dledy. Ii is beauty's point _ of inner fracture, a negation of settled order' 'without which any o:rdcrwould grow inert. andwithu. The sublime is the anti .. social) .condition. of all sociality. Ihe infinitely umcpresenta:ble which :spurs us on to yet, finer Rpresentations, the ,la:wfess masculine :form: whith, 'violates yet perpelUlilly renews the feminine enclosu.rc of beauty. Its social connotations are imerestingly conttadicto.ry: :in. ODe sense the memozy trace ·of,anhistorica1ly surpassed barbarism. it _has something of the cb.alleoge (If mercantile enteJprise to a lOO-dubbable aristocratic indolence. WiJhin tibe,6gure ,of \the sublime. warring' barons laud bu$Y speculators merge roprod,society out of its .specular sDiu~ess. These, almay Ibe noted. are the political thoughts ofa DWl who as.a child .. ttendeda hedge school. in CQunty ,Cork.

As a kind often'Ot. the sublime crushes, 'us into admiring submissioDiit thus resembies a ooerdveraiber Ihan .;1:, consensual power, engagin,g our respect: but not, as with beauty" OUt Jove,: ~e submit to wb.a'twe a.dnrlre. butwe love what submits to :us; in. one case we are forced, in the other BatteRdt ,into complian(;e' 061). The


distinction between. the beau.tifuli and the sublime. then, is that between woman. and man; but it is also the: dlfferenee between what Louis .Althusse.r had called the ideOlogical! and the repressive state appanmses.ltFor Althusser, the repressive institu.liions of .soci.ely would seem to be purely :neptiv.e; it is !n ideology alone. ~that we are eonstrueted as subjects. For Burke. a, rno~e sUbtle-political theorist in this respect,drisopposition can be to some ~ent deeoaseuered, The sublime may tel1'O'rize us into cowed subm.ission, but since we are aU Iconstirution:dmasocbists who delight in being humiliated, this ,coer:cli¥eness contains the pleasures of the consensual as wen as the pains of cormraint.·Sensations oCa pleasurable nature have nothing inherently Unpel1ing about them', writes Sigmund Fuud in~ Ego aJld the ld, 'whereas unpleasur:able ones have it in the highest degree. The latter impel wwards change, towards discharge, and that is why we interpret unpleasure as implying a heightening and pleasure as a

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owenn,g 0 ·energeuc ca . em. . -onve.rsey"e .1JIy Wn.C._. wms

our free eensent, and beguiles us like a 'woman, is based nevertheless on I kind of cunningly dissimulated law.

Bm.e lconfesses that he can see no: way of uniting these two registers~ which clearly poses apoiitical! problem. The dilemma is that the·lluth.ority we love we do :not r;espect, and: the one we reepeetwe do not love, 'The authority ofa father. so usefW. to our weU-being, and so jusdy venerable upon. aD accounts, hinders us from having tbatentire love for him that we have for our mothers, where the parental authority is almost melted down into the JDO'Jiher's fondness 'and indulgence' (159),. The politicaJ] paradox is plain:. only ~OYewill truly win. 'us to the law, 'but this love will erode the law to nothing. A.1aw a,ttractive enough to engage our intUnare affections, and so hegemon:ically effective., will tend to inspiJ'ie in us a benign contempL On the o1her band, a power which rouses oW' filial fear, and hence our submissive' obedience, is likely to alienate our affections and se !spur us to 0edipaJ. resentment. Casting :around desperately for a reconciling ima:ge:, Bw-ke offen! us, of !ill th:ings:,ilic' figure of the grandfather .• whose male authority :is enfeebled by age moo a 'feminule partiality'" Maty Wollstonecraftis q,uicktoassail the sexism of Burke·s :aJgUm.ent in her Yimli(4li(1tJ of tht Rights, of Mm. His distincti.OQ between ll)V!!; and respect, she poiotsout, aesthetici:zes women in ways which remove du~m. from the sphere ~Theaffectiort [women) excite, to be. uniform and :perfect"sboldd not be tinctured with the



respect which the moral virtues inspire, ~esr pain sbould be blended with pleasure, and admiration disturb me soft intimacy IOf love. ·~n 'This .laxity of morals in the female.'. Wollstonecraft continues, ':is certainly m.orecaptivating to a libertine inlaginatiion than the cold arguments I) freasen, that give no sex: to virtue. But should experience prove that there is a bea.ulY invimu:. a charm. in. urder, which necessarily implles exertien, a depraved sensualltaste O13y give warm a more manly one - and melting feelings to. rational satisfactions. >iIl:

For WoUsionecraft, Burke is a kind of aesthete who. divorces bea'uty (woman) from moral truth (man); against this, she a:rgues at once that virtue is sexless and that: it in .... obes a manly taste. We shall, see, however. that Burke is not so much. an aesthete as an aesthetielzer, Which. makes a significant difference.

Authority, then, lives: in a. kind of ceaseless. .self"undoing, as coercion and consent reinforce yet: undermine one anmher, .An enervate beauty :must be regularly shattered by iii sublime whose terrors must in tum be quickly defused, Ln aconstmt 'rhythm of erection and detumescence .. At the heart of'power lies the oxymoron 'free bondage'. of which the aesthetic is a vital symbol. The greater the freedom m.e deeper. the bondage; but the more, by the same token, spontaneity can get out of hand. The' more tbebuman subject works 'all by itselP. the better -;md me worse - (orauthoritj. If (reedomtransgresses the submission whi(;h is its very condition. the repressiveness of the sublime can be, invoked; but this ultimate efficacy of power is also its potential downfall', breeding as well as subduing rebellion. Power is thus. :a land of riddle) of 'which the mystery of theaesthetic, with. its i'mpossibly 'lawless lawfulness, is an apt sign.

The aesthetic: experience of the sublime is confined to the few; and there would thus seem the need for a kind of poor person'svereion of it. Religion is of course one obvious such candidate; but Burke also proposes another, which. is. :surprisingly enough, die lowly activity· of labour. Llke :the sublime, labour is a masoclllstic affair, since we find work at once painful inits exertion yetplcasurable in its arousal of energy, cAs common labour, which isa mode of pain. is the exercise of dte grosse_r, a model of terror is the exercise of the finer parts of the :system' (181) . The sublime,. with its 'deligbtf:ul horror", is the rich tnal1!'S bbour~ invigOrating an otherwise dangerously complacent ruling class. If that elassesnnot know the



uncertain pleasures ofloading a ship, it can gaze Instead at one tossed on the turbulent ocean. Providence has SOaml1'!lgedmattecr5 that a state of rest becomes soon obnoxious, breeding meIancbn1y and despair; we ate tbus naturally driven toO work:, reaping 'enjoyment from its'surmounting ofdlfficu.lties.Labour involves a gratifyingcom::ivcness, and is thus an aesthetic experience all in ilSe1t at least foo:mQSe who theorize about it, Beth material producden and politica1life, base and superstructure,. display a: tmityof force and. fulfilment Hegemony is. nOI onIya matter of the political! state, but is mstalled within th.e labour process itself, OUf wrestling with Nature's :recalcitrance is itself a. kind of socia:lized sublime; and I:hisagreeableness oflabour is even more gratifying to those who profit from it.

What the aesthetic in Burke sets lIS face most finnIy against .is the notion of natural rights. It IS precisely that drily theoretic disceurce, a. ~olytionary one in his day,t.Ut the appeal to the inti_ma.te, :habits of the body is OUt. to wom. Th.e essay on the beautiful and the sublime is a subtle phenomenology of the senses, a mapping of the body's delicacies and ~gusts:Burke is fascinated hYWMt happens wh.en we' hear low vibrations or stroke smooth surfacesj• by the diJation of the eye's pupil. In da.rkness or the feel of Ii sllght tap, on the shoulder. He is much. preoccupied with sweet smells andviolentswtings from lileep:, with the vibratory power of salt and the. question of whether propO.rtion is the source of beauty in vegetables. All of this strange homespun psycho-physiology is a kind of politics, willing to credit no theoredcal notion which cannot somehow be traced to the muscular structure of the eye or the texture of the fingerpads. If there !U'e' indeed metaphysical rights, then they enter dlls dense ,soma.tic space as dispersed and nun-identical: lil.e 'rays of light which pierce into a. dense medium' •. Burke argues in Rejltdimu 011 tilt FrnuIJ RmolulUm. such rights ate, 'by the laws of nature. refracted! from their .strai,ght line':. enduring 'suchawnety of refractions and reflections" that it becomes absurd to talk. of them as ~f they continued in die simplicity of their oqginal direction' .. JJ What is natural about such. rights is their deviance or-aberrancy; their self-disseminAtOlypower is Pan .of their velY essence. When Burke adds that 'the nature of man is intricate; the objects of society au .of the peatest: possible compJexitt, he speaks, .in. the ,original sense of the lterm,.3S an aesthctician.

It is not that Burke rejects aU concept of the rights of man. It is ~ess that such rights do not exist than that they are incapable of definition,


'The: rights of man are ina sort of mii:lJJt, incapable of definition, but not impossible '(0 be discerned. '34. They are" inshort, just ffi:e the, laws of theartefact, indubitably present yet impossible to abstract from thetr particu1ar :incamati.ons. Tradition, for .Burk.c,. is equally aicind of ~:wfu_lness withou( law. The ttue danger of the re,voluoonaries is that as fanaticaland-aesthedciansthey offer to reduce hegemony to naked power. They are Protestant extremists who would believe josan.ely that men and women eouid look on this terrible law in an its nakedness and ,still live, who w.ould strip from. it eviery decent mediation, and consoling illusion, break every tepiiesentational icon and extirpate every pious practice, thns leaving the wretched citizen helpless and vulnerable beforethe fuUsadisti.c blasf. of authority. Angered by dlis iconoclasm, Burke speaks up Instead for what Gramsei will later term ~hegemony'.:

Bu( 'ROW aU is to be changed. All the pleasing _musions. which made powe't gentle and obedience liberal, which harmonised assimilation, lnccrporated into politics the sentiments which he.autitY and soften private society, are to be di . olved b .' .L:~ . '. - . '. . '. f rgh' . '1)'

__ISS e.y WI)) new conqu.ermg empire o~ -'_1:. an

reason •. Mlme. decent drapery of liCe ~IO be rudely torn off. AU 'the superadded ideas. fumishl!d from the wardrobe of a moral unaginatlon, which the heart ,owns, 311d the understanding ratifies. 11& necessary to coOVeltthe defect. of out naked,shivering nature, and to raise it: to dignity in our own ,estimation, are; to be exploded asa ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion. J5

With. the executed Marie Antoinette in mind. Burke goes, on. to denounce revolutionary discourtesy to women:! AU homage paid to the sex in generalas such, :30d distinct views, is to be regarded as roma:n.oe and folly} The .bw,is; .male, but h.e,gemony isa woman; this transvestite law. which decks itself out in fema~e: dra_pery, is in danger of having' its exposed. Power is ceasing to be aestbeticize& what grapples fudividuils·lo it On this radical view is less their affections thanthe gallows.. The' whole crucial middle region of socia[ life between state: and economy~ the nch tapestry -of customs which transmute laws to feelings, is being disasmously abandoned.



These public sentiments, combined manners, are required sometimes as supplements, semetimes as correctives, always as aids to law. The precept given by a wise man, as. well ~ a greet critic. for the censtructlen of poems, is equaUy true as [0 states: No" salis t!t pukhra mtp.omtata.. dulda~ sun/f). There ought to be a. system of manners in ,every nation, which a well .. formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, OUl" country oUght to be lovely.u

Woman, the aesthetic and political hegemony ate now in effect synonymous.

We canreturn in the light of this to the quarrd between Burke and Mary WolJstonecrafi •. It is not quite tru.e, as Wollstonecraft suggests, that Burke is an aesthete concerned to divorce beauty from moral trUrih. On the contrary,. he wishes to aatlutime such truth, in order 1:0 render it securelY' hegemonic, Woman, or beauty" thus becomes a kind of mediation: of man; hut what WoUstonecraft rightly sees is 'mat this process does not operate in reverse.Beaiay must be included within the sU:blimi.ty orlbe masculine law, in order to soften its rlgours, but moral sublimity is nor to be inc1udedwithin the beautiful. Women are indeed in this sense excluded from the domain of truth and morality. Burke deconstructsthe opposition. between beauty and mnh, but only partially and unilaterally. Beau~ is necessary for power, but does not itself contain iv, authority has need of th.e very femininity it places beyond its bounds.

Burke's plea for me aesthetic is not to be: mistaken for some errant subjectimm. Though he believes strongly in an intui.tive response antecedent to reason, he is stem on 'What he takes to' be a pernicious aestheticiiing of moral value, and fulmjn.ates in his essay on aesthetics against "an :infinite deal of whimslcal theory' which bas 'misled us both in the theory of taste and of murals' (159). We must net be induced b, these fanciful flights to 'remove the science of our duties from their proper basis (our' reason, our relations, and our necessities) to rest it upon foundations altogether visionary" and unsubstantial' (159). When it COmes to moral ideology, Bu:rkeiSi quite as absolute and ebiectivist as any rationaJist: it is just that, 1ikelhe moral sense theorists, he cannot believe that any pewer net appropriated by


experience, lived on the body, will move men and women to their propercivtc dunes, But SluftesbuF)', as we have, seen, was a strong moral realist '00, bolding mat virtue resides in the nature of things; rather than. in CUSliOItl., fancy Or will. The m.oral relativism which others feared in him was exactly what he himself denounced in the work of his tutor John Locke, who '!strock at all fundamentals, threw all order and virtue out of tile world and made the very ideas of these ., • Umt41uml and without foun,da:rion in our minds'." Francis Hutcheson, 'equally, distinguishes between rather dum simply eonllates the moral and aesthetic senses: to assert mat we: possess. a moral sense as intuitive as the aesthetic is not to identify the one with the other .. And David Hume, like SbaJtesbury, believes d1attasteinvolve~ a firm commitment .rational. For bothme.o; false taste can be corrected by argument and reflection, as tbe unde.rstanding comes to intervene in the process of feeling. There is no question with any of d.eselhinkers of SQJIle wbolesaleabandonment of head for bean.

Even so! the general tendency 'of this current of thought can be seen. as a. steady undermining of the mind in the name of the body; and the political consequences of uus are ambivalent. On the one band, there is no doubt that to affirm the claims of affective experience against a ruthlessly exch.tsivist reason is in. principle progressive. The very emergence of the aesthetic marks in. dtis sense a certain crisis of traditional reason. and a potentially tiberatingor utopian trend of thought, By the end of me eighteenth century, such appeals to feeling win become identified as dange.rQusty radical, There is in the aesthetic an ideal of compassiona.te community~ of altruism and natural affection, which along' with a faith in the selfdei~ghti~g individual represents an affront toruling-class rationalism. On the other band; it might be claimed that such a movement comes eventually torepresent a devastating loss for the poUricai left. Prom Burke and Coleridge to Matthew Amoldand T. S. Eliot, the aesthetic in Britain is effectively captured by the political rlght.The autonomy of culture, society as expressive or organic totality, the intuitive dogmatism of'the imaginatioR, the priority of local affections and unarguable aUegianoes,me .intimidatory majesty of thesli:blime, the incontrovertible character of 'immediate' experience, history as a spontaneous growth impervious to rational analysis: these are some of the forms in which thc~ aesthetic becomes a weapon in the hands of polirica~ reaction, Lived ezperieace, which can offer a pewerful



critique of Enliglnenmellt rationality, 'can also be the: very homeland of oonservative ideology. The dear bold light of republican rariunatism" and the: intimate affective depdls 'of the poetilc. come to figure throughout the nineteenth century as ef'fe,ctive antinomfes. Tom Paine's plaln-minded scoffing at Burke's extravagantly metaphorical diction is an earlier case in point: <Mr. Burke', he comments in The R'(gltts olMarl, 'should recollect that he is writing history and not plays) and mat his readers will expect troth, and nor the spout:iDg rant' of

high' d '1 __ - • 'l8 M . W··U . .11· • tbingt f .. -tonea eXC.IiU.I ua non, " .. ary . o. stanecran wntes :sea . yo.

Burke's 'pampered sensibility>, viewing his reason as 'the weathercock of unrestrained feelings' and his cast of .mindas lamentably effeminate. 'Even the ladies, Sir,' she mocks, 'may repeat your ~righl:ly sallies, and retail in theatrical attitudes many of your sentimental exelamatiens. 'l9 Her own definition of the rights of man. SO she proclaims. will be; by contrast a I manly" one.

After the work of Blake and SheUey, mytll and symbol in English literature becomes increasingly a preserve ofihe political right, and ':politica[ poetry' an effective oxymoron. The discourse of radical rationalism would seem peculiarly resistant to the aesthetic -, resistant, that is to say, to what are now the hegemonic definitions of art. There can. be little truck between ananal:ytic: language of political dissent and. those, .subtly aensueus intensities which are now comingto monopolize the meaning of poetry. At the same time. the aesthetic clearly cannot serve as a dominant ideology for the middle class, which in the turmoil of industrial capitalist accumulation will need something a good deal! more solid than sentiment andinnrition to secure its rule, Semimeneallsm, from the standpoint of Victorian England, will appear increasingly as the badge ·of an earlier, somewhat more .serene]y self-possessed bourgeoisie, which had yet toendare the cataclysms of poUrical revolution abroad and industrial transformation at home. It is, of course, still intensively cultivated On the side; but the :ruling ideology of Victorian :England is a virulent1y antiaesthetic Utilitarianism, belated offspring of Enlightenment rationalism. Self-interest wIns out over moral sense, as custom, tradition and sensibility are sub,jec:ted to the cold Ugh( of rational critique. Yet it is not easy to see how dris bloodlessly analytic ideology can actually be lived: if t!he Benthamite subject: must laboriously calculate 'the probable consequenees of each of its can social practices ever be effectively naturalizt:d?' What has become of babitand virtue,



spontaneous impul:se and the political unconscious? And how, shorn of these feamres, can this 'upstart doctrine ever achieve moral hegemony? Alarmed by these lacunae, John S'tnart Mil turns 'to a synthesis of the ,rationaJist: and aesthetic traditions. :reviving the language of Burkelan hegemony:: '(Benthamism] will do nothing ... for the. spiritual interests of society; nor does it :suffice of itself even for the material interests, Thai which alone causes any marenal interests to exist, which alone enables any body of human beings to exist as a society. is national character ... A philosophy of laws and insritutio,ns" not founded ona philosophy of national character. is an absurdity . • ;''1() Bentham, MiiI claims, em in considering only the moral aspect of human cnnduet, whereas one must also have regard to its aesthetic (beautiful) and sympathetic (lovabl~) qualities. If the error of sentimentalism is to set the, last NrO ove,r against the 6rst,the disaster' of an unreconstructed Utilitarianism is to ditch them entirely., All that remains to be done, then, is to dovetail Bentham and Coleridge together, viewing each as the other's 'completing' counter .. part'. It is as though 3 structural contradiction in ruling·classideology can. be resolved by holding a diffefeot book in either hand.

Yet Mill's gesmreIs not as 'idly aeademicist as it seems. It is true that the indl!1Strial middle Class; With its aridlyinstrument&st doctrines .• is incapable of generating under its own steam a persuasive aesthetics- unable, that is, to develop the styles and formswbkh would weave its. unlovely power inJ!O the fabric of ~eryday life. To do this it must look elsewhere, to what Antonio Gramsci termed the 'traditional' intellectuals; and this, m the evorution from the later Coleridge 1OJoOO Ruskin and Matthew Arnold, is 'exactly what takes pace. Theuneasynin,eteend:t~entury alliance of ;patrician and philistine.. culture and soclew. is among other things-the, tale of 'an ideology in. search of hegemony - of a. spiritually disabled bourgeoisie consnmcd to go to school 'with, an aesthe1ticj:zing riight which speaks of organic unity, in.nUdve certainty an.dtbe free play of the mind. That this aesrherlc lineage also produces a power.11W Idealist critique of bourgeois u:iility is; the other side oftb.e stot)'; if philistine and patrician are allied. in some ways, they are at loggerheads In others. Indeed the relations between them are an exemplary case of the, fraught connection. between fact'S and values. The only uuly compelling meral ideology is one which. succeeds in grounding itself to some degree in real material conditions; if it failsta do so. its



idealism will prove a constant source of poUticalembarr:assment. Discourses of ideal value too palpably dissevered from the way men and womenactaallyexperience their social conditions merely mark theie own redundancy, andare thus politically vulnerable. This is a progressive problem for the nineteenth-century middle class, which is .still deeply dependent upon certain metaphysical values for its ideo1ogi.callegilimation. butwhich is in danger of subverting some of those very values by th.e nature of its material ,activities. Its secularizing, ra.tionalizing practices are bringing .many traditional pieties, not least religious ones.Jnto increasing discredit; and in this sense the nature of the "base' is perilously at edds with jhe requirements of the "superstructure' .. The Kaatian critique of metaphysics marks the point at which it bas become th.eo.retically difficult to iustilY many of the doctrines on which, in its routine jdeological practices, the ruling order still relies. Industrial capitalism can by no means brusquely disroum<spiriwalt values; bur such values will come to have about them an increasingly hollow, implausible rin:g. As far asthe Victorian. bourgeoisie is concerned. the nostalgic neo-feudafism of a carlyle or a. Ruskin can he neither credited nor entirely disowned: eccentdc and risibly unreal though such. visions may be, they are nevertheless a source of ldeelogieal stimulus and moral edification. which the market place, at least fo:r the lower orders, is disl!I':eSSingly unable to provide.

The aesthetic is one answer to this vexed quesrien of how values arc to be derived. in. a condition wh.ere neither civil .society nor the political stale would seem to provide such values with a.particuIarly plauSible foundation. We have seenal!ready some .of the difficulties involved for the middleclass in foundingits spiritual solidarity on the degraded basis of civil society; and an altemarfve strategy is therefore to tum in .Amoldian style to the state. as the ideallocus of ·culture'. Throughout the nineteenth century, many a thinker had recoarse to this apparently promising solution. It has, however, one signal drawback: the fict that tD.e state is ultimately a coercive apparatus, and so at odds ·witb: the ideal of a community which: would be gratifyingly unconstrained. The whole point of aesthetic taste, as, a model of spiritual community, is that it cannot be forced. If; then, 'liI~ue is increasingly hard to derive either from the way the: world is or from the w:ay it migh:.tCeasibly become; if civil soeiety is too lowly a habitation far it and the metaphysical too lofty a one, then there would



seem no altema.tive hut to acknowledge such value's :profound mysteriousness ... 'Moral sense' is equivalent to confessing that there is no longer any rationally demonstrable basis for value, even if we nevertheless continue to experience it. Momty, like aesthetic taste, becomes aje ne :fiJi! quoi: we lust know what is right and wrong, as we know th:at Homer is superb or that someone is standing on our foot. Such a viewpoint combines the dogmadsra ofall appeals to intuition or 'felt experience' with a serenely pre-Freudian trust in the subject's immediate presence to itself.

One aestheticizing response tetheproblematic origins of value is thus to root value in the delicacies of the affective body .. An.other, sharply differeol aestheticizing strategy is to found value not in

" ...... "·lb:'=ty· bur h. l· .. .,.L£ In this pe""p"c' oi._ .~I-- .. :." .. "t 1.: .. -. -, -

.".u,," . m , u __ '. ,_.. __ "" . "''' .. or -.oln .. ,VlUU .. "'" """ } g one.

could ever get bdimJ, reduce to a more fundamental order or principle. it. is radically .self~deriv;ativc. a law unto itselfwhich bows tll' no extemal determination; This, in effect, is the, standpoint of Kant's second Critiq.ue, for which the moral law is whoUyautonomous. One should be good not because it is pleasant or practical, but because it is moral to be so. inthe sense that reason. has an interest in, its own practical function. Such a case draws not upon. the aesthetic as affective- indeed it sets its face stemly against all mere sensibility ... but 'upon the aesthetic: as autetelictas that which lin divine fashion bears its ends entire1ywithin itself,gene.r:ates itself up .miraculously out of its own. substance. 'T:h4 move, to be sure, secures value absolutely; hut it does so at the dire cost of :lhreatcning to remove it from the material world in which it is supposed to be actiive. As with the early Wi.ttgenstelo; value is ma certain sense no longer in the world at all, If value .is thus inviolable, it. is partiy because it is .invisible. Th.e governing order would consequently seem left with little ehnice but to subjectivi:ze'value, thus drawing it rather too close for comfort tothe relativisti.c: Dux of daily life, or to seal it eff from that sphere in a splendid autonomy not easily distinguishable from sheer impotence, Once more, it is the dilemma of either entrusting value to the mercies of everyday civil society, or alienating it [0 an O~ympian height where it. will merely succeed in measuring the disabling distance between itseff and the actual world.

In a notable historical irony" the birth of aesthetics. as an intellectual discourse: coincides with me period. when cultural production is beginning to suffer the miseries and indignities of oommodification.



The peculiarity of me' aesthetic is in part spiritual compensation for this degradation: it is just when the artist Is becoming debased to a penycornmodity producer that he or she will lay claim to transcendent genius. But there is another reason for the foregrounding of the artefact which aesthetics; achieves. What art is now able to offer, in, mar ideological reading of it known as the aesthetic, is a paradigm of more general social significance - an image of selfreferentialhy which in an audacious move seizes upon the vc;ry fanctionlessness of artisdc practice and transforms it to BI vision of the highest good. ,As a form of value grounded entirely i:n Itself without practical rhyme or reason, the aesthetic is at once eloquent tcslimony to the obscure origins and enigmatic nature of value in a society which would. seem everywhere to deny it, and a utopian glimpse of an alternative to this sony condition. For what the work afan imitates in ltsvery pointlessness, in the constant movement by which it conjures itself up from its own inscrutable depths, is nothing less than human existence itself, which (scandalously for me rationaiists and Utilitarians) requires no rationale beyond its own self-deligbr, For thls Romantic doctrine, the art work is most rich in political implications whereit is most gloriously futile.

It may also be, however, that the aesthetic does more than. figure a new concept of vahre, If ir is on the OQ.e band autonomous of the rea], it might also held out a promise of reconciling the sunderedrealms of fact and value. For Baumgarten, as we have seen, dIe aesthetic is a region adjacent to bur distinct from the cognlrive; with. Humecthe cognitive is ste.adily reduced to a form of sensibility not far removed from the aesthetic. One caIl,however, look at the relation between these two spheres in a quite different way ... When science contemplates the world, what it knows is an impersonal space of causes and processes quite independent of the subject, and. 50 alarmingly indifferent to value. But me factthat we can know the world at all, however grim the news which this knowledge might have to deliver, must surely entail some fundamental harmony between ourselves and it. For there to be knewledge i.n.the first place, our faculties must be somehow marvellously adjusted to material reaJity; and for Immanuel Kant it is the contemplation of this pure form of our cognition, of its ""elY enabling conditions, which is the aesthetic. The aesthetic is no longer on this: view a mere supplement to reason. or a sentiment to which that reason can be reduced; it [s slmply the: state in which



common knowledge, inthe act Qfreaching ,out to its ,obje-Ct, suddenly arrests and rounds upon: itself, forgetting its referent for a moment and anendingInstead, in a wondering flash ef self-estrangement, tel themiraculously convenient way in wbich its inmost' strucnee seems geared to the comp:rehension, of the real. It is cognition viewed in a different light, caught. in the act, so that in dl:ls little crisis or revelatory breakdown of our cognitive ro;l.Iti!'!es. not JPltal we know bur rha·, we know becomes dle deepest, most delightful! mystery., The aesthetic and the cognitive are thus neither divisible spherics nor reducible to one another. Indeed the aesthetic is not a 'sphere' at au: it: is just the moment of letting go of the wrorld and' clinging instead to the formal act of !mowing 'it. I~,then. society bas cleaved human experience down the middle. confronting an obj:ect drained of intrinsic value with a subject now :fQli'Ced to generate all value from itself,lhe aesthedc will become in Kant's hands away of healing that rift~reuDiting humanity with a. world which seems to ~ave turned its back on it.

I G. W. F. Hegel, Th.e Philosophy qfFineAn (London, 1920), val. Ill,p. 14. 2 Shaflesbury, 'An Enquiry Conce.ming Vinue or Merit', in LA. SelbyBiage (ed), Bn'tish Mornli.Jts: «Oxford" 1897)1, p. 15 . For the 'mo.ral sense' school in general; See Stanley Grean, Slm~bury~ Philosophy of R!ligion ,and ElMes (Ohio, 1967); Henning Jensen, Motivation .arJd t1ft Moml Stmt ill Huu.naon) Etltiml Thtory (The Hague, ]97]); Glad,s Bryson, Man and Socie.ty: Tb« Srottish Enquiryuf the lath Century (princeton, 1945). Peter Kivy,The Seventh Semr: A SlfI4y ttfPhmds Huultaan'I Am/ulia (New York. 1976}; Bretr, The tniftJ Earlrf Shaflesbury (Lendon, 19S 1); and E. Tuveson, 'Shanesbmy and" me Age ofSensibility',in H. Anderson and J. Shea ~eds). Studies in Aest:htlia O'1(J Cri,irism (Minne3polis, 1967). F:o:r iU1 account of John Locke's influence on Hutcheson, see J. Stolnitz, 'Locke, value. and aesthetics', Philos9fifry,

vol, )S (1963). - -

3 Selby-Bigge. BritiJhM"raJiJf$ p, 3;7.

'* Shaftesbury, Clraradmstics (Gloucester, Mass, 1963), vn]. I, p .. 79.

5: Shaftesbury, Srrond Chamdm, quoted in Grean, Shafinbury'S Phf/C1S'(rplty. p.9L

6 For a.suitably acerbic review of ShaftcsDuty's regressive ideological tendencies, see Robert Marklej, 'Sentimentality as Performance:



ShaftC$bury~ Sterne, and me Theanies of Virtu!!>, in F. Nussbaum and L. Brown (eds), 111t N'tw Eig/ltetntn Gmtury (New York. 1987).

7 Hutcheson, "An Inquiryconceming the: Original of,oull' Meas of Virtue o:r MQral Good', in Selby~Biggei British Moralists p, 70.

8 Adam Smith, <The Theory rofMor:al Sen,mru:nlS" in Selby.Bigge, British Moralislsp . .321.. For a useJul account ofproblems of s{)[ial cohesion in the eighteenth century, see John Barrell. English Liltnlturr: in .BUIOry

1730:...8fh. An E .... ·,.,Wttk SU"~ .-. (Londo- 19' 8~) I, ..... .1 ....:

_ _. __ . ro __ '1_' .. .' _ . nrq. _ .. _ 0,· _~ .•. _IlY.lJ1.!lI ..... on.

'9 It is wonh pointing out that if thl! moral sense theorists are correct in what theyai'fim1; then they are the last meralfsts. For if:right conduct is grotwded in intuition, then it Is hard to see why there Isa !leed for ethical disoourse atall, The moral sense philosopbers do of,cQurse seethe need for such discourse as a way of elaborating, clarifying and if necessary transforming our lll.ruitions;but the tendelllCY of their caseat its most euphoric is tn argue themselves s[cadily out of business, Ethical discourse is necessary precisely becausewhat aJunts as being, say. compasslonate in particular circumstances is far fmm dear. The -very enstel1CC .of'morallanguage' lints testifies to our moral self~op.aqile!ll!SS, It. is precise'ly because of thisse'lf~opaqucness, and because we arc sometimes confronted with. choices between in.compatibtegoods, that the imguageof emiC'J is necessary.

10 David Burne, 'Of ~he Stanwud of Taste', in, Essays {London, n .. d.)., p, 175. See also jerome Stolnitz, 'On the Origjns ·of 'Aesthetic: Disinterestedness'. JDUmaJ ofArsthdia tmd Art CriJimm, vol, xx. no. 2 (19M).

U Selby-Bigge. British .Monzlists ,p. 258.

12 Richard Price" "A Review of the Principal Questions in Morals'. in Selby .. Bigg:e~ .Brilish Mtml/ists pp, .U)&-7, 13],.

lJ Louis Althusser. "IdeOlogy and Ideological State Apparatuses', in Lmm

and Philowpliy (London, 1971).

14 .Regd. Phnrt'01tfmo.logy of Spin' (Oxford, 1977),lP . .222.

15 Ernst:Cassife-r, .Phulnoplly ,oftht Enlfghttttmtilt (Boston, 1951), p. 313. 16 Edmund Burke, "Firs[ Letter on a Regicide Peace', quoted by Tony

Tannec.Jam" (London,1986), p. 21.

17 Baruch Spinoza, 11;t Po/itiaJ Works. ed!. A., G, Wremham (Odoro; 1958); p.93.

18 Edmund .Burke, R4f,tdimrs on the Fregh Rtr:IOlulirm (London, 1955)..


19 Franco Moretti .• The Wayo/lht WMIJ (l.ond.on. 1987), p .. 16. 2.0 Selby-Bigge, Brifish Moralists p, 101.

21 See ]ac.ques Derrida, Of Oramm~tol()gy (Baltimore,. 1914:), 'Part 21 chapter 2.



22 ,As far as the 'textuality'of history goes. Hume comments in his Trtatise on the multiple copies by which any particular historical fact is transmitted: 'Before the knowledge of the fact could come to the first hiStorian, it must be convey'd duo'> many mouths; and! after it is, commhted to writing, each m:w copy is lIi new object,ofwhich the connewonwifu the foregoing is known only ~y experience and observatiun' (Trt!llis~ of Human Nature, p. 145). Hume well grasped, tZVant la ltttrt, the modern p.r:inciple of 'unenexruaUty' and the scepticism withwmch it is sometimes coupled; he concludes this piece of argument with the elahn the evidence ofall ancient history is [l,OW IOSl t.o us.

23 See Norman Kemp Smith, The Philosophy 0[' DIlIJiJ ,Humc (London, ['941). See also" for useful accounts of Burne" Peter Jones, 'CaU5C. Reason and Objectivity in Hume's Aesthetics', in ])i). W. Lillmgston and J. T. King (eds), H'Imie: A R£I)aiuo.Hon (New York, 1976);; .Barry Stroud, Humr (Lon dOD, 1977};Robcrt J. FQge1iI1, Hu1tlr's Skrptimm in the 'Trouise f!fHuman NiJlurC (London, 1985), and. A1asdair Mac~Dtyre, Wholt]Wli«lJ1lhidJ RaU(mtJII'ty? (London, 1988), chapters 1.5 and .16.

24 David Hume, Trrilliu of Human Nature, led, L. A. Sclby .. Bigge (Oxford., [978)., p. 169. All, subsequent references to this work will be given parenilicticaJly after quotations in the U::x1'.

2S David Hume, EtI'luirit!S [(}7tCfflli7tg IJr~ HUI1fIlfJ Undns,andiflgand Ih~ Pritrdples 0/ Mora.fs, ed, L. A. Selby-Bigge {Oxfo,rd, 1960, p .. Z93. All subsequent references to this work will be given parenthetically after quotations in the text.

26 Hume, £$$.4)'$, p. 165. 2,7lbi:d., p. 178.

28 Edmund Burke, Phi/osopJrimJ .Inquiry buo tn'( Origin oj /JUT Itkas of tire Sublime and tile B(414#lul. in The W(Jrh ofE4l'fmndButh! (London, 1906). vol I. p. 95. All subsequent references to !his 'work will be gi¥en paremhctically after qu.ou,.tions in the text'. See also" for studies of the relations between Burke's politics and ac:c,nhetics, Neal Wood, "The Aesthetic Dimension of Burk:ec's Poli.tical Thoughl', Jaumat ,,[British Studies no. 4 (1964); Ronald Paulson, 'The Sublime: and the Beautiful', in RepmeJ1laJitms of &VO/U#OIi (New Haven. HI,83), and W. J. T. Mitchell, 'Eye and Ear: Edmund Burke and the Politics of Sensibiliay;, in lcofW/ogy (Chicago,. 1986).

29 Ahhusser. 'Meo'iogy and Ideological! State Appararuses'.

30 Sigmund Freud, Th~ Ego aM ,Ire Id, in Sigmund FfQuJ: On MetajJsydzology (Harmondsworth, 1984). p. 360.

3 ~ Mary Wollst~:mecran! Vindirati(J1J of the Rights of Mrn(Gaines'.iHe, Florida, 1960}, p. 114.

32 Ibid., p .. ][6.



:B Burke, Rrjkd,'01lS on ,Itt Frnuh Rroo/ut£on, p. 59. 34 Ibid" p, 59.

35 Ibid., p. 74.

36 Ibid., p. 75.

31 Quoted inKivy,Thr Sromlh. St'IUt p ... 9.

38 Thomas Paine~ ThtRigh.I's 0/ M(m (London, 19S8J,p. 22. 39 WolIstonecnft, VinditaJ.ion, p. 5.

40 John, Stuart Min, Essays on Bmtlrllm and Co/eridge, ed, F. R. Leavis (London. 1962), p, 73.



The Kantian Imagin.ary

Why is it that modem philnsophy has returned so often to the question: of epistemology? Why should the drama of :subject and object, the fraught narrative of their couplings andsplittings,. matchings and misalliances, have; so' consistently dominated the modem philosQphicalstage'. like the tale oftwo incompatible partners continually warring to gain an edge over each ether, who nevertheless cannot relinquish their fatal fascination fo·r one another and resolve yet again, afreT. another painfu] separation., to make a go of it?

That me individual subject should come to occupy centre stage. reinterpreting the world with reference to itself~ follows ~ogiciny enough from bcurgeois economic and political practice. But d:te more me world is thus subjectMzed, the more this aU-priv.iledged subject begins to undermine the very objective conditiens of its own preeminence. The wider the subject extends its imperial sway over reality. the more it relativizestha't terrain to its own needs and desires, dissolving the world's substance into the stuff of its' own senses. Yet the more it thereby erodes any objective criteria by whkh to measure the significance or even reaUty of Its own experience. The subject' needs to know that it: is sup.remely valuable; but it cannot know this; .if its own solipsism has cancelled out any scale by whiCh such value might be assessed. What i.s this subject privileged ooer; if the world has been steadily dwindled ~Q no more ~ban an obedient mirror image ofitsdf? The bourgeois subject would seem in this sensea tragically self-defeating creature, one whose very self-affirmation tums Inexorably back upon itself to eat away at Its own enabling cenditions. 'We must ponder theanamaly', writes Fredric Jameson.


tfun it is only in. the most completely humanised environment, the one the most fuDy and. obviously the end product of human labout; production, and o:ansfortllal1on.that life becomes meaningless, and that existential despair first appears as such in direct preportion to the elimination of nature, the non- or anti-human, to the inereaslng' rollback of everything that threatens human life and the prespect of a. well-nigh.limitless control over the external universe. I

A certain. objectivity is the very condition of subiecthood, which must have all the solidity of a material fact, and yet which cannot be by definition any such thing. It is vital that me world confirms my. subjectIvity, yet I am a subject only in so far as I this world to be in thellrst place. In appropriating the WHole nf external nature, the bourgeois subject discovers to its constematianthat it has appmpriated

its own objectivity along with it. .

'Objectivity'could here be roughJy translated as the imperative: 'You respect my property and ell respect yoars,' The: other establishes my objectivity by leaving me alone, and. confers freedom and objectivity on himself'in the same act Property, thevery mark and sea] of :subjectivity, is nothing if not: backed by a complex system ofle:gal safeguards and political guarantees; bur the. very subjectivism of a property .. mvning order will tend to rum treacherously against an such objective sanctions" which can never have the same existenrial force or ontoiogicalreality as the subject itself. The nen-subjectise can be authenticated only through the medium of the subject's experience, where it is aJways in peril ofbeiag converted into selfhood and sa abolished. Alternatively, that which remains beyond. the selfis equally derealized in a world where subjectivity is the measure ofall things. The bourgeois subject requires some Other: to assure itself that its powers and properties are more than hallucinatory, that its activilies have meaning because: they take place in a shared objective world; yet such otherness is also intolerable to the subject, and must be either expelled or introieeted, There can be no sovereignty without: someone to reign over, yet his very presence threatens to throw one's lordship Iato jeopardy. That which confirms the subject's identizy cannot help exposing it as constrained; to markyoilT limit ('keep off my propenyl') :is to sketch, impossibly, my own ..

Without some standard of objectivity, the subject is reduced to


conferring va:lue upon itself. in what is at once the defiant boast of th,emodern ('1 take value from myself alone!" and its hollow cry of anzulsh ('1 am so lonely, in this .... :.---,...,-,,)- Itis ~I.- doubl 'I'" f .. --0------'- ~ - -~, -- -'-'-'-- yulve, ... e .. ,.".lS ItUe ou e 0.

humanism, which appears to know no. middle ground between the mania of exerting its powers and the: depressive knowledge-that it does so. in empty space. So it is that Kant wiD strive to. repair me subjectMst damage wrought by Hume's sceptical empiricism by restoring the objective order of things, but restering it - since there can now be no. lapsing back into a subject1ess rationalism- from within the standpoint of the subject itself. In an. herdic labour. the objective world must be salvaged from. the ravages of subjectivism and patiently reconstructed, but in a space where the subject" however constituted by the celebrated categeries, is still sovereign. Net only soverelgn, indeed, but' (in contrast to me sluggish subject of empiricism) buoyandy active. with all the productive energy of an epistemological entrepreneur'. The point will be to preserve that shaping energy without subverting the objective realm which guarantees its significance; and Kant will thus trace wit:l:"ainlih.evezy texture of the: subject's experience that which points beyond it to the reality ofllle material world. The productive activity of this subject will secure" objectivil)' rather than undermine it;: there-will be no more sawing away at the branch on which one sits.

If the essence of subjecthood is fre;edom,lihe.n bourgeois man seems condemned to self-blindness at the very peak of his powers, since freedom IS by definition, unknowable. What can be known is the determinate; and aU we can say of subjectivity isfhatwhatecer it is it is certainJy not that. The subject, the founding principle of the whole enterprise, slips through the net of representation and figures in its very uniqueness as no more than a mute cpiphimy Or pregnant silence. Ifthe world is the system of cognleableebiects.uhen the subject which knows these obiects cannot itself he in me world, any more than (as the early Wittgenstein remarks) the eye can be an object within hs own visual field, The subject is not a phenomenal enti~ to be reckoned up along with the objects it moves among; it is that which brings such objects to presence in the first place. and. so moves in a different sphere entirely. The subiecrls not a phenomenon in. the world but a transcendental viewpoint upon it. We can, so to speak. squint at it sideways as it gives itself aJong with the things it represents, but .like the spectral other who walks beside you in The



Wasil Land it 'vanishes if you try to look at it straight. Getting a fu: on the subject opens up the dizzying prospect of an infinite regress of meta-subjects. Perhaps, then, the subject can figure only negatively, as empty excess or transeendence of any particular. We cannot comprehend the subject, but as with the Kantian sublime.we can, as it were, comprehend its incomprehensibility, which appears as the negation of all determinacy, The subject seems somehow squeezed out of the very system of which it is the lynchpin. at once source and supplement, creator and lefrovee.Jt is that which brings the world to presence, but is banished from its own creation and can by nQ means be deduced from it, other than in the phenomenological sense that there must be something which appearance is an appearance to. It governs and manipulates Nature, yet since it contains no particle of materiality in its own make-up it is a mystery how it comes to have truck with anything as lowly as mere obiects, This prodigal structuring pewer or unfathomable capacity seems at me same rime sheer paucity and negadon, lying as it does at the very limit of what can be known. Freedom is the very ef the bourgeois order. yet: it cannot be imaged in itself. The moment we tty to encircle it with a concept, seize upon our own shadows, it slips over the horizon of our knowledge, leaving in our grasp but the grim laws of neeesshy of external Nature. Their denotes not a substance but a fanna[ perspective upon reality. and there is no dear way of descending from this transcendental unity of apperception to one's hwndrurn.:material existence in the world. The enterprise of science is possible, but must fall outsidethe domain [[ investigates. Knower and known do not occupy a shared field, even if that indmatetraffic between them which is lrnowled~e might su.ggestthat they do ..

If freedom is to flourish, if the subject is to extend its colonizing sway over things and stamp them with. its indelible presence, then s¥stematic knowledge of the world is essential, and this must Inelude knowledge of othe~ subjects, You cannot hope to operate as an efficient· capitalist in blithe ignorance of the laws of human p.sychology; and dlls is one reasonwhy the ruling order needs at its disposal a.body of detailed knowledge of the subject, which goes by the: name of the "human sciences' .. Withot,lt knowledge you cannot hope to be free; yet knowledge and freedom are also, in a curious sense antithetical If it isessential to, my freedom that: 1 should know others, then it foll.ows mat they can know me too, in which case my



freedom may be curtalled. 1 canatwa,ys console myself with the tihought that: whatever can be known of me is by d.efinition not me, is heteronomous 10 my authen.tic being, since the subject cannot be captured in an objective representation. But in. this case, one might argue, ) merely purchase my freedom at its own espense, gain it and lose it at a stroke; fDr I have nDW also deprived myselfof the possibillry of knowing others in their very essence, and it might be thoughtthat such knowledge is essentielto my self-develepmenr,

Knowledge, in other words. is, to some degree in contradiction with the power it exists to promote. For the 'human sciences', subjects must be intelligible and predictable; but. me transparency which this entails is at odds with the doctrine, of me inscrutability of the human with which capitalism strives to mysti'f)' its soelal relations. All knowledge. as Romanticism is aware, contains a secret irony or !incipient contradiction: it mustat once master i(S object and eonfmm it as other, acknowledge in. it an ,autonomy- it sim.ul.tantously subverts. The fantasy of total technological omnipotenceconc.eals a nightmare: in appropriating Nature you :risk eradicating it,. appl'Q.priatingnothing but your own actsof consciousness. There is a similar problem with predictabil.ity, which in surrendering phenomena into the hands of the sociological priests threatens (0 abolish history. Predictive science founds thegreat progressive narratives of middle-class history, but by the same stroke offers to undermine them, converting all diacbrony to a SCCJet synchrony. History as risk, enterprise and adventure is in deadlock with the most privileged form 'of bourgeois cognition, the Eros Clfhist(!lty at odds with the Tlumatos of science. To be free means to calculate the moves of yOW' competitors while remaining :securely impervious to such ca!cwabili!:yQneself; but suchcsleulations may themselves modifyonets competitors' behaviour in, ways mal impose limits on one's own. free project. There would be no way for die mind to master this volatile sitUation as a whole; such knowledge, in. Kant's terms, would be the metaphysical fiUltasy of a non-perspectiVal understanding. A certain blindness is the very condition ef bourgeois history, whfcb thrives on its ignorance of an assured outcome .. Knowledge lspower .. but the more you. have orIt the more it threatens to rob you of your desire and render )'OU impotenL

For Kant, all cognition of ethers is doomed to be purely phenomenal, forever remote from the secret ,springs of subjectivity" Someone can tabulate my interests and desires, but if I am not to be a



mere rempilica~ object 1 must be transcendent of these things, of all tbat can be mapped by empirical kn.owledge .. No such. research can resolve the delicate issue of how such interests and desires come to be mint , ..... of what it is for me, rarher than YOU!, to experience this particular yearning. Knowledge of human subjects is imposslble not because they are so devious, multiple and decenned cas 10 be impenetrably opaque, but because it is simply a mistake to think that the subject is the kind of thing that could ever possibly be known. It <is just not a feasible object of cegnaion, any more than 'Being' is something we could know inthe same manneras a slab of marzipan. Whatever we think we are knowing will always tum out to besome suitably spirlrualized en.tity, thought along m.e hnes ofa material object, the mere parody or ghostly atter-image of a thiag, Indeed Jacques Derridahas shown how" when Kant comes to :imaginehuman freedom, be sLipsinlo conceiving this most immaterial of realities in terms of an orcank natural object. Z The subject is absolutely n.othing whatsoever Man object -which is to say that it ls a kind. rof nothing, that this vaunted liberty is also a vacancy ..

Of course, to have a phenomenal knowledge of others may in (act be: enough for using them to ou.r ewn advantage, But it may not be felt sufficient foreonstrucdng the kind of universal subjecUvi~ whieha ruling class requires for its 'ideological solidarity. For this purpose, it might be possible to anainto something which. while not strictly knowle,dge. is nonetheless very lile it. This pseudo .. 'knowledge. is what is known las the aesthetic. When, for Kant, we find ourselves concurring spontaneously in an aesthetic judgemenf" able: to agree mat a certaln phenomeaon is sublime or beautiful, we: exercisea precious form of imer:subjectMl:y,establishing ou.rse~es as a community of Ceding subjects linked by a quick sense of our shared capacities. The aesthetic is in ne way cognitive, but it has about it somethingof 'th.e form and structure orlbe rational; it thus unites us with all the authority of a law •. but at a more affective., intuitive level. What brings us together as subjects is not knowledge: but an ineffable reciproc[ty of feeling. And this iscenainly one major reason w:hy me aesthetic has figured so centrally in bourgeois thought, For the .ab.nning truth is that in a .socia~ order marked by class division and :mark~tcompetitiQn,it may finally be here. and on1y here, that human belngs belong together in some intimate Gtmdmdtaji. At the level of theoretical discourse, we know ODe another only as objects; at me



level of morality, we bow and respect each other as,ous .subjects. but can have no ooncept of what this means" and, a sensuous feelfu.g (or others is no essential element of such knowledge. In th,e sphere of aesthetic culture, hewever, we eiin experience our shared humanity with an the immediacy of Out response to;li fine painting' or magnificent .symphony. Paradoxically, it is in the apparently most private, frail and intangible aspects of our lives that we blend most bannoniously with one another.11tis is at once an asto.nishingly optimisac and bitterlu _. ssimistic doetrin "On th - ., " hand: "H

" , ~J pe. - .. - ,,_~ ... e. __ . __ .e O'ne __ _ . . OW

marveUousthat human tlnity can be found. installed In the \IeI)' inwardness of the subject; and in. that most :seemin,gJywaywardand capricious of responses,aestbe:ti.c taste!' On the other haDd~ ~How

.sick.enin~' precarieus human ., '~d''''..::tv -·· ... sr be, . f "t~ -, - fl' -all' .' be

_ - 8"J ... ... "....,. u -""'.J m .. ""e. 1 I can,. n y

rooted in nothing mote, resilient than the vagaries of aesthetic lud.gemen.!" If 'dleaesthetic must bear the burden of human community, then .poliaca) sodety~ one mi,ght suspect, must leave a good deai to be desired.

Kant's own political.society was not, of course, '~y any means of a fully-developed bourgeois kindr and to speak of him. as a bourgeois; maythere{Qre seem to some m.erely '!ul,ltchronislic. 'There are many wa.ys. however. in which his thought adumbrates the ideals of middle-class IibentlJsm·- in which Ibis thinking is utopian in that positive', enrichming sense, From the heart rOfautoc.racy,.Kant speaks: up bravely for values which will prove ullimate1y subversive of that. regime;. but it is: curiously one-sided to claim.. Kant tn ·this style as a, liberal champion. :and to ovedook ilhe ways. in which his, thought: is already disdOsing some of me problems' and OOIlb'adi.¢tiOns of the eme~Dt middle-class order,

If we cannot, mi'ctIy speaking:, know the subject, then at least: ... so we can censele oursebes -we can mow the obJect. In a notable irony, however, this latter operation rums out in bourgeois society to be quite as u.nt.hlnkab.le as the former~ lfit is well known that Kant views the humansubj' ooumenal,. quite beyond thepale 'of conceptual enquiry:, then it 'is even better' known that he ibelievesjU5tme same ,of the object. the infamous, :wetutable Ding-an-skh 'which. slides over one bo:rizon of our kllowled,ge as the phantasmals-u'bj~ct. vanishes over the other. Georg Lulrii.cs has argued. 'that this opaqueness of the: obje<:tin Kant is !U! effect of reificatioD, whereby material products remain heterogeneous in their ri£b particularity to the formal,



commodified categories which seek to encompass them.' They must accordingly be consigned to the 'irrational' outer darkness of the u.nknowable. leaving thought to confront me mere shadow of itself. The Ding...,an.~sidt ls in this sense less some suprasensible entity than the material limit of all such reificatory thought, a faint eehe of the real's mute resistance to it.. To recover the so-calledthlng in itselfas

-, - .. - - '!n - - td .. _"':~I product ~"!!,I'l·d, .1:- ..... be sfmult I1>1> .... h. to reveal

use va~ e an ._uu " _" .. ' ..... u, .. ~ . .....,,. __ ,_._

it as suppressed social totaUty. restoring those seeial relations which the commodified categories bleach out. Preoccupiedwith materiality though Kant: undoubtedly is, it is as though matter cannot appear m all its, irreduCibility within the Kantian system; but .it is precisely this matter, in the form of certain contradictory social relations, which generates the structure of the entire system in me first place.

The thing in itself is thus a kind of empty signifier of that total knowledge whieh the bourgeoisie never ceases to dream of, but which. its own ftagm.efiting~ dissevering activities CQllUnuaUy frustrate. In the, act of knowing" me subject cannot help but project from its inevitably partial perspective the phantasmal possibility of a knowledge beyond all categories, which then risks striking what it (4rt know meagrely relative. The subject languishes in the grip of a ra:bid epistemophilia which is at once logical to its project - to hofd the whole world. in .a single thought!- and potentially subversive of it For such metaphysical delusions simply distract it from the proper business: of actual knowledge, whi£.h must always be knowledge from one perspective or anmher, 'On the one hand" writes Lukacs, '[the bourgeoisle] acquires increasing control over the details of Its social existence. subjecting them to its needs. On the other hand, it loses- likewise progr-essively ~the possibility of gaining latelleetual control of'society as a Whole and with. that it loses its Own. qualifications for leadersbip.'" At me height of 11:5 dominance, then. the bourgeois class finds itself curiously dispo-ssessed by the order it has created, wedged as it is between an unknowable subjectivity on the one side and an, unmasterable object on the other .. The real world is irrational, beyond the mastery of the subject, a. sheer mvisib~e trace of resistance to the: categories of the understanding, which confront it in. the manner of empty, abstract forms expelling some brute factidt,y. The categories themselves are in this. sense modelledon the commodity form. In this situation, one can settle stoically for the lrRducibility of the real to thought. thus recognizing the limits of one's own subjecdviry;. or one


can follow the path o.(a, Hegel and seek to recuperate the material object itself within the .mind. The former. Kanuan strat.egysecures for the subject a real environment,. but at the cost ora cunailment of its powers. Objects indubitably eXi~1 but they can never be fully appropriated. The latter, Hegelian. manoeuvre! anoW$ you fully tOI appropriatetbe object; Inn in 'what' sense it ·js,then t:ruly an ohj:tGt' is noublingly ooswre.Expansive powers are secured. for 'the: subject, but at them of dissolving away the objective realm which .might: guarantee them.

Once again, however" the aestheti.c is able to come to philosophfs aid. For in the sphere ,of aesthetic judgement, objects far;eunoovered which seem at once rW yetwMHygiven for me subject,. veritable bits of material Namre which are nevertheless delightfully 'pliant to the mind. However contingent their exi5tencerthese objects.: disp,)ay 11 fbnn which is somehow mysteriously fiecessa:ry~ which hails and engages us wldl. a grace quite unknown to the thingsm themselses, which merely tum.l'heir backs upon us. In the .aesthetic Rpresenmtion" that is to say, we glimpse for lm~ted moment the possibility of a, non.,alienated object, one quite the reveeseef'a commodity. which like~ the 'auntie' phenomenon efa Walte_r Benjamin eemms our tendergJilZc and w~ that hwas created for' us aJODe'_s In another sense, however, this formal, d:esensualized obJet:r, wbich acts as ~ polar ofexclumge.. between subjects" can be read as It mad of spirima1ized version. of th.e. veryoommoo'ity it resists,

Displaced from the unde:rstmding!flom the. domains of Namreand history, toWity in Kant comes 'to take up its home instead in, me realm of practical reason. 'To act morally for Kant is to set aside aU desire, interest andindinatioD1 identifYing one's rational will instea:dwith a rulewruch one, can propose. to oneself as a univetSa1law. What:mak:es an action moral is: som.ethlngit manifests over and above my particular qua1i~ or effect, namelyimwilled confonmty to universal. law. What 'is impona'1lt is the act of rationally willing' the action as an endIn itseH: What we will whIm we act :morally is the only thin.g of absolute, unconditional worth:rationlrl agency itself. We should be moral because it is monU to be so. (,

To be free and ratiol!1all-in short,. to be a subjet;t - means, (Q be entirely self';'dctermining,obe:Yi_ng' on1y such laws as [ proposete myself;, and, treating myself and my action as an endrather than a



means. Free subjectivity is thus a noumenal affair. quite absent from the phenomenal world. Freedom (:ZlOO[ be direct~Y' captured in a concept or image, and. must be known. practically rather man theoretically. 1 know I am free; because I catch myself acting that. way out of the comer ofmy eye:. The moral! subject Wtabitstbe. intelligible rather than material sph.ere~, though it. mustconstantly strive in mysterious fashlonto materialize its values inthe a~ world. Human. beings live simultaneously as free subjects and determined objects, slaves in Nature to laws which have no bearing on them in the spirit. Likethe Freudian .subject,. the Kantian individual is radically ':splii, though with a certain. inv'ersion: the world beyond appearances - thJ! unconscious - is where for Freud we are most thoroughly determined, and the. "phenomenal' sphere of the ego me place where we can ,exen' a ;! degree of will. The material world for Kant is nothing like a subject, appaz:ently inhospitable to freedom; but it is me locus of free subjects even so, who belong tQit completely at one level and not at all at another,

The subiect for Kant, then, is everywbere free and everywhere in chains; and ~t is not difficult to decipher. the soci:ali IQgic of this contradiction .. In class society, the subject's 'Cl:crcise of freedom is not only clw:acte:ristically at the expense of ethers' oppression. but is gathered up into an anonymous, subject1ess process of cause and effect which win.finaIly come to co·nfront the subject itself withal! the dead weight of a &tality or 'second nature'. In an eloquent passage,. Karl Marx sketchesas social contradiction what remains {orICa"t an unsurpa:ssab~e conundrum in thought:

In our days, everything seems pregnant with its Machinery gifted with lhe wonderful powerefshortening and fmctifying human labour, we behold stanin_g and overworking it. The new-fangled .SOUKe5 ,of wealth, by some smange, weird speD. aremrned into sources of waD.L The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character. At: the same pace that mankindl masters seems to have become enslaved to other men and to his own. infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but 00 me dark" background of ignorance. AU our invention and progress seem to result in. endowing' material forces with intellectualljfc, and in sru1tif:ying human life



:into a. material force. This antagonism. between modern industry and science onthe one hand, belWeen misery and dissolution on. the other; this antagenism between the productive forces and the social relations of our epoch isa fact, palpable, overwhelming, and not to becontroserted.?

In. such. conditions, freedom is bound to appear at once as the essence of :subjectivity and as utterly unfathomable. the dynamic of Wstory which is 'nowhere locatable in the material. world, the condition orall action which nevertheless cannot be [,epresented within it" Freedom in such circumstances is strangely undeeidable: that we ",WI be free: if aU Ihis has come about, yet· that what comes about is the negation of liberty. is the social correlative of Kant's phiJosophical. double-think. My freedom involves bein.g treated by others as an end in myself; yet once I am established in that autonomy. I can then. proceed in the real social 'World to strip those others of their own equiwlent mdependence. Noumenaland phenomenal realms thuseonstamly undo each other, as the subject is tossed to and fro between them. Just as the Ding-ans:ichiS me, dark shadow thrown by the light of'phenom.en;d knDwledge, so iron: necessity is tbe secret underside of lib~rty. It ls not, as Kant believes, that 'We meve in two simultaneous but incompatible worlds.. but that our movement in the gbosdy' arena ,ofc:Ooumenal' freedom is precisely the perpetual reproduction of phenomenal enskvement. The subject. lives not in divided and. distingulshed worlds but at the aporedc fmersecdon of the two', where: blindness and insight. emancipation and subjection, are murually consdtutive.

Atasdair MacIntyre has argued that the purely fermal natureef moral judgement in such thinkers as Kant is the consequence of a history in which moral!.ons .have c-eased. itO be' intelUgible. against a settled background of social rolesand relations.s In certain forms ·of pre-bourgecis soci.ety, the question of huw a subject ought to behave is closely bound up with its location within the: social structure, so that a sociological description of the cOJnP1e); relations. in which an individual stands would inescapably in.voIve :a normative discourse too. Certain rights, duties and obligations are Internal to social functions, so that no finn distinction is posstble between a sociological idiom of faet and a:n ethical discourse of value .. Once the bourgeois social order begins to reiIY fact, and to construct a. kind of human subject transcendenrally prior to its :social relatiens, this historically



grounded ethics is bound to enter into crisis .. What one ought to do can no longer be deduced from what, socially and politically speaking. one actually iSi a new distribution of dliscourses accordingly comes about, in which a positivist language of'seciological description breaks Joose from ethical evaluation. Ethical norms. thus float free, breeding one or another form of intuitionism, decisinnism ur finalism, If one can return no social: answer to the question. of how one ought to behave. then virtuous behaviour, for some theorists ,at least, must become an end in itself. Sollm is removed from the sphere of historical action and analysis; one must 'behave in a particular way

simply because one must. -

The moral, that is to say, is tending towards th.e autotelic nature of the aesthetic - or, what amounts to the same thing, the work of art is now becoming' Ideologically modelled on aeertam self-referential conception of ethical: value. Kant has no truck with the heady Rnmantic impulse to aesthetieize morality: the moral law is a supreme court of appeal elevated abeve aU mere beauty, even if that beauty is in some sense a symbol of it. What is right is by no means necessarily agreeabl·e; indeed for the severely puritanica~ sage: of Konigsbe.rg there is a dear implication that the more we act against affective impulse, the more morally admirable we: become. But if the moral law is radically ann-aesthetic in content, dismissing allconsiderations of happiness. spontaneity, benevolence and creative: fu1lfilm.ent for. the single stark imperative of duty, it nonetheless mimes the aesthetic in its form. 'racnca:l reason is wholly autonomous, and self-grounding! bears its ends within itself1 spurns all vclgar utility and brooks no argwnenL As with the work of art', law and freedom are here at one: 01:11" submission to the moral law, Kant remarks, is at once free', yet bound up with an unavoidable compulsion.

It i's in this sense, others. that the moral and the aesthetic are for Kant somewhat analogous. While in the phenomenal realm we live subject to mechanical causaJ!ity. our noumenal selves are simuitan,eous]y weaving behind or across this region some awesome' artefact or magnificent poem, as the free subject shapes its actions not in terms of mechanical cause and effect! but in rel:ation to that teleological totality which is Reason. A truly we. will is one determined only by its resolute orientatien to this organl:c totality of ends and to the requirement of their harmonious unity,. ,moviDg in 11 sphere where all instrumental adaptation of means to ends has been



tt:ansmuted into purposive or expressive actiwty. Any human act can be viewed simultaneously as conditioned by a. causal chain of events recebed fFOm the past. and as: directed towards future ends and their sysre:matic coherence -. viewed, that [s to say, as phenomenal fact from the former perspective and as value from tbe .latter.' And tills reeoncilatsm of ends and means in the kingdom of Reason is also the eenstruetion of a. noumenal community of free'$libjccts, a realm of norms and persoas rather than of objects and desires. each of wnOD1 is an end in herself yet by that very fact integrally inserted into B, total intelligible design. If we lw,e our lives at one level in material history, we live them at another level as part of an organic artefact.

Nothing is more reprehensible.Kant protests inthe~ Critique- ()jPut( Reason, than. to seek to derive the laws prescribing what be don . e from what actually is done. Facts are: ene thin:g, and values another - which is to :say mat there is a gap, atencetroubllng and essennal.berweea bourgeois social practice and the ideology of that practice. The distin.crion between factand value is here one between actual bourgeois social relations. and the ideal of:acommunity of free, rational subjects who trear one: anotheras ends in themselves, You must not derive values from filets" foomrounne market-place practice, because if you did you would end up with all the most undesirable kinds: ofvalue: egoism. a~css; mutual antagonism. Values dn not flow fro·m facts, in. the sense lhat :ideologies are intended not simply to reflect existing social behaviour, but to mystifY and l~gitimate it. As such, values are indeed r,eEated to that heha:Viour, but in a disjunctive. contradictory 'way; the highly ob:Jique affinities between bourgeois idealism and capitalist producaon are. exactly their most significant interrelation. as the former comes to ratify and dissemblew.e latter, But if this hiatus is essemial, it is also embarrassing. An ideology too feebly rooted in, the actual will. as we have argued, always bepoUticaUy vutnerabte. and Kant's neumenal sphere is in danger of just this implausibility. .If it safeguards moral dignity from. the tnafiket place; it does :so only 1>;y removing it: to a place so remote as to be effecti:vdy out of si.gIlt. Freedom is so deeply' the essence of everything that it is nowhere to 'bee.mpirically found. It is not so m,uch a praxis in the world as a transcendental! viev;point upon it, a way of describing one's condition which at once miIres all the difference and seems to leave eveJ)1hlng exactq as it was. It cannot directly .show itself f.orth as it is, and ideology is precisely a matter of



sensuous representation. Kant is therefore in need of a m.edia.tory zone which will bring this order of pure intelligibility home to felt experience; and Ibis, as we shall see, is one 'of the meanings of the aesthetic.

The quaiities of the Kannan moral law art those of the commodity form. Abstract, universal and rigprously self-identical, the law 'of Reason is a m,echan'isD1, which, like the commodity. effects fonnally equal exchanges between. isolated individual subj'eoo. erasingtbe difference of their needs and desires in its homogenizing injunctions. The Kantian community of moral subjects is at one level a powerful critique of actaal market-place ethics: in this world. nobody is to be debased from a person to albing .. In its: general form, however. that community appears as an idealized version of the abstract; .serialized individuals of bourgeois society~whose cencrete diStinctions are of no aCCQuntto the law which govems them, The equivalent of this law in the discourse of psychoanalysis Is the' transcendental signifiet €If the phallus. Uke the pbalHc signifier,. the' m.oral law subjects individuals to ilSrule~ but brings them through that subJection to mature subiecthood .. In Kant's version. ef affairs, it isa peculiarly censorious Law or Name-of-the-Father, th.e pure distilled essence of authority: rather than telUng' us what to do. it merely intones 'You mI!lSI~.lo Its august aim 'is. to persuade us to repress our sensual inclinations ill the name of its own hi'gher imperatives; the law is what severs us from Nature and relocates us in the symbolic order of a suprasensible world, one of pure intelligibilities tamer than of sensuous objects,.

Th Kami bieet i .I:_gt U f'" .

e nnaa su lect IS aCCOfUUl Y sp t,. on.e part. o· It remammg

forever entangled in the phenemenal order of instinct and desire,the 'lid' of the unregenerate ego. while the otJher climbs upward and inward (0 higher Like: the Freudian subject;; the Kantim individual inhabits simultaneously two contndictory spheres, in which eve.~hing which is rree of tbe one is negated in the other. Everyone may possess, the phallus, have lI.CCeSS to rational freedom; yet in another sense nobody does, since this phallic law of reason. does not aist. It is a fiction, this moral law, a. hypothesis which we must construct in order to act as rational creatures at a1l!, yet an entity of which the world yields no trace of eviden.ce.1'he Kantian moral law is a fetish; and as such it is a poor basis far human solidarity,. which is precisely its ideological pa.ucity., In order to univer:salize my actions I must have regard to others! but .only a.~ the abstract level, of the


understanding, not with any spontm.eous sense of their complex: particular needs. Kant values the role ofcultur·e InheJpmg to develop the conditions for men and women to follow the moral law;, but that: law has too little regard in itself for men and women's concrete cultural existence. There is a need,then, which neither politics nor moraUty can fUlfil, to "promote a unity between individuals on the basis of their 5ubjectivity'i1i and it Isthis which m.e aesthetic can preside. If the aesthetic is a vitali register of be log" it is :m part because of me reified, abstract, individualist: nanire of me moral and political spheres.

Practical reason assures US mat freedom is real; pure reason, can, never teD us what it is. To explain. how pure reason can be practical is, as Kant dolefully comments, beyond the power of human reason, All, however, is not lost. For there, is after all away in which Nature and !'easonmay be harmonized, sincethere 'is a type ofcontempJation which participates equally in the principie of e,mpirical explanation of Nature and in the principle, of moral judgement. 'There is a way of viewing Nature such that the apparent lawfulness of its forms might at least suggest Ule' possibilil)' of ends in Nature which act ill accordance' with the ends of human freedom. It is possible to look at the wo:dd as though it were itself amjsterious sort of subject or artefact; governed l&e -human subjects by a :self-determinin,g' nlnonal will. In theaesthetic and te1eological modes ,of judgemennas presented in the Critiq.u~ofJudgmrml', the. empirical world appears in its freedom, purposiveness, significa:nttotality and self-re,gulating: autonomy 'to conform to the ends, of practical reason,

The pleasure of the aesthetic; is: in part dle $u'Prise that this is the case .. It is a delighttuJluckychance that certain phenomena. should, seem to dispLay a purposive unity, whercsuch unity :is notin :fact deducible as necessary from logical premises. The occurrence seems fortuitous, contingent. and so not subsumable under a concept of the understanding; but it nevertheless appears as if it rould somehow be brought undersuch a concept, as if it: conforms spontaneously to some law. ev-en though we arequiteunable to say what that law might be, If tilitere is no actual law to which we might subsume thls phenomenon, then the law in question seems one inscribed in its very materia] form, inseparable from its, uniqueparticidarity, a kind of contingent or forruirous lawfulness inruitivelypresent to us in the



'thing bur quire untheorizable. In the operations of pure reason, we oring a pamcular under a concept of universal law; thus sliding its specifiCity beneath the genera]; in matters of practical reason we subordinate the particular to' 3 universal maxim. ]0 aesthetic judgement, however. we have the curious sense of a lawful totality indissociable from our int:l11ition of the immedlate form of thet!hing. Nature appears animated by an indweUing finality which defeats the understanding; and this finality~ in, a pleasurable ambiguilY, seems at once :3 law ~o which the object conforms and nothing less than the irreducible structure of the object itself.

Since aesthetic judgement does not ,engage any determinate concept, we are quite indifferenr to the nature of the object in question, or whether it even exists. But if the object does not in this sense involve our cognition, it addresses itself to whatwe might call our capacity for cognition in general. revealing to us in a kind of Heideggerian ~pre'-und.erstanding' that the world is. the kind of place we can in principle comprehend, that it is adapted to our minds even before any determinate act of knowing has yet taken place, Some of me pleasure of the aesthetic, then, arises from 3: quick sense of the world's delightful confqrmi.ty to our capaclties: instead of pressing ahead to subsume to some concept the sensuous manifold we confront, we just reap enjoyment from the general formid! possibility of doing so. The imagination creates 3 purposive synthesis, but without feeling the need for 3: theoretical detour. IDf the ae-sthetic yields us' no knowledge, then. it proffers us something arguably deeper! the consciousness, beyond aU theeretical de.monsttation, that we are at home in the world because the wodd is somehow mysteriolls~ designed to suit our capacities. Whether this is: :actUally

- --

true or not we cannot sa:y, since we can know nothing of what teall~ is

like in. itself. That tbinp are conveniently fashioned for our purposes must remain a hypothesis; but it is the kind of heuristic fiction which permits us 3. sense of purposiveness, centredness and significance. and thus one which is of the very essence of the ideological.

Aesthetic judgement is then. a kind of pleasurable free-wheeling of our,a kind of parody .of conceptual understanding. :3 nonreferential pseudo-cognition wmch does :not nail down the -object to an identifiable dUng. and so is agreeably free of a certain material constraint . It is an undecidable half .. way house between. the uniform laws .of the understanding and some utter chaotic indeterminacy - 3.


tind of drtam or fmtBSy which displaysim own curious lawfiuh:less. but ODe of the image rather than the' concepr .. Silwe the aesthetic r:ep.resen.taO.oDis not passed through a detenninatethought, we, are able to' savour its rom free "of all humdrulri' nuteri_al content - 'as in r;eading' symbolist poeny, for ,example, we, seem to be in the presence! of tIl,1;: pure eidetic fonns of language itself, purged of any veq

d• '. L~__]·' th gb. ...:t..,

e~ermmate semaanc SUI1:l>~. rt IS !I.S ou_" In aesmenc

judgement we: are grasping with out hands some' object 'we ,cannot see, not because wt!;nuil to use it but simpb" tor:l!Vcd in its general graspabwty. in the way ilSconvo:it)' seems to in:sinuate~ itself so pliaridy into our :palrns, delwably wen designed as .h appears for our p,rehensilc powers.

What we have in the aesthetic and teloological! st2fidpoints" then, is the consoling fantasy of a material world. which is perhaps not ,after au indifferent to us, which has a regard for ouroognitive capacities. As one of Kant)s commentators writes:

It is a great:sUmulus to moral effort and. ,a .strong suppert to the human spirilif men can 'believe mat the moral life is something more than a mortal en~erprisein which he can join with hiS feDow men against a background 'Of a "blind :and indifferent universe until he and the: human race are blotted out :forever. Man cannot be indifferent to the posstoility that his plmy efforts towards moral perfection may. in .spite ·Df appearances, be in.awnd with the putpOSe of 'the universe . " "u:

Part of the trauma ofmoderrutyis exactly ilhismind .. shaking suspicion rhatthe wor[d is not enlistable on hwnanity'5 side - diat buman, wues must resign themselves to being grounded inoothing more: solid than themselves, and perhaps suffer apanie~stric'keD. internal collapse on account of this uMerring insi,ght. For .hlllliltniry '(0 ~ri.e.nQe an exuberant sense of:is 'Own. unique statusfs to find itself tragically maroonedfromanyamicabb' oom,plicil Nat\Q:e - from some answerableemitonm.entwmtb might assure man mathis purposes were valid because secretly pat 'Df itself.. Fol' 1I socia) order te demolish its own metaphysical foundation is to risk. "leaving its meanings and values hanging in empty SP4C~ as gratuitous as any other structure of meaning; and how then ate the members of such an. order to be persuaded of i.ts authority? The urge 'to coopt rea1ity by



theoretical violence into one's ,own project may then pJ'O\'e weU~mgh irresistible; but it is part of Kant's admirable: austerity, testimony to his sober,clear~eyed realism" that be cannot whQIly follow this mythological path. There, is simply no v,e.rifi,cation ln, the peoeedures of reason. for any such specul3Jtive hypothesis.

There are, however. few graver threats to any ideology than Its sense of reality's stony Indifference to its own, values. Such steady reealeitranee .on me woddts pan ,is bound to throw the limits of an ideology into b.ar5b relief; and it. ~ on a concealment of such limits that Ideologies nourish, in their impulse to eternalize and 'universalize themselves, toprese:nt themselees as unparented and bereft of all siblings. The outrage whi,cb greeted the fiction lofThomas, lhrd;y in late nlneteenth-eenrury Engbndmay be ttaeked in th,t endsimpl)r to Hardys atheism: to his hard-,headedrefusal! of the consolations of a collusive 'mUvefSe. By contrast, 'lbe desolate TennysonQf 1" M'moriam :StnJgg1es to wrench an insensate materia~ world bad, into its proper imagi:ruuy place, as aJly and support of human endeavour. Kant: stemlyrefuses to eonsert the heuristic fiction of ap~sive universe to ,ideological myth.; but he capnot dispease with this imaginary dlmenslen altoge:ther. and it is this whieh me aesthetic prevides. When 'me: small infant of Jacques Lacan's celebrated tmirror Stlge' encounters its, refleetion in the :gIass, im nnds in 'this image :aplenihlde lacking 'in its own body •. and thli!Simputes:to :itself a fWlness which .in fact pertains to the representation. 'When the Kantian subject of taste encounters an object oflM:auty •. it discovers: in it a unity and hannony wruch are In fact lthe effect of'lihe he pLay of its OWD, faculties. In 'bot'h cases,an imagiflarymisrecognition. takes place,a1l'h.ough. with a. certain. reversal of subject and o~ect from the mirror ofLacan to tbemirror of Kant The Kantian. :subjectof aesthetic judgement. whomispen::eives as a qualit,y of me object what is in facta pleasurable coordinatioh.of its own. powers, and wh.o constitutes in :a m.echanistic world a figure of idealized unity" resemblesdte imanti!e narcissist of the Lacanian mirror stage, whose mispercepdons Louis Al:thosse:r has maught us to Regard as ~an indispensablesttUcwre of all ideology,ll In the ~inlaglnaty' lof [deology:, Mof aesthetic taste. reality comes to seem. totalized and pwposiye.teasswingly pliable to the centred :subject, leven thDUgh theoRUca:l understanding may more hleakJyinformus tbattbis is a finality ooly 'with respect to the .su'bject·s fac:uhy of cognition., The



bea:uty or sublimity we pereelve in ae,stheti.c ju.dgement is: actually no more a property of the object in quesuonthan the la:ws ofth.e understanding are a property of Namre; in Kant's view, we ascribe to the object fl, fdr harmony of our own creative pewers, in. the Freudian mechanism, known as projection. It is as though we are eonstrained 1.0 invert Kant's "CO,pernican' priority of subject and object, assigning to the obj'ect: ~itse]fa power and plenitude whic:;h (so a more sober co,gnition infbmtSus) belongs :propedy 00 ourselves alone, The sense that the object makes consists, entirely in the sense that it' makes forus, Thlstheoredcal insight, however, cannot undo our imagimuj' prejecrions, which are not .subject to the: understanding; as in the thought of AlthusseTt !theory! and 'idcologyl lie on different planes, signifY different registers, and to that extent do notimcrfere wi~ one another even 'when they yie'ld up mutually :incompanble versionsofreaHty. A social formation. as known to theoretical enquiry is for A!lthusser nothing like ,iii human. subjoct,. ~acb or;gaIDcunityand IS in no way 'centred' upon individualS; but it cannot succeed in reproduciag itself unless th.ose individuals are pennitted. the! illw;ll.m that the world "bails' them, shows some regard fol' their facuities, addresses irselfto them !lS one subject tQ!lnotber,. and it is ·dUs fiction which ideology for Mthusser exists 10 foster,. Fer Kant. Nature is similarly nothing of an organic subject; but it conforms to human understanding •. and it is only a small step from this: ito the pleasurable fantasy (onere:quired for coherent: kn.owledge) that it was designed' for such understandlng too. The aesthetic is rous the: wan hope. inl an increasingly rationalized, secularised, demythologized environment, that ultimate purpose and meaning may nat be entirely lost. It is the mode of religious transcendence of ,3 rarlonalisticage - the place where those apparently arbittaryjisubject:ivist responses which fall outside the scope of such: ratio.nalismmay .now be moved to the centre and granted aU the: dignity of an eidetic form. That which is pure1y residual to bourgeois rationality, lh~ je ne ,ftzH quoi oflaSte, nnw comes to figure a5fiothifig lessthan a parodic image of suchth.6ughr. a earicamre of rational Jaw. The margins converge; 'to the centre, since it is on these margins that: quasi·transcendenta'l inmitions have been preserved without: whicll that centre· cannot prosper. It is as though the aesthetic represents some residual feeling left over" from an earlier social order" a sense of transeendental meanlngaad nMDlony, and of the centrality of the human subject, were still active. Such


THE KAN11AN IMAGINARY propositions cannot now withstand the critical forte of bourgeois rationalism, and so must be preserved in contemless, indeterminate form, ;15 structures of feeling rath~than systems of doctrine. Unity,. purpose and symmetry still exist, but they must :now be thrust deep into the inwardness of the subject itself, removed from thephenomena1 world. This is. not to concede. however, that they can have no influence on our conduct in tflat realm .. For toe:n.tertam the bypom.esis that reality is notaltogether indifferent to our own :mo:ral capacities mayqukke.n and renew our moral conscieusness, and so ~ead us to a. finer form of life. Beauty is lin this sense an aid to virtue, appearing as it does to rally support for our moral endeavours from me unlikely resource of Nature itself.

We should not.however,rejoice too soon. in. this apparent complicity of the universe; with our purposes. For all this, in the KaDtian aesthetic, happens as though by some felleiteusaceident. It is fo:rtunate that the world's diversity should seem so obediently commensurate with the mind~s powers; so that: in the 'very act of revelling in this app.aren.t. prearranged hannony. in this well-nigh miraculous doubJing of the structure of Nature and the structure of the subieet, we are a.t:the same time wtyIy conscious of its serendipity. Only in the aesthetic are we able to tum. round upon ourselves, standa little apart from our own vantage .. point and begin to grasp the "lano" of our capacities to, reality, in a. moment of wondering selfestrangement on which the Russian Fornmlisrs will later found an entire poetics. In the roudnlsed, automated processes of understanding, such wonder does not occur; in the aesthetic, by contrast, Our faculties are suddenly foregrounded in ways w,mch dr:aw attention tOI their fitliJlgn.ess. But this Is also 1:1)1 drawattentiQD to their limitations. To be allowed a rare experience of our own peculiar point of view is, after all. to sense that it is oldy o."r point. of view •. and sp one that miglu conceivably be transcended. In the presence ofbe:auty. we experience an ex:quisite sense, of adaptati.onofthe mind to rea1ity; but in me mrbulenr. presence of the sublime we are forcibly reminded. of the limits of our dwarfish imaginations and admonished that the world as infinite totality is not ours to know. It is as though in the sublime the ~real' itself- the etem:d. ungraspable totality of things .inscribes Itself as the CBl.loornuy of all mere ideOlogy, of all complacent .subJect~centredness, causing' us to, feel the pain of incompletion. aad uaassuaged desire.


Both of'rhese opCfaltions, the be·a1!1oJUl and the sublime, are in fact essential dimensions ef ideology ... For one problem of all humanist how its oentring and consoling of the subject Is lobe made c::ompatibh~' a Ct!nainessentiall'cverence and submissiveness on the subjeCil:'s part. lnmaldng me wodd over toth.c subject. such. humanism riSks undermining the censorieus Other whicbwill hald humanity humbly in. its place .. The sublime in one of its aspects !is, exacdy ilhis chasten'ing. humilia.tingpower:, which decentres the: subject :into an aw.esom.e aw.arene_ss of its finitude. its IO,WI'!. petty position in the universe, justas the experience of beauty shores it up. M(lreover~ wha.t would be threatened by ,a:purely 'imaginuy~ ideology would be the subjects desire as well as irs luunili1y.The Kantian sublime is in effect a kind of unconscious process of infinite desire, which like the Freudian unconscious cllntinban~ lists S\ValIiping and overloading we: :pitiable egp with an e~s of' ~ffects. The subject of thesublim.e is accordingly decenned, plunged into loss and pain, undergoes :a crisis and fadm.g: of identity; yet without this unwelcome vil)lenc~ we would never be stirred out of ourselves, never prodded mto enterprise andachieve:ment. We would lapse hack mstead into me placid feminine enclosure, of me imagimu'y. where desire is captivated and suspended. Kant associates the sublime with tnt masculine andthe military" useful antidotes against a peace which breeds (:owardice' and effeminacy'. Ideology must: not so thorougbly centre the subject as: to castrale its desire, mstead we must' be both cajoled and ehastized, made to feel bothhomeles:s and at home, folded upon the world yet :reminded that: 'Our true resting' place is in infinity. It is pan: oftbe dialectic ofllhe bea.l .. uiful andthe sublime 10 achieve this double ideologiCld effect. It is, now almost a commonplace of deconstruetive thought to see' the sublime as a polo! of fracture and. fading., ·an .. abyssal undermining (If m.etaphysical (:emtudes: but wbile ~ber,e is much efvalue and interest in this view. it has served in. effect to 5il1,ppress just those modes in Wru:ch the sublime also operates as a thorougldy ideological categoJ:y.

Th.e'psychoanalytic register of the imaginary: involves a peculiarly intimate relauon of the Infant ttl the's body; and it is possible 10 catch It glimpse of this body,-suitably screened, inJ(an.f':saesthetic representation, What e1se.psychoanaiYtically speaking, is 'this beautiful object which Is unique yetunirersal, wholly ,designed for the subject and 'addressed to its faculties. which in Kant's interesting phrase