Essays from the Edge : Parerga and Paralipomena 9780813931562, 9780813931333

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Essays from the Edge : Parerga and Paralipomena
 9780813931562, 9780813931333

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Essays from the Edge

M a rtin Jay

guuc{u htqo

vjg Gfig Parerga & Paralipomena

universi ty of virginia press charlottesville & london

University of Virginia Press © 2011 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper First published 2011 9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 library of congress cataloging-in-publication data Jay, Martin, 1944–   Essays from the edge : parerga and paralipomena / Martin Jay.    p.  cm.  Includes bibliographical references and index.   isbn 978-0-8139-2972-9 (cloth : alk. paper) — isbn 978-0-81392976-7 (e-book)   1. Philosophy, Modern—21st century. 2. History—Philosophy. 3. Humanities—Philosophy. 4. Intellectual life—21st century. 5. Civilization, Modern—21st century. I. Title.   b805.j38 2011   081—dc22                          2010050531

f or B ecca a nd Gr ayson


Acknowledgments  Introduction 



Taking on the Stigma of Inauthenticity  9 adorno’s critique of genuineness Is Experience Still in Crisis?  22 reflections on a frankfurt school lament Mourning a Metaphor  36 the revolution is over Cultural Relativism and the Visual Turn 


Scopic Regimes of Modernity Revisited 


No State of Grace  64 violence in the garden Visual Parrhesia?  77 foucault and the truth of the gaze The Kremlin of Modernism 


Phenomenology and Lived Experience 


Aesthetic Experience and Historical Experience  a twenty-first-century constellation




Still Waiting to Hear from Derrida 


Pseudology  132 derrida on arendt and lying in politics The Menace of Consilience  149 keeping the disciplines unreconciled Can There Be National Philosophies in a Transnational World? 


1990  177 straddling a watershed? Allons enfants de l’humanité  186 the french and human rights Intellectual Family Values  198 william phillips, hannah arendt, and the partisan review Still Sleeping Rough  207 colin wilson’s the outsider at fifty Notes 





No body of work, however self-contained it may appear, is really closed off from the world around it. No author is isolated from the influences of those he or she encounters in that world. No edge of a text is really an impermeable frontier protecting the integrity of what is allegedly “inside” its boundaries. Whether or not explicitly acknowledged, we are always at the crossroads of many different paths that converge momentarily and then diverge to go their separate ways. For a collection such as this, containing work from different periods and emerging from a series of distinct projects, those paths are bewilderingly entangled, so much so that no amount of recuperative effort will succeed in recovering their individual trajectories. As a result, any attempt at acknowledging the debts owed by its author will be even more inadequate than usual. With that disclaimer, let me at least nod gratefully in the direction of the many friends, colleagues, family, and institutions who left traces on these pages. To take the latter first, I have benefited enormously from the hospitality of the Stanford Humanities Center, the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Humanities Center, and the American Academy in Berlin, all of which gave me shelter from the storm of everyday life to work on my most recent major projects. Abiding support has been provided as well by the Sidney Hellman Ehrman Chair in the Berkeley History Department, as well as the Humanities Research Fellowship program. Let me also mention with immense gratitude the journal Salmagundi and its stalwart editor, Robert Boyers. Without the freedom granted me by the opportunity I have twice a year to publish a column in its pages, several of the pieces in this volume and many more republished in previous collections would never have seen the light of day. The other journals and publishing


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houses where earlier versions of these essays have appeared also warrant thanks for their gracious permission to republish them: New German Critique, Berghahn Press, Parallax Press, Journal of Visual Culture, University of Pittsburgh Press, Fordham University Press, Blackwell, Verso, MASS MoCA Editions, and Peter Lang Verlag. Without spelling out all the myriad ways they helped over the years, and at the risk of neglecting many who did as well, I want to thank in particular the following friends and colleagues: Frank Ankersmit, Keith Baker, Christoph Bartmann, John Bender, James Bono, Warren Breckman, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, Pheng Cheah, Detlev Claussen, Jean Cohen, Michele Cometa, John Connelly, Carolyn Dean, Tim Dean, Hubert Dreyfus, Rodrigo Duarte, John Efron, Alesˇ Erjavec, Andrew Feenberg, Jaimey Fischer, Hal Foster, Timo Gilmore, Peter Gordon, Michael Gubser, Suzanne Guerlac, J. Laurence Hare, Jr., Diane Harris, Agnes Heller, Jeffrey Herf, Carla Hesse, Ian Heywood, Peter Uwe Hohendahl, David Hollinger, Isak Winkel Holm, Guo-Juin Hong, Axel Honneth, Dick Howard, Robert Hullot-Kentor, Andreas Huyssen, Johanna Micaela Jacobsen, Prafulla Kar, Robert Kaufman, Leszek Koczanowicz, Dominick LaCapra, Thomas Laqueur, Benjamin Lazier, Lloyd Kramer, Rosalind Krauss, Marek Kwiek, W. J. T. Mitchell, Olli-Pekka Moisio, Joanne Morra, A. Dirk Moses, Samuel Moyn, Elliot Neaman, Matthias Obert, Ewa Pionowska, Mark Poster, Irina Prokhorova, Anson Rabinbach, Gerhard Richter, Paul Robinson, Michael Rosen, Emmanuel Rota, D. Fairchild Ruggles, Eduardo Sabrovsky, Barry Sandywell, Jonathan Sheehan, Richard Shusterman, Hans Sluga, Marquard Smith, David Sorkin, Paul Thomas, Nato Thompson, Michael Ure, Slyvio Vaccaro, Richard Wolin, Mark Wrathall, and Lewis Wurgaft. I also benefited from the assiduous research assistance of Knox Peden, Benjamin Wurgaft, Radhika Varadharajan, and Larry Fernández. Let me also express my gratitude once again to the University of Virginia Press and its editorial team, led by Richard Holway, for their expert guidance through the publication process. Ellen Satrom and Raennah Mitchell deserve special thanks, as do the two anonymous reviewers for the press. I would also like to thank Terence Renaud for performing the onerous task of providing an index for the book. Finally, as always, I must thank my family for all the ways they kept me both on edge and from jumping off it: Shana, Ned, Frankie, and Sammy, on the eastern edge of the country, and Becca, Grayson, Beth, Maggie, Pete, and Patrick on the western edge. But my most heartfelt debt of gratitude is owed to my most relentless reader and untiring muse, my wife, Catherine Gallagher, who is forever at the center of it all.

Essays from the Edge

Introduction Few write as an architect builds, drawing up a plan beforehand and thinking it out to the smallest details. Most write as they play dominoes: their sentences are linked together as dominoes are, one by one, in part deliberately, in part by chance. —arthur schopenhauer, essays and aphorisms

In 1851, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer gathered together two volumes of his scattered essays, aphorisms, dialogues, and random thoughts and published them under the recherché title Parerga and Paralipomena.1 Far more than his masterwork of 1819, The World as Will and Representation, it reached a surprisingly wide readership and made his reputation. The 1850s were, after all, a grim period of political reentrenchment following the failures of the revolutions of 1848, and the time was ripe for the sour pessimism and disillusionment with reason expressed in his philosophy of the irrational will. If any progress were to be made, Schopenhauer implied, it would be through realistic, unsentimental means, not idealistic bombast and grand gestures. Schopenhauer was especially cynical about the systematizing pretensions of his predecessors, most notably Hegel, whose rationalist architectonic he had long sought to demolish. Accordingly, he made no effort to assemble his ideas in any logical form or organize them in a coherent manner. The Greek words he chose for his title signaled his antisystematic intentions. “Parerga” means the surrounding frames around a work or “ergon,” what might be thought of as superficial ornaments or accessories rather than as foundational structure. “Paralipomena” means what has been omitted from the original work or the supplements that might be added later, postscripts rather than the body of the text. Schopenhauer knew that truth might well lie in the interstices of a well-wrought text, even in what its author had deleted along the way or what occurred to him after its publication. In our own day, the value of seemingly extraneous and superfluous afterthoughts and deletions was vigorously reaffirmed by Jacques Derrida in The


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Truth in Painting, published in 1978.2 His main target was Kant’s Critique of Judgment with its attempt to circumscribe the work of art and distinguish it radically from extraneous decoration, for example the draperies on statues or colonnades around buildings.3 For Derrida, the quest to distinguish intrinsic aesthetic beauty from extrinsic nonaesthetic context was doomed to failure because the lack necessarily inherent in any work solicits the supplement of the frame to complete it. Or rather that supplement opens it up to an endless chain of additional parerga, which never fully succeed in producing closure. The energeia that goes into the making of the ergon is never sufficient, Derrida argued, to close it off entirely from what is outside its borders. Texts and contexts always interpenetrate; frames are both limiting boundaries and porous containers. What is ornament and what is ornamented are never fully distinguishable. Even seemingly nonverbal art objects are permeated by a discursive frame, pushing them beyond naïve recognition as self-sufficient artifacts.4 Around the same time, the editors of Theodor W. Adorno’s posthumously published Aesthetic Theory included some ninety pages—sixty-two in the English translation—of fragments and notes, which he had intended to integrate into his larger argument, under the heading “Paralipomena.”5 Defending their decision, they explained that the selections “were in part later additions and in part ‘extracts’: passages excised from the original text that Adorno intended to place elsewhere. The integration of these fragments into the main text proved to be impracticable. Only seldom did Adorno mark the exact place where he wanted, and almost always there were a number of possible places for their insertion.”6 Although not intended to be rounded-off aphorisms in the manner of Adorno’s celebrated collection Minima Moralia, they often produced the same effect, as nuggets of condensed rumination on particular themes that were related to, but not fully integrated into, his longer argument. Their relatively haphazard order also conformed to the often paratactic quality of Adorno’s prose, which deliberately eschewed the entailment and hierarchy of conventional argumentation. These are perhaps exorbitant considerations to bring to bear in the introduction of a modest collection of disparate essays, such as the one before you. But they help provide a candid explanation—perhaps even plausible justification—for its seemingly random and unthematized organization. That is, each of these essays was originally a supplement or a postscript to a larger project, which produced a conventional scholarly tome. Called into being by unforeseen invitations or a sense of lack in the finished work, they stand less alone than— to introduce another image—as moons or cosmic debris around planets, which



are in gravitational relation to other planets and other moons. The metaphor of a force field, which I have used elsewhere to characterize aspects of my approach to intellectual history, works here as well to describe their interactions, both proximate and distant.7 Rather than emerging from the essential center of a project, these are exercises on the perimeter, essays, that is, from the edge. The first three add to the many others over the years that have been offshoots of my first project on the Frankfurt School, begun when I was a graduate student at Harvard in the 1960s. “Taking on the Stigma of Inauthenticity: Adorno’s Critique of Genuineness” was prepared for the centenary of Theodor W. Adorno’s birth in 2003, which generated a remarkable international interest in his legacy. The invitation to focus on only one aphorism in Minima Moralia—a work that itself instantiates the antisystematic impulse of Schopenhauer’s Parerga and Paralipomena—came from Christoph Bartmann and Isak Winkel Holm, the organizers of one of the conferences, which took place in Copenhagen, convened to honor the anniversary.8 The second essay emerged at the intersection of my longstanding interest in Critical Theory and the project I began in the late 1990s on the concept of experience. My curiosity about that ambiguous term had been sparked in large measure by the extraordinary role it played in the work of Benjamin and Adorno, and a chapter of the book that ensued, Songs of Experience, was devoted to their idiosyncratic understanding of it. “Is Experience Still in Crisis? Reflections on a Frankfurt School Lament” was an early attempt to sort it all out.9 The third essay, a modest contribution to a special issue of the journal Parallax in 2003 entitled “Mourning the Revolution,” indirectly takes up themes that were prominent in the Frankfurt School’s history: the passing of the revolutionary moment in Western history, the role of mourning what had been lost, and the power of metaphoric language.10 “Mourning a Metaphor: The Revolution Is Over” continued the ruminations on radical practice in a postrevolutionary era begun in my earlier collection of essays, Fin-de-Siècle Socialism.11 Despite all the time-honored warnings against embracing reformist, evolutionary, piecemeal political change and calling it radical, I find it hard to avoid concluding that a politics that begins by intransigently wagering on totalizing revolution is likely to end in sullen impotence. A second cluster of essays was produced on the edges of a larger project completed in the early 1990s on the French denigration of ocularcentrism, Downcast Eyes.12 One of the unexpected benefits of writing it was my entrance into the burgeoning field of visual culture studies. When the Journal of Visual Culture was


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founded in 2002, I happily joined its board and contributed an essay, “Cultural Relativism and the Visual Turn,” to its third issue.13 Its target, ironically, is the hypertrophy of the culture concept underlying a naive notion of visual culture, in which there is a plurality of perspectives on a world external to the perceiver. Against a radical culturalism, the essay endorses a negative dialectic—Adorno will be seen lurking in the background—of culture and nature. The entry that follows returns to an earlier piece done when visual culture studies were in their infancy, an attempt to provide a tentative typology of “scopic regimes” in the modern era.14 Invited by Ian Heywood and Barry Sandywell to contribute to a new Handbook of Visual Culture, still forthcoming, I decided to revisit the original article, examine the literature on the theme that had proliferated in the interim, and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the scopic regime model, on both a macro- and a microlevel. In addition to these more general exercises on visual culture theory, I also responded to an invitation in 2002 by Dianne Harris and D. Fairchild Ruggles of the University of Illinois to participate in a conference entitled “Landscape and Vision” inaugurating a new program in landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.15 The result was an attempt to think about the relationship between visuality and violence in the unlikely setting of the garden, which is normally understood to be an oasis of benign tranquility. Written just after other essays on similar themes that went into a collection called Refractions of Violence,16 “No State of Grace: Violence in the Garden” explores the implications of Zygmunt Bauman’s sweeping claim that the “gardening impulse” was behind the domination of nature in modernity. A second invitation to a conference organized by Michele Cometa and Salvo Vaccaro at the University of Palermo in 2005 entitled “The Gaze of Foucault” led to another essay on a specific visual theme, which intersected with a more recent project on mendacity in politics.17 Responding to Gary Shapiro’s critique of my reading of Foucault in Downcast Eyes, the essay asked if the truth-telling parrhesiastes in ancient Greece celebrated by Foucault in one of his last works might serve as a model for a truth-showing painter who had faith in the possibility of a veridical visual order. “Visual Parrhesia? Foucault and the Truth of the Gaze” concludes that despite Foucault’s hope that the hegemonic panoptic regime of the modern society of surveillance might be challenged, he never put any faith in an alternative that would restore the clarity of an innocent, nondistorting, fully truthful eye. The next entry originally appeared in Robert Boyers’s journal Salmagundi, where I’ve written a twice-yearly column entitled “force fields” since 1987. It was



a response to the opening in November 2004 of the renovated Museum of Modern Art in New York, a much revered institution, which was, however, also sometimes reviled enough to be dubbed “the Kremlin of modernism” by one of its critics. Its long anticipated expansion and reconfiguration stimulated questions not only about how the narratives of modern art might be told, but also about the mission of museums at a time when they do far more than preserve and display canonical art objects.18 The next few essays are paralipomena to the project that led to the publication of Songs of Experience in 2004.19 Soon after the book appeared, it quickly became apparent that there were other melodies in different keys that might be sung besides the ones chosen for the book. Perhaps the most prominent noted by several reviewers could be identified with the tradition of phenomenology, which had been treated only in passing in my chapters on the Frankfurt School and poststructuralism. I thus welcomed an invitation by Hubert Dreyfus and Mark Wrathall to contribute an entry, “The Life World and Lived Experience,” to the Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism they were editing for Blackwell.20 Tracing the fortunes of the controversial idea of “lived experience” from Husserl to Heidegger, I sought to rescue it from the caricature to which it had been reduced by many of its detractors. The second essay dealing with experience was a response to an invitation by Nato Thompson to provide a catalogue entry to the show he curated at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2006, “Ahistoric Occasions: Artists Making History.”21 Reflecting on the work of a number of the artists in the show—among them Jeremy Deller, Yinka Shinobare, Felix Gmelin, Gretta Pratt, Trevor Paglen, Alison Smith, Dario Robleto, and Nebojsa Seric-Shoba—I sought to make sense of the ways in which contemporary artists incorporated historical themes in their work. What struck me most forcefully was their refusal to situate their encounters with the past in a smooth historicist continuum, in which events were placed in developmental contexts. Unlike traditional history paintings with their depiction of emblematic moments of heightened historical importance, these artists worked with the shards of a past that were unassimilable to grand narratives culminating in our own day. Instead, they provided new constellations between past and present in ways that illuminated both. On a more personal level, a roughly similar lesson emerged in the following essay, a Salmagundi column called “Still Waiting to Hear from Derrida,” which reflected on a letter he sent me after having read Downcast Eyes.22 Because the handwritten letter was difficult to decipher, I was left with a characteristic de-


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constructionist uncertainty about its meaning, in particular about his response to my specific treatment of his own work. Performatively resisting full communication, foregrounding the opaque materiality of the vehicle of signification, thwarting the goal of transparent visibility, the letter delayed closure in precisely the way Derrida’s writing had always sought to do. In this was it served as an unintended “gift” of at least partial unintelligibility, allowing me the opportunity to make up the lack in writing a response. Ironically, it was only following Derrida’s death and the publication of this column that his judgment was more clearly revealed to me in a footnote to his 2000 book, On Touching—Jean-Luc Nancy, which came to my attention only after it was translated into English.23 Derrida continued to occupy me in the subsequent essay, which was written during the preparation of my most recent book, The Virtues of Mendacity.24 My colleagues Suzanne Guerlac and Pheng Cheah had organized a conference at Berkeley after his death in 2004 that focused on Derrida’s contested political legacy. Although I was unable to participate directly, I accepted their invitation to contribute to the volume that came out of it, Derrida and the Time of the Political.25 The essay is a close reading of his response to Hannah Arendt’s important studies of political mendacity, which were at the center of my own efforts to make sense of its implications. “Pseudology: Derrida on Arendt and Lying in Politics” concludes that his attempt to provide a meaningful history of lying— his critique of Arendt was called “History of the Lie: Prolegomena”—was not entirely successful, although along the way he had a number of trenchant insights into the linguistic and moral complexities of mendacity. The next essay, first delivered at a conference at the Stanford Humanities Center in 2000, was published in a book edited by the Polish philosopher Marek Kwiek entitled The University, Globalization, Central Europe three years later.26 Taking on the then widely discussed effort by the eminent sociobiologist E. O. Wilson to urge a metadisciplinary “consilience” overcoming even the boundaries between natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, I defended a model of disciplines as dynamic force fields that defied reduction to a methodological common denominator not only on a metalevel but even within their permeable boundaries. “The Menace of Consilience: Keeping the Disciplines Unreconciled” argues for a metaphoric rather than conceptual relationality that avoids the extremes of incommensurable dissensus and extorted reconciliation. The essay that follows was composed for a Humboldt Colloquium at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, organized in 2006 by J. Laurence Hare Jr. and Johanna Micaela Jacobsen, “National Scholarship and Transnational Experience.”



Reluctant to trample local idiosyncracies in the name of a higher level homogenization, “Can There Be National Philosophies in a Transnational World?” explores the vexing question of the particularist limits of what so often purports to be the universal discourse of philosophy, limits produced by national traditions of training and canon formation, as well as the inevitable interference of linguistic mediation. The issue of linguistic mediation was also at the center of the next essay, which dealt with a challenge historians can never avoid, the issue of periodization. “1990: Straddling a Watershed?” resulted from an invitation by Irina Prokhorova, the editor of the Moscow journal New Literary Review, to contribute to a special issue on the year that the Soviet Union collapsed.27 Published subsequently in English as a Salmagundi column in 2008, the essay argues that despite the heuristic value of dividing history into discrete periods, there are no ontological constraints on the way periods might retroactively be construed. Thus 1990 might seem like the watershed in the Russian narrative of overcoming communism, but from the perspective of the still unfolding story of Islamic fundamentalism’s challenge to the West, it had a very different meaning. The earlier Soviet invasion of Afghanistan could be inserted into either narrative with no single, coherent period emerging as a result. The issue of universality versus particularity is raised as well in the following essay, “Allons enfants de l’humanité: The French and Human Rights.” Prepared for a conference at the Maison Française at Columbia University on French liberalism and its legacy organized by Samuel Moyn, it expands on the conclusions of an earlier consideration of the American reception of French theory.28 Despite my own intuitive respect for the tradition of human rights and distress over their violation, no easy solutions present themselves to the hard question of how to ground rights that are supposedly prior to specific political communities and able to supplement those denied their citizens. Nor is it any easier to adjudicate among all the contenders for the honored status of a “human right,” especially when some of them contradict or at least are in tension with others. Although the recent interest in French liberalism—more political than economic in tenor—has been fruitful, it has not, alas, successfully provided a coherent program for resolving these issues. Essays from the Edge concludes with two Salmagundi columns that extrapolate anecdotes from my individual intellectual peregrinations into more general reflections on the ways in which ideas are developed, received, and disseminated.29 The first, “Intellectual Family Values: William Phillips, Hannah Arendt,


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and the Partisan Review,” returns to a controversial critique I wrote in the 1970s of Arendt’s “political existentialism,” which made clear the ways in which “the New York intellectuals” could mix personal with substantive considerations. It focuses on the role played by Phillips, the longtime editor of Partisan Review, as a major arbiter in the cultural field of his day, a role that is no longer so easily played in the less centralized and personalized intellectual world of the twentyfirst century. The final essay, occasioned by the fiftieth anniversary of a deeply flawed book that had much influenced me in my impressionable youth, muses on the role of autodidacts in challenging the conventional wisdom of the academy and the function of “bad books” in producing valuable consequences. “Still Sleeping Rough: Colin Wilson’s The Outsider at Fifty” also explains some of the prehistory of my first professional interest, which was in the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory. And as such, it returns us to the much later essays included at the beginning of this collection. Even prescripts, it turns out, can have paralipomenal meaning. The inside of one edge is the outside of another.

Taking on the Stigma of Inauthenticity Adorno’s Critique of Genuineness To know inauthenticity is not the same as to be authentic. —paul de man, blindness and insight: essays in the rhetoric of contemporary criticism

“The search for authenticity, nearly everywhere we find it in modern times,” writes Marshall Berman in his book on Rousseau, The Politics of Authenticity, “is bound up with a radical rejection of things as they are . . . the desire for authenticity has emerged in modern society as one of the most politically explosive of human impulses.”1 Even those with less radical agendas, like Sigmund Freud, have been seen as sharing the same desire. According to Lionel Trilling in his classic study Sincerity and Authenticity, Freud’s insistence on the tragic dimension of the human condition “had the intention of sustaining the authenticity of human existence that formerly had been ratified by God.”2 Nietzsche, Trilling added, dreaded “the inauthenticity of experience, which he foresaw would be the consequence of the death of God.”3 These testimonials to the power of authenticity as the reigning value of a society bereft of divine sanction and dissatisfied with the false comforts of modern life can be seen as symptomatic documents of the 1960s and early 1970s, at least in the American context. They can, in fact, be seen to represent the culmination of the powerful impact on American culture of Sartrean existentialism, which functioned to reinforce native inclinations, stemming from certain strains in evangelical Protestantism and the frontier experience, toward relying on individual responsibility in the face of conformist pressures from the outside.4 At a time when moral relativism appeared hard to overcome, authenticity also seemed to lend at least a measure of value to whatever beliefs were held with special intensity and fervor. Indeed, if recent books like Alexander Nehamas’s Virtues of Authenticity and Geoffrey Hartman’s Scars of the Spirit: The Struggle Against Inauthenticity are any indication, the positive glow surrounding the word “authenticity” remains strong into our own century.5


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And yet at virtually the same time as Americans like Berman and Trilling were identifying authenticity as the highest value of their age, Theodor W. Adorno was writing an uncompromising attack on what he dubbed “the jargon of authenticity” as the latest version of “the German Ideology.”6 This text of 1964, one of the most excoriating polemics he ever wrote, was directed largely against Heidegger, Jaspers, Buber, and other German existentialists, with an occasional nod to Sartre and a recognition that the roots of the jargon lay in the Weimar Republic rather than the postwar era. It is particularly noteworthy that Adorno, who took so much from Freud and Nietzsche and was no less adamant than Berman’s version of Rousseau in radically rejecting “things as they are,” nonetheless reckoned authenticity on the side of the conformists rather than the rebels, and identified it as a particularly German rather than American ideology. What is perhaps even more striking is his having anticipated the argument of The Jargon of Authenticity while he was still in his American exile, in one of the most trenchant aphorisms of Minima Moralia, written in 1945, called “Gold Assay.”7 In what follows I want to focus on the implications of this aphorism and argue that it was the indispensable link between Adorno’s later attack on German existentialism and an earlier essay by his great friend, Walter Benjamin, his celebrated “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,”8 which even more than the critique of Kierkegaard in Adorno’s 1933 Habilitationsschrift provides the key arguments for his attack on authenticity.9 First, several etymological observations are in order (even as we acknowledge Adorno’s own skepticism about placing too much faith in the origins of words). Authenticity (Authentizität in German) is derived from the Greek autos or “self ” and hentes or “prepared,” and implies something done by one’s own hand and thus providing a reliable guarantee of quality. In German, the more common word is Eigentlichkeit, whose root is in eigen, which is the perfect participle of a verb, defunct in modern usage, for having or possessing. As a result, it suggests proprietary ownership, including of the self. A third term, Echtheit, comes from a niederdeutsch term echact, which means following the law, an origin that alerts us to the link between echt and recht. Interestingly, the normal English equivalent, genuineness, has a very different sedimented meaning, coming as it does from the Latin genuinus, which means native or inborn. Although there is considerable overlap between all these terms, it has been argued by one of the most important theorists of the term that there is a genuine and false authenticity and a genuine and false inauthenticity. That theorist was Martin Heidegger,

taking on the stigma of inauthentici ty

   1 1

who was of course Adorno’s most direct target in his critique of the jargon of authenticity.10 What I hope to show is that Adorno himself relied on a similar distinction, albeit with very different criteria of judgment. Now let me turn to the importance of Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” As has often been noted, Adorno quarreled with a number of Benjamin’s arguments, especially his premature dismissal of the value of the autonomy of the artwork and his blunt advocacy of the politicization of art.11 As late as his posthumously published Aesthetic Theory, Adorno would charge that the essay betrayed Benjamin’s “identification with the aggressor” because it tried to reintegrate art and practical life.12 But in one crucial respect, Adorno seems to have learned a powerful lesson from his friend’s work, a lesson about the impossibility of reversing the decline of what Benjamin had called “aura” and whose alleged recovery was at the heart of ideological efforts to achieve authenticity in the present fallen world. The issue of authenticity is addressed in Benjamin’s essay fundamentally in aesthetic terms, which foreground the crucial distinction between the auratic original work and its reproduction. “The presence of the original,” he writes, “is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity. . . . The whole sphere of authenticity is outside technical—and of course, not only technical—reproducibility.”13 The context that gives the original artwork its special power is, however, ultimately religious: “the unique value of the ‘authentic’ work of art has its basis in ritual, the location of its original use value.”14 Although the cult origins of aesthetic authenticity have been effaced, their residue remains potent in the modern worship of aesthetic beauty, for “with the secularization of art, authenticity displaces the cult value of the work.”15 Whereas auratic natural objects have no comparable authenticity, art objects have an essence, which “is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.”16 Or rather they did so until the introduction of techniques of mass reproduction, such as the lithograph, photograph, and cinema, which undermine the uniqueness of the original and disrupt the smooth continuity of tradition. The result of this change, Benjamin asserted, was monumental: “the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice—politics.”17 Benjamin’s analysis of this epochal shift is, by now, widely known, but one dimension of it needs foregrounding and examination. In an important footnote, he argues that “at the time of its origin a medieval picture of the Madonna


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could not yet be said to be ‘authentic.’ It became ‘authentic’ only during the succeeding centuries and perhaps most strikingly so during the last one.”18 Valuing authenticity is itself, Benjamin claimed, a function of reproduction, not a quality of what precedes it. Thus, as Eva Geulen has pointed out, “authenticity is a belated effect. In the beginning was not the original, but rather the reproduction, which makes the concept of authenticity possible in the first place. Authenticity becomes ‘authentic’ only against the background of reproducibility. That means, however, that authenticity is compromised from the beginning, inauthentic from the start, for its origin lies not in itself, but rather in its opposite, reproduction.”19 Adorno was skeptical about many aspects of Benjamin’s argument—its wholesale disdain for the autonomous art object, its misplaced optimism about the political effects of the end of the aura, and its overemphasis on the critical implications of technology alone—but he seems to have been deeply impressed by this critique of the compromised nature of claims to authenticity.20 By the time he composed aphorism 99 in Minima Moralia, Benjamin’s suspicions of the claims of aesthetic authenticity were enlarged to encompass more general claims about authentic human behavior as a whole. The aphorism is entitled “Gold Assay” (“Goldprobe”), which invokes the practice of distinguishing rare from base metals, genuine gold from the fool’s alternative. Like believers in the intrinsic value of gold, devotees of authenticity think they can isolate a standard of value before the onset of the exchange principle, which reduces everything to a fungible counter in a circulation without end. But despite his own fundamental hostility to the triumph of exchange, which was the economic equivalent of identity thinking, Adorno is at pains in Minima Moralia to distance himself as well from the order of valuation implied by the ontological search for an immutable standard like gold.21 He begins the aphorism by noting that the collapse of substantive religious and ethical standards has created a vacuum that has been filled by the idea of genuineness, the imperative that everyone should be entirely what he or she really is. Not only is it evident in late bourgeois thinkers, such as Ibsen, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, but it also has found a home among the adepts of fascist philosophy, who have taken on the pathos of religious authority without any real content. Their talk of heroic “being-in-the-world” and testing oneself in dangerous “frontiersituations” masks the absence of any values beyond sheer factual existence. But rather than seeing their appeal as a corruption of a more benign notion of authenticity, Adorno perceives its flaw operating at a deeper level, that of the self whose authenticity is supposedly endangered in the modern world.

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“The untruth is located,” he writes, “in the substratum of genuineness [Echtheit] itself, the individual. If it is in the principium individuationis, as the antipodes Hegel and Schopenhauer both recognized, that the secret of the world’s course is concealed, then the conception of an ultimate and absolute substantiality of the self falls victim to an illusion that protects the established order even while its essence decays.”22 The illusion is not that the integrated individual once existed and has been destroyed or maimed in the present, nor that individuals are to be understood as eternal existential realities underlying the depredations of a world that only appears to undermine them. True self-reflection instead will show that the seemingly sovereign and self-contained individual was always a secondary effect of impulses that are more primary, which Adorno categorizes as “imitation, play, wanting to be different.”23 Here, although he doesn’t make it clear, Adorno was drawing on another of Benjamin’s seminal ideas, the importance of the mimetic faculty as a source of resistance to identity thinking and the preponderance of the subject over the object.24 Creative mimicry, the passive receptivity that avoided domination of otherness, led to a benign playfulness that could make of repetition a virtue rather than a vice.25 The search for a pure subject prior to mimetic behavior, Adorno warned, leads to a false infinity of desire for a reality that is as elusive as the Kantian thing-in-itself. Schopenhauer was among the first to realize the impossibility of this quest when he posited the necessity of an external object as the basis for the alleged interiority of the subject, which was “nothing but an insubstantial ghost.”26 Believing otherwise, Adorno continued, was itself a function of a particular social order in which sovereign individuals were given ideological solidity. “What presents itself as an original entity, a monad, is only the result of a social division of the social process. Precisely as an absolute, the individual is a mere reflection of property relations. In him the fictitious claim is made that what is biologically one must logically precede the social whole, from which it is only isolated by force, and its contingency is held up as a standard of truth.”27 Because the self is always imbricated in the social, any attempt, like Kierkegaard’s, to retreat into naked existential interiority is complicitous with the isolation caused by society, not a protest against it. Nietzsche, despite all his insights into the workings of ideology, ultimately failed to see through the fallacy of authenticity, which betrayed his Lutheran roots and even smacked of the very anti-Semitism he decried in Wagner. In contrast, Adorno insisted, “anything that does not wish to wither should rather take on itself the stigma of the inauthentic. For it lives on the mimetic heritage. The human is indissolubly linked with imitation: a human being becomes a human being at all by imitating other

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human beings.”28 If there is a religious dimension of this alternative to authenticity, it comes not through speaking of the self as an absolute ontological ground but rather as a second-order reality understood to have been made in the likeness of that supreme other called God. Those who celebrate genuineness, Adorno continued, also often do so for social reasons, to legitimate their priority before those who allegedly are latecomers. The precarious experience of the exile can be heard in his warning that “all ruling strata claim to be the oldest settlers, autochthonous. The whole philosophy of inwardness, with its professed contempt for the world, is the last sublimation of the brutal, barbaric lore whereby he who was here first has the greatest rights.”29 Not only is the philosophy of authentic inwardness falsely premised on some alleged founding claim in the immemorial past, but it is also a function of the very society in the present it pretends to question. “The discovery of genuineness as a last bulwark of individualistic ethics is a reflection of mass-production. Only when countless standardized commodities project, for the sake of profit, the illusion of being unique, does the idea take shape, as their antithesis yet in keeping with the same criteria, that the non-reproducible is the truly genuine.”30 Then, directly echoing Benjamin’s observation in the footnote to “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” cited earlier, but moving it from the register of the visual to the aural arts, Adorno added, “previously, the question of authenticity was doubtless as little asked of intellectual products as that of originality, a concept unknown in Bach’s era.”31 The fetish of the original, of the authentic, of the incommensurable is captured in the comparable fetish of gold as an alternative to mere exchange. The aphorism ends with Adorno protesting that any attempt to find such a foundation beyond social relations merely serves those relations that predominate in capitalism. “The ungenuineness of the genuine stems from its need to claim, in a society dominated by exchange, to be what it stands for yet is never able to be. The apostles of genuineness, in the service of the power that now masters circulation, dignify the demise of the latter with the dance of the money veils.”32 Gold as an absolute standard of value is thus no antidote to the empty circulation of exchange, but rather its fetishistic complement. Authenticity as an antidote to the apparent inauthenticity of the administered world is no less complicitous in what it strives to resist. Despite the defeat of fascism, Adorno came to believe that the same constellation of ideological forces was at work in the postwar world. In his 1948 study, Philosophy of Modern Music, he began his attack in “Stravinsky and Restoration”

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with a section called “Authenticity” (“Eigentlichkeit”). Linking it with the composer’s denial of the subjective pole in music and his apotheosis of sacrifice, he argued that “the relationship to concurrent philosophical phenomenology is unmistakable. The renunciation of all psychologism—the reduction to the pure phenomenon, as the process reveals itself—opens up a realm of ‘authentic’ being which is beyond all doubt. In both cases, distrust of the unoriginal (at its utmost depth the suspicion of the contradiction between actual society and its ideology) results in the misleading hypostatization of the ‘remains,’ or what is left over after the removal of that which has allegedly been superimposed as truth.”33 In his 1956 introduction to his metacritique of Husserl’s phenomenology, Against Epistemology, he would continue the attack by writing that “phenomenology speaks the jargon of authenticity which meanwhile ruined the whole of cultivated German language and turned it into sacred gibberish. It struck a theological note devoid of theological content or any other content except self-idolization. It feigns the incarnate presence of the first which is neither incarnate nor present. Its authority resembles that of the bureaucratic world which rests on nothing except the fact of bureaucracy itself.”34 The phrase “jargon of authenticity” then served as the title of a longer treatment of the problem originally intended for Negative Dialectics, but which became its own book because Adorno thought the danger was sufficiently great to warrant a separate treatment. It begins with Adorno tracing the current jargon to the work of a group of unidentified religious revivalists in the 1920s, “anti-intellectual intellectuals,”35 whose rediscovery of Kierkegaard had led them to seek concrete religious experience instead of abstract idealist theology. He mentions a friend who was not invited to participate in their company—perhaps Siegfried Kracauer—because his hesitation before Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” had suggested he was “not authentic enough.”36 This group, which anticipated Heidegger’s appropriation of the term in Being and Time, was sarcastically dubbed “The Authentic Ones” by those who shared those hesitations. For Adorno, writing in the 1960s, their heirs included Karl Jaspers, Otto Friedrich Bollnow, and Ulrich Sonnemann. Once again, Benjamin’s “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” provided Adorno a way to situate the cult. “The fact that the words of the jargon sound as if they said something higher than what they mean suggests the term ‘aura.’ It is hardly an accident,” Adorno argued, “that Benjamin introduced the term at the same moment when, according to his own theory, what he understood by ‘aura’ became impossible to experience. As words that are sacred without sacred content, as frozen emanations, the terms of the jargon of authenticity


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are products of the disintegration of the aura.”37 Although now conceding that Nietzsche may have still used the word “genuineness” in a nonideological way, Adorno contended that “in the jargon, however, it stands out in the unending mumble of the liturgy of inwardness.”38 In this liturgy lurks the ideology of subjective “mineness,” “the decision in which the individual subject chooses itself as its own possession. The subject, the concept of which was once created in contrast to reification, thus becomes reified.”39 Here, significantly, Adorno seized on the root meaning of Eigentlichkeit rather than Echtheit, and as far as I can tell, never thematized the legal implications of genuineness. In any event, he argued that the choice of “mineness” failed to register the obstacles to self-possession produced by the social and political order, an order that is far more intrusive than the jargon assumes. Adorno’s target, it should be stressed, was as much the linguistic abuse of the terms “authenticity” and “genuineness” as what they purported to denote. “Language,” he complained, “uses the term ‘authentic’ in a floating manner,”40 which can give too much power to the subject doing the designating. By so doing, it undermines what he would call in Negative Dialectics “the object’s preponderance,”41 which is forgotten by those who embrace an undialectical nominalism. But no less problematic is the opposite mistake, which was made by the phenomenologists: seeking contact with the essential object beneath subjective mediations. “Heidegger would like to escape Husserl’s dualism, as well as the whole dispute of nominalism. He remains a tributary of Husserl’s, however, in the short-circuited conclusion that imputes the authentic immediacy to things, and thus turns the authentic into a special domain.”42 As a result, Heidegger supports the valorization of identity over nonidentity, the totality over the particular, and death over life, which are the sinister earmarks of fascist thought. To sum up, then, Adorno’s multifarious charges against authenticity and the jargon that has surrounded it are as follow: it provides a hollow substitute for lost religious belief in ultimate values; it is based on a mistaken search for proprietary origins that establish rights of the earliest settlers; it rests on a dubious ideal of self-possession and integrity that fails to credit the mimetic moment in the creation of selfhood; it entails an ontological fiction of absoluteness that falsely sees itself as the antidote to the leveling equivalence of the exchange principle; it serves as an anti-intellectual evocation of concreteness and immediacy against the alleged depredations of abstract, intellectual thought; it can be understood as a variant of the cultish notion of aura, which in fact is only itself a function of the reproductive technologies that it pretends to antedate; and

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finally, it paradoxically gives too much power to the subject able to designate something as authentic and to the object after that designation has been made. All attempts to derive authentic meaning from etymological priority thus share with foundational philosophy a vain search for an Urgeschichte, which is little more than a nostalgic fantasy of primal wholeness before the Fall. With all of these faults, it may well seem that no viable concept of authenticity can ever be salvaged, that therefore the distinction between genuine and false authenticity made by Heidegger is not one Adorno could have embraced. As we know, however, Adorno’s negative dialectics rarely rested content with a simple denunciation of a position from the vantage point of its binary opposite, which leads us to pose the following questions: Were there other usages of “genuineness” and “authenticity” that escape the gravitational pull of the current jargon? Did Adorno himself provide a less toxic use of the terms in his own writing? Were the analysis in “Gold Assay” and the comparable remarks in his other writings cited above not the last word on these numinous words? In the remainder of this essay, I want to explore a subordinate current in his work which did, in fact, gingerly give a positive answer to these questions, thus revealing a more benign usage of the term in his vocabulary. The first thing to register is that, all the reasons listed above notwithstanding, Adorno did feel comfortable using authenticity as an honorific term at various times in his work, although, as Robert Hullot-Kentor has noted, almost always in the form of Authentizität rather than Eigentlichkeit.43 Thus, for example, in the same essay “Bach Defended against His Devotees,” in Prisms, where he criticized contemporary interpretations of Bach for assimilating his music to the philosophical search for a timeless “Order of Being,” he could also contend that “authentic works unfold their truth-content, which transcends the scope of individual consciousness, in a temporal dimension through the law of their form.”44 The implication here is that artworks that register the passing of time, the inability to return to something allegedly primal and originary, can earn the positive epithet of “authentic.” Thus, Adorno explicitly did not use the term in connection with the historical recovery of early instruments or original performance techniques, as was the case with the movement to restore music to its allegedly primal beginnings.45 The temporality of authenticity in the critical sense, that is, as transience, moreover, involved not merely an acknowledgment of the contradictory state of the present world but also an anticipation of something better that might replace it. This is a vital dimension of what Adorno insisted was a work’s truth-


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content. The temporality that was necessary to truth-content was therefore explicitly historical, not natural. In fact, as early as his 1930 essay “Reaction and Progress,” Adorno would claim that “whatever nature may have been at the start, it is only from history that it receives the seal of genuineness [Echtheit]. History enters into the constellation of truth: through the dead stare of their speechless eternity the stars will strike down with confusion anyone who tries to partake of truth outside of history.”46 Accordingly, only those composers who express, albeit indirectly and in mediated form, the historical realities of their day can be said to have produced authentic art. In his own age, art might earn the accolade of true authenticity if it resisted providing instances of its false alternative, which fed the jargon he so disliked. As he put it in an essay in Eingriffe called “Every Twenty Years,” culture after Auschwitz can only avoid inauthenticity if it registers the impossibility of culture as a meaningful whole: “the authentic artists of the present are those in whose works there shudders the aftershock of the most extreme terror.”47 In Aesthetic Theory, he made a similar point: “Scars of damage and disruption are the modern’s seal of authenticity [Echtheitssiegel]; by their means, art desperately negates the closed confines of the ever-same; explosion is one of its invariants.”48 Adorno was thus, despite all of his hostility to the ideological search for an existential “gold standard,” able to mobilize the rhetoric of authenticity for his own purposes. In fact, because Adorno reintroduced a notion of aesthetic authenticity in these ways, it has been possible for some of his critics to chide him for falling below the standard set by The Jargon of Authenticity. Thus, for example, Douglas Kellner has charged that Adorno’s aesthetics are undialectical because “he operates with a binary contrast between ‘authentic’ art and mass culture in which the latter is primarily debased and emancipatory effects are limited to the former. This stance reproduces the German religion of high art and its inevitable elitism, and completely excludes the ‘popular’ from the domain of ‘the authentic, thus, regressing behind the critiques of Brecht and Benjamin— and Adorno’s own critique of ‘the authentic’ in The Jargon of Authenticity.”49 The irony of this critique from the populist left, which is grounded in a simplistic reversal of the binary opposition it attributes to Adorno, is that it was precisely the Benjamin of “The Work of Art in the Era of Mechanical Reproduction” who inspired the attack on genuineness we have seen in Minima Moralia and after. And that attack, as we have noted, was indebted to an appreciation of the ways in which the mimetic quality of mechanically reproduced art undermined claims to auratic originality. That is, Adorno’s praise for authenticity

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in art understood in a nonideological sense is based precisely on his critique of its problematic use, which could just as easily be evident in mass culture as in high culture. Thus, in Aesthetic Theory, Adorno was at pains to uncouple the aura from what he thought of as the critically authentic art of his day: “Compared with authentic art, degraded, dishonored, and administered art is by no means without aura: the opposition between those antagonistic spheres must always be conceived as the mediation of the one through the other. In the contemporary situation, those works honor the auratic element that abstain from it; its destructive conservation—its mobilization for the production of effects in the interest of creating mood—has its locus in amusement. . . . Aura is gulped down along with sensual stimuli; it is the uniform sauce that the culture industry pours over the whole of its manufacture.”50 In other words, mass culture is itself the site of a resurrected auratic effect, which parallels the cult of immediacy and genuineness evident in the philosophical jargon of authenticity. A defensible—that is, critical—version of authenticity resists such phony auratic effects with their comforting illusions of wholeness and integrity and registers instead both the shudder of alienation in the modern world and the utopian moment of mimetic relationality that Benjamin had praised in modern technologies of reproduction as well as in ancient practices such as astrology and graphology. If one goes back to aphorism 99 of Minima Moralia, there is in fact a subtle adumbration of this position. “Indeed,” Adorno writes, “not only inauthenticity that poses as veridical ought to be convicted of lying; authenticity itself becomes a lie the moment it becomes authentic, that is, in reflecting on itself, in postulating itself as genuine, in which it already oversteps the identity that it lays claim to in the same breath.”51 What I take Adorno to be saying in this compacted sentence is that the claim that something should be seen as authentic is itself a theoretical overlay, a reified conceptual subsumption, which distances specific cases of the allegedly authentic from their own particularity. Instead of maintaining their nonidentical uniqueness, outside of and resistant to the exchange principle, they become mere instances of the very category of authenticity, subsumed under a general term, rather than irreducible to it. As a result, they are simply victims of another mode of commensuration, which only thinks it challenges what it dislikes in economic fungibility. Such an outcome happens in high as well as mass culture, when the aura is introduced as a way to distinguish the uniqueness of a work from the generic standard, just as the genuine individual is set apart from the herd, from Heidegger’s das Man (the One or the They). In all these cases, the imposition of the category of auratic authenticity undermines


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the nonauratic alternative that Adorno sees in certain works of art in the modern era. If we had to summarize the results of tracing the adventures of the concept of authenticity in Adorno’s work, they would be as follows. The ideological notion of authenticity, that attacked in aphorism 99 of Minima Moralia and The Jargon of Authenticity, is based on a dangerous search for ultimate origins as legitimating fictions, a mistaken reification of the individual as a self-possessed monad, and the transfer of cultish notions of aura from the sphere of religion to art, philosophy, and everyday human existence. It evokes the myth of autochthonous rootedness to denigrate the wanderers who are condemned to permanent exile. Against this usage are two different, more defensible notions that are variants of nonauratic authenticity. One involves the registering of the historical disasters of modern life, the “scars of damage and disruption” that produce a shudder that is the emblem of the work’s truth-content. Here authenticity means fidelity to the historical moment with all its traumatic contradictions rather than retreating to an allegedly prior state of plenitudinous wholeness before the fall into alienation. However much he may have insisted on the value of aesthetic autonomy against the reduction of art to a function of something exterior to it, Adorno never failed to praise works that indirectly expressed the depredations of modern life. Indeed, it was only the works that resist the gravitational pull of the current order and yet do not pretend to have transcended it entirely—works that, as Max Paddison has pointed out,52 are “failures” and know themselves as such—that can gain the breathing space to express its horrors. The second defensible use harks back to Benjamin’s celebration of the mimetic faculty, which is evident in the technologically reproduced mass culture that Adorno so often distrusted. Here authenticity paradoxically means accepting and even valorizing the necessary inauthenticity of the self, which is always dependent on the other, always in relation to the outside, always insufficiently integrated into a coherent and boundaried unit. To repeat the key sentences of aphorism 99: “Anything that does not wish to wither should rather take on itself the stigma of the inauthentic. For it lives on in the mimetic heritage.” Here the derived is privileged over the putative original, an original that, as the footnote from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” cited above shows, is itself an effect of the very reproduction it pretends to precede, a phantasmatic compensation for what is assumed to be lost. This version of mimetic relationality is not, however, a capitulation to the exchange principle, for it

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knows that imitation is not perfectly equivalent, that mirroring is not simple duplication of the same. It provides an alternative both to the absolute commensurability of exchange and to the absolute singularity of the jargon of authenticity. One final example will make this alternative clearer, and it ensues from the performative practice of Adorno himself. That is, if we register the extent to which Adorno’s critique of genuineness in Minima Moralia and elsewhere was itself deeply indebted to Benjamin’s defense of mechanical reproduction against the aura and his notion of the mimetic faculty, it quickly becomes apparent that many of his “own” ideas betray precisely the kind of inauthenticity that he defended against the jargon.53 Or if one wants to rely on his critical use of the term, it shows the nonauratic authenticity of the intellectual who knows himself not to be in full possession of his own ideas. Paradoxically, in his very lack of originality, his reworking without entirely duplicating many of his friend’s most arresting ideas, Adorno took upon himself the stigma he urged us all to overcome. However much we may have sought to honor him in 2003, his centenary year, it is, pace Detlev Claussen, as inauthentic follower rather than self-starting genius,54 as creative mimic rather than wholly original thinker, as nonauratic epigone rather than charismatic law-giver, that Adorno ironically deserves our deepest respect.55

Is Experience Still in Crisis? Reflections on a Frankfurt School Lament

Let me begin with two quotations: (1) “The identity of experience in the form of a life that is articulated and possesses internal continuity—and that life was the only thing that made the narrator’s stance possible—has disintegrated. One need only note how impossible it would be for someone who participated in the war to tell stories about it the way people used to tell stories about their adventures.”1 (2) The war is “as totally divorced from experience as is the functioning of a machine from the movement of the body, which only begins to resemble it in pathological states. . . . Life has changed into a timeless succession of shocks, interspersed with empty, paralyzed intervals. . . . The total obliteration of the war by information, propaganda commentaries, with cameramen in the first tanks and war reporters dying heroic deaths, the mishmash of enlightened manipulation of public opinion and oblivious activity: all this is another expression for the withering of experience, the vacuum between men and their fate, in which their real fate lies.”2 For those conversant with the history of Critical Theory, the lament expressed in these two citations will immediately sound familiar. If asked to identify their source, they would be likely to point to Walter Benjamin’s celebrated essay of 1936, “The Storyteller,” in which the World War I is blamed for starting a process that has impoverished something called experience (Erfahrung, not, for reasons to be discussed shortly, Erlebnis). It is here, after all, that one finds the now familiar lines: “for never has experience been contracted more thoroughly than strategic experience by tactical warfare, economic experience by inflation, bodily experience by mechanical warfare, moral experience by those in power.”3 Such an attribution would be logical, but in fact, the first citation is from an es-

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say written in 1954 by Adorno entitled “The Position of the Narrator in the Contemporary Novel” and reprinted in Notes to Literature; the second comes from the aphorism “Out of the Firing Line,” written in 1944 and published in Minima Moralia in 1951. The war in question is thus not World War I but World War II; the argument, however, is exactly the same. What Adorno has done is simply recycle Benjamin’s claim that narrative continuity and with it a certain notion of experience have been shattered by the traumatic shocks and general unintelligibility of modern warfare. I draw attention to this recycling not to undermine any claim to Adorno’s originality, an issue of no great significance, but rather to pose the question, when exactly did something call experience come into crisis? Was it an actual historical event or process, caused by a trauma like global warfare, or is something more ontological at issue? Is there, moreover, a coherent and unified notion of experience assumed by the lament, or does the word function in different ways in different contexts? And if different acceptations are to be discerned, can we say that all of them have withered to the same degree or even withered at all at the present time? The assumption that something historical has indeed happened to undercut the possibility of experience would seem to inform many of the Frankfurt School’s formulations of the problem. It is in the work of Adorno that they most frequently appear.4 Thus, for example, in Aesthetic Theory he would write, “The marrow of experience has been sucked out; there is none, not even that apparently set at a remove from commerce, that has not been gnawed away.”5 Likewise, in his 1960 essay “Presuppositions,” he would claim that in the modernist writing of Joyce and Proust one can see “the dying out of experience, something that ultimately goes back to the atemporal technified process of the production of material goods.”6 Attempts to revive a robust variety of experience in the present, Adorno would also argue, are doomed to failure, especially when they seek to recover an alleged ur-experience that is somehow deeper than the meditations of culture and society. In The Jargon of Authenticity, he would mock efforts by latter-day adepts of Lebensphilosophie to reenchant the world: The contrast between primal experiences and cultural experiences, which [Friedrich] Gundolf invented ad hoc, for [Stefan] George, was ideology in the midst of superstructure, devised for the purpose of obscuring the contrast between infrastructure and ideology. . . . [Ernst] Bloch rightfully made fun of Gundolf for his belief in today’s primal experiences. These primal experi-


essays from the edge ences were a warmed-over piece of expressionism. They were later made into a permanent institution by Heidegger. . . . In the universally mediated world everything experienced in primary terms is culturally preformed.7

Here experience is understood more in terms of Erlebnis rather than Erfahrung, as prereflective immediacy without narrative continuity over time, but the point is the same: it is no longer available to us. As Adorno wrote in an essay of 1967 on the poetry of Rudolf Borchardt, “the poetic subject that did not want to give itself over to something alien to it had become the victim of what was most alien of all, the conventions of the long exhausted Erlebnislyrik [poetry of experience]. . . . The ideology of primal experience that Gundolf promulgated on George’s behalf is refuted by Borchardt’s poetic practice.”8 There is, in short, an implied sense of loss of something that once existed and has been seriously damaged, if not entirely destroyed, in the present. Variously attributed to the traumas of world war, modern technologies of information, and the “atemporal, technified process of the production of material goods,” which seems another way to say capitalist industrialization, the decay of something called experience is for Adorno an index of the general crisis of modern life. How far back the roots of the crisis may go is revealed if we turn briefly to the even more frequent bemoaning of the decay of experience in Benjamin, who provided, as we have seen, an inspiration for many of Adorno’s own ruminations on this theme. There is an enormous literature on the question of experience in Benjamin, which has culminated, at least for the moment, in Howard Caygill’s just published Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience.9 Drawing on the hitherto ignored fragments of Benjamin’s earliest writings on perception, visuality, and color, Caygill has constructed a carefully nuanced account of his lifelong preoccupation with the possibility of reviving a lost experience. Prior to the articulation of that project in linguistic terms, in such essays as “On Language as Such and the Language of Man” of 1916 and “On the Program of the Coming Philosophy” of 1918, Benjamin, he shows, experimented with expressing it in visual terms.10 Reaching back behind Kant’s restriction of experience to merely what is filtered through the synthetic a priori function of the understanding, the young Benjamin sought a frankly metaphysical alternative in the more immediate perception of prereflective intuition. According to Caygill, “Benjamin’s speculative recasting of Kant’s transcendental account of experience involves the introduction of the absolute or infinite into the structure or forms of intuition—space and time—and the linguistic categories (logoi)

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of the understanding. Benjamin sought to avoid both Kant’s scission of experience and the absolute and what he regarded as Hegel’s ‘mysticism of brute force’ which for him reduced the absolute by expressing it in terms of the categories of finite experience.”11 Color as opposed to form was particularly important in this quest because of its infinite divisibility, which eludes the categorizing reifications of a merely epistemological relation to the world, based on the rigid distinction of subject and object. In a fragment written in 1914–15 entitled “A Child’s View of Color,” Benjamin contended that “color is something spiritual, something whose clarity is spiritual, so that when colors are mixed they produced nuances of color, not a blur. The rainbow is a pure childlike image.”12 Benjamin’s subsequent valorization of romantic aesthetic criticism, in particular the work of Schlegel and Novalis, is foreshadowed here in his celebration of childlike vision and the spiritual presence of infinity in color. When in his later work he turned toward modern, urban experience, largely characterized in negative terms as a fallen realm of shocklike, discontinuous Erlebnisse, he still sought traces or prefigurations of the redeemed Erfahrung that he had glimpsed in his earliest ruminations on visual intuition. Never abandoning his quest for what Caygill rightly calls “a non-Hegelian account of speculative experience,”13 Benjamin believed that the absolute could somehow be revealed through an immanent critique of even the most mundane of phenomena. Thus, he avoided the paralysis of nostalgia based on a simple inversion of the model of unidirectional progress he so tellingly criticized. How successful Benjamin’s quest actually was, of course, is a matter of some dispute, as many of Benjamin’s redemptive readings, like his political commitments, seem more like wishful thinking than anything else. So too the precise chronology of the fall from grace with which he tacitly worked is not fully coherent. At times, it seems as if Benjamin was making a typical Romantic argument about the loss of childhood innocence that would have done Wordsworth proud, an argument that is inherently ahistorical. At other times he seemed to be saying that the fall came when the world of mimetic similarities, in which nature was a legible text, was supplanted by a dead world of deanimated objects to be scrutinized by the scientific gaze and given philosophical justification by Kant’s desiccated epistemology. Here his celebrated argument about the Baroque as a period of mourning for the lost wholeness represented in Greek tragedy, a period of allegorical rather than symbolic representation, suggests that the absolute had already been driven out of experience and the infinite abjected from the finite


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by the seventeenth century. The technological transformations of more recent years, leading to the loss of the ritual, cultic aura around earlier art, thus merely continued and intensified a change that had begun much earlier. The unevenness of the process is shown, however, by his claim in “The Storyteller” essay that Nikolai Leskov, who was a writer of the nineteenth century, was still able to convey genuine Erfahrungen in his tales in a fashion no longer available in the modern novel. Perhaps Russia was still the site of a ritualized, communal life allowing the narrative transmission from one generation to the next that was one expression of genuine Erfahrung. If so, Benjamin would have not been alone in finding an exception to the rule in Russian literature, another obvious example being the Dostoevsky extolled by Lukács in his Theory of the Novel. Be that as it may, Benjamin bequeathed to Adorno a strong belief in the importance of experience, once freed from its empiricist and Kantian limitations, as a locus of possible redemption, a place in which something called “the absolute” might make an appearance. His exaltation of color even found an occasional echo, as in the remark in Negative Dialectics that “the resistance to the fungible world of barter is the resistance of the eye that does not want the colors of the world to fade.”14 Benjamin also gave Adorno, as we have seen, an unexamined assumption that at some indeterminate time in the past, actual lived experience came closer to this condition than it does today. Since that time a kind of fall from grace had occurred, causing experience in this metaphysical sense to “decay” or “wither.” Such a fall needed, to be sure, to be read dialectically in the hope that something of what was lost might still be lurking in the debris, or even brought into the world anew with the fresh vision of every child. Where Adorno, however, moved away from Benjamin was in his greater sympathy for Hegel’s conceptualization of experience, which demonstrated his links with the other philosophers at the Frankfurt Institute. Perhaps the difference is best shown in his defense of Hegel against the attack launched by Martin Heidegger in the latter’s Holzwege of 1950.15 Without wanting to conflate Benjamin and Heidegger, who were in many respects very different, on the issue of experience they shared certain similar inclinations.16 Both were, for example, hostile to the privileging of immediate “lived experience” or Erlebnis in Lebensphilosophie; both were against the reduction of experience to an epistemological category in the Kantian or empiricist sense; and both were anxious to transcend psychologistic subjectivism and restore a notion of experience prior to the split between subject and object. Heidegger, like Benjamin, was determined to return to more fundamental levels of truth, whether they be called the metaphysical absolute or

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the ontological real, than the tradition of disenchanted, secular humanism had allowed. In Holzwege, Heidegger juxtaposes passages from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit with extended commentaries on their significance. He highlights the fact that Hegel had first called the work “Science of the Experience of Consciousness,” and argues that his version of phenomenology is still deeply indebted to that project. Heidegger foregrounds Hegel’s non-commonsensical definition of experience, which reads as follows: “this dialectical movement, which consciousness exercises on itself—on its knowledge as well as its object—is, in so far as the new, true object emerges to consciousness as the result of it, precisely that which is called experience.”17 Glossing this passage, Heidegger claims that Hegel means by “experience” the “Being of beings. . . . Experience now is the word of Being, since Being is apprehended by way of beings qua beings.”18 Here he seems to be assimilating Hegel’s position to his own. But then Heidegger adds that for Hegel, “Experience designates the subject’s subjectness. Experience expresses what ‘being’ in the term ‘being conscious’ means—in such a way that only by this ‘being’ does it become clear and binding what the word ‘conscious’ leaves still to thought.”19 Thus, Hegel’s notion of experience remains hostage to that fateful privileging of the subject that Heidegger found so distressing in modern metaphysics. This bias is revealed, Heidegger continues, because experience for Hegel involved the presentation of an appearance to a consciousness, a manifestation of being to a subject in the present. In fact, Hegel’s dialectical method is itself grounded in a still subjective view of experience: “Hegel does not conceive of experience dialectically,” Heidegger writes, “he thinks of dialectic in terms of the nature of experience. Experience is the beingness of beings, whose determination qua subjectum, is determined in terms of subjectness.”20 The ultimate subject for Hegel is, of course, the Absolute Spirit. Thus, Heidegger writes that for Hegel, “experience is the subjectness of the absolute subject. Experience, the presentation of the absolute representation, is the parousia of the Absolute. Experience is the absoluteness of the Absolute, its appearance in absolving appearance to itself.”21 Heidegger concedes that Hegel understood that natural consciousness lacks this more exalted, metaphysical notion of experience because it ignores the deeper question of Being. But the way in which the Hegelian Absolute exteriorizes itself and re-collects itself at a higher level produces the questionable claim that the experience of consciousness lends itself to a post facto scientific recapitulation. Significantly, Heidegger points out, “experience” occupies the middle


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position between “science” and “consciousness” in the title “Science of the Experience of Consciousness,” which indicates that for Hegel, “experience, as the being of consciousness, is in itself the inversion by which consciousness presents itself in its appearance. That is to say: in making the presentation, experience is science.”22 Heidegger concludes by speculating on the reasons Hegel dropped this original title shortly before the book was published and substituted “phenomenology of spirit” instead. Noting that for Kant, “experience” had merely meant “the only possible theoretical knowledge of what is,” he hazards the guess that Hegel had found it too daring to restore an earlier meaning: “a reaching out and attaining, and attaining as the mode of being present, of eÂnai, of Being.”23 Perhaps because of this failure of nerve, Hegel had not quite attained the level of insight into Being Heidegger ascribed to this own thought. His sympathetic interpreter Robert Bernasconi summarizes the essential differences between the two thinkers in the following terms: “ ‘Experience’ in Heidegger does not have the sense of a progressive development as it has in Hegel. For Heidegger, experience almost always takes place in the face of a lack. . . . For the phenomenological thinking of Heidegger, a lack or default gives access to Being. . . . The difference between Hegel’s concept of experience and Heidegger’s is that the former is tied to the rule of presencing and the latter commemorates it. Phenomenology for Hegel is a parousia, whereas for Heidegger it is letting the nonapparent appear as nonapparent.”24 Commemorating what has been lost—the oblivion of Being, in Heidegger’s case—rather than celebrating presence as the cumulative realization of a successful dialectical process is reminiscent of Benjamin’s critique of Hegelian memory as Er-innerung, a too harmonious remembering in the present of what had been sundered in the past. A commonality between Heidegger and Benjamin might also be found in the recognition in both their work of the etymological link between Erfahrung and Gefahr, the danger that must be encountered in the perilous journey that is experience (which has the Latin experiri in its root, giving us as well as the English word “peril”), a danger that in the modern period is perhaps best revealed in the context of technology, with its destructive as well as emancipatory potential. And both thinkers were arguably at one in their dissatisfaction with Hegel’s contention that knowledge or science (Wissenschaft) can be perfectly reconciled with experience, an assumption that rests, as HansGeorg Gadamer was to claim in Truth and Method, on the solipsistic nature of the Hegelian subject who ultimately absorbs into himself the object and never really has an encounter with what is truly different and alien to him.25

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Such an encounter was, of course, also the earmark of Adorno’s negative dialectics, which sought to avoid Idealism’s coercive sublation of difference and to preserve the non-identity of subject and object. His own interpretation of Hegel’s notion of experience was designed, however, to resist the ontological interpretation of Heidegger’s Holzwege and brush Hegel against the grain, finding in him what both Heidegger and Benjamin had claimed he denied. Adorno deliberately began the essay entitled “The Experiential Content of Hegel’s Philosophy,” first published in 1959 and included in the 1963 collection Hegel: Three Studies, by distancing himself from Heidegger’s reading: The concept [of experience] is not intended to capture phenomenological “ur-experience”; nor, like the interpretation of Hegel in Heidegger’s Holzwege, is it intended to get at something ontological. . . . His thought would never have ratified Heidegger’s claim that “The new object that arises for consciousness in the course of its formation” is “not just anything that is true, or any particular being, but is the truth of what is true, the Being of Beings, the appearance of appearance.” Hegel would have never called that experience; instead for Hegel, what experience is concerned with at any particular moment is the animating contradiction of such absolute truth.26 If experience for Hegel is more than the presubjective “event” or “appropriation” (Ereignis, in Heidegger’s special lexicon) of Being, it is also not the unmediated sense perception assumed by empiricists like Hume. Experience is not for Hegel something undergone by the isolated individual but entails the interdependency of subjects with each other and with the world. Nor—and this is even more important—is it equivalent to the science of knowledge, the Wissenschaft that was its tombstone: “by no means does the experiential content of idealism simply coincide with its epistemological and metaphysical positions.”27 Tacitly respecting the limits on knowledge placed by his predecessor Kant, even as he ultimately hoped to overcome them, Hegel identified experience precisely with the obstacles to full transparency presented by the contradictions in reality, not merely in thought. According to Adorno, Nietzsche’s claim that “there is nothing in reality that would correspond strictly with logic”28 captures Hegel’s notion of experience better than attempts, such as those of orthodox dialectical materialists, to impose dialectical reason on the world without remainder. In fact, it is the recognition of contradiction in society, the idea of antagonistic totality, that allows Hegel to move beyond absolute idealism. Hegel, to be sure, had wrongly thought his philosophy could encompass the whole and reveal its truth. But, Adorno argued, “even where Hegel flies in the


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face of experience, including the experience that motivates his own philosophy, experience speaks from him. . . . [T]he idea of a positivity that can master everything that opposes it through the superior power of a comprehending spirit is the mirror image of the experience of the superior coercive force inherent in everything that exists by virtue of its consolidation under domination. This is the truth in Hegel’s untruth.”29 Another unintended truth, one with a very different implication, is revealed, Adorno continued in a later essay on Hegel’s opaque style,30 in the tension between his desire to work entirely with concepts adequate to their objects and the linguistic medium through which he necessarily expressed them. That is, “in Hegel the expressive element represents experience; that which actually wants to come out into the open, but cannot, if it wants to attain necessity, appear except in the medium of concepts, which is fundamentally its opposite. . . . The whole of Hegel’s philosophy is an effort to translate intellectual experience into concepts.”31 But the medium of its expression inevitably interferes with this goal, for “thought, which necessarily moves away from the text, from what is said, has to return to it and become condensed within it. John Dewey, a contemporary thinker who for all his positivism is closer to Hegel than their two alleged standpoints are to one another, called his philosophy ‘experimentalism.’ Something of this stance is appropriate for the reader of Hegel.”32 Adorno’s surprising reference to Dewey, whose pragmatism the Frankfurt School often disparaged, suggests a certain countercurrent in Adorno’s thought to the lament about the virtually complete withering of experience, for Dewey was cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of genuine experience at the present time. Adorno, to be sure, resisted Dewey’s identification of experiment with its scientific variety, preferring instead the literary essay, which “invests experience with as much substance as traditional theory does mere categories.”33 But that substance, he claimed, involves an opening to what is new, rather than a ratification of what has been. “What Kant saw, in terms of content as the goal of reason, the creation of humankind, utopia, is hindered by the form of his thought, epistemology. It does not permit reason to go beyond the realm of experience which, in the mechanism of mere material and invariant categories, shrinks to what has always already existed. The essay’s object, however, is the new in its newness, not as something that can be translated back into the old existing forms.”34 If Adorno shared with Dewey a belief that some sort of experimentation pointing toward the renewal of experience was possible even in the totalizing

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system of domination that he saw as the sinister reversal of Hegel’s dictum that the “whole was the true,” he also agreed that aesthetic experience in particular was a placeholder of that potential. In such works as Art and Experience of 1934, “the unique and truly free John Dewey,” as Adorno once called him, had ruminated on the significance of aesthetic experience as a model for a more general mode of unalienated existence.35 Although it has sometimes been argued, most notably by Hans Robert Jauss,36 that Adorno’s own understanding of aesthetic experience was too negatively ascetic and lacking an appreciation of the communicative function of art even in the present “administered world,” it is clear that he shared with Dewey an appreciation of the utopian moment in that experience. This is not the place to attempt a full-fledged analysis of what Adorno meant by aesthetic experience, but several points warrant emphasis.37 First of all, it should be understood that Adorno never considered aesthetic experience as if it were an entirely protected sphere in which the horrors of modern life were somehow successfully kept at bay. As he once wrote in an essay on the great nineteenth-century realist novel Lost Illusions, “Balzac knows that artistic experience is not pure, official aesthetics to the contrary; that it can hardly be pure if it is to be experience.”38 Aesthetic experience, at least in this usage, which we might call descriptive rather than normative, is necessarily impure, because it is damaged by the changes outside art to which we have already alluded: modern warfare, the replacement of narrative by information, alienating technology, and capitalist industrialization. Its truth content, Adorno always emphasized, thus had to be brought out by an accompanying philosophical cum social theoretical analysis that provided the critical discursive tools that art inevitably lacked. But it is also the case that for Adorno, aesthetic experience, however maimed, can preserve a certain trace of what existed before, which somehow has not been completely obliterated. Here he employed “experience” in an explicitly normative sense. Proust, Adorno claimed, was able to provide an almost Hegelian model of that preservation, for in his work, “undamaged experience is produced only in memory, far beyond immediacy, and through memory aging and death seem to be overcome in the aesthetic image. But this happiness achieved through the rescue of experience, a happiness that will not let anything be taken from it, represents an unconditional renunciation of consolation.”39 Genuine experience, experience worth rescuing from the damaged variety of modern life, is thus closely tied to the memory of happiness, whose faint promise to return is what art is able to offer, as Stendhal, Nietzsche, and Marcuse had


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argued. Significantly, when Adorno answered his own question, “What is metaphysical experience?” in Negative Dialectics, he wrote: If we disdain projecting it upon allegedly primal religious experiences, we are most likely to visualize it as Proust did, in the happiness, for instance, that is promised by village names like Applebachsville, Wind Gap, or Lords Valley. One thinks that going there would bring the fulfillment, as if there were such a thing. . . . To the child it is self-evident that what delights him in his favorite village is found only there, there alone and nowhere else. He is mistaken; but his mistake creates the model of experience, of a concept that will end up as the concept of the thing itself, not as a poor projection from things.40 Although necessarily a semblance and not the real thing—indeed precisely because it is such a semblance and knows itself as such—art gestures toward the happiness of genuine metaphysical experience, which is precisely what the current world denies and which the merely epistemological concept cannot even envisage. It does so paradoxically through its mimesis of the other, which resists reduction to subjective constitution.41 Experience, as many commentators have used the term, comes only with an encounter with otherness in which the self no longer remains the same. Adorno would add that to be undamaged, that experience must treat the other in a nondominating, nonsubsumptive, nonhomogenizing manner. Can such an encounter, however, be with what Benjamin called “the absolute” in his earliest writings on colors? Certainly, some of the pathos of that claim clings to many of Adorno’s statements about experience and its decay, which are written from what the famous last aphorism in Minima Moralia called “the standpoint of redemption.”42 We have already noted the claim in Negative Dialectics that resistance to the world of exchange “is the resistance of the eye that does not want the colors of the world to fade.” As a result, some commentators have ignored Adorno’s attempts to distance himself from “allegedly primal religious experiences” and decried what they see as the “mystical” underpinnings of his concept of experience.43 But what perhaps indicates the inadequacy of such a reading, and by extension suggests that Adorno was not entirely happy with Benjamin’s formulation of the problem, is his unwillingness to go all the way toward what can be called “experience without a subject,” that moment of equiprimordiality prior to the split between self and other. Giorgio Agamben has noted in his essays on the destruction of experience, Infancy and History,

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that “in Proust there is no longer really any subject. . . . Here the expropriated subject of experience emerges to validate what, from the point of view of science, can appear only as the most radical negation of experience: an experience with neither subject nor object, absolute.”44 Adorno, as we have seen, may have approvingly invoked Proust’s reservation of childhood happiness through memory, but he did not, I want to argue, embrace this notion of absolute experience. As his disdain for Heidegger’s appropriation of Hegel’s “science of the experience of consciousness” for his own project of the recollection of Being illustrates, Adorno was loath to short-circuit a negative dialectic that preserved some distinction between subject and object. The unsublatable dialectic of art and philosophy, like that between mimesis and construction or between concept and object, suggests that even the most metaphysical of experiences for Adorno could not be reduced to perfect reconciliation or the restoration of equiprimordiality. But such a recognition still does answer the question we put at the beginning of this essay, is there a crisis of experience that can be understood in historical terms, involving a loss of something that once existed? Ruminating on the lessons of Benjamin more than Adorno, Agamben presents a challenge to the assumption that such a condition has ever really obtained. He notes that a robust notion of experience, which puts us in touch with the absolute and is prior to the alienations of damaged life, ultimately derives from a fantasy of recovered infancy, which he defines as the period of human existence before language and before history. “In this sense,” he writes, “to experience necessarily means to reaccede to infancy as history’s transcendental place of origin. The enigma which infancy ushered in for man can be dissolved only in history, just as experience, being infancy and human place of origin, is something he is always in the act of falling from, into language and into speech.”45 That fall is the source of the split between subject and object, because only grammar produces a strong sense of the autonomy of the first person singular, the “I” who is apart from the world. If this is true, then experience, at least as a metaphysical possibility, was not destroyed by the depredations of war or the reifications of capitalism but was always already undone by the fall into language, the primal alienation that defines us as human. The memory that we have of a lost happiness is thus of a condition that can never be regained short of the death that reunites us with a mute world prior to our insertion into language. Even as sympathetic a reader of the Frankfurt School tradition as Albrecht Wellmer could reach a similar conclusion, claiming that “Adorno, like Schopenhauer, conceives aesthetic experience

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in ecstatic terms rather than as a real utopia; the happiness that it promises is not of this world.”46 What, however, may allow us to salvage a less impotent reading of Adorno’s lament about the loss of experience is the recognition of his subtle movement away from the more intransigently absolutist position of Benjamin and the Heidegger of Holzwege. For Agamben’s rebuke only draws blood if we understand his description of absolute experience, prior to the fall into language, anterior to the split between subject and object, as, in fact, converging with what is normally understood as its antonym: total innocence. Although Adorno does have positive things to say about childhood and the memory of happiness, he shows little real nostalgia for any historical time of alleged prelapsarian grace. Witness the following passage from Negative Dialectics: The meaningful times for whose return the early Lukács yearned were as much due to reification, to inhuman institutions, as he would later attest it only to the bourgeois age. Contemporary representations of medieval towns usually look as if an execution were just taking place to cheer the populace. If any harmony of subject and object should have prevailed in those days, it was a harmony like the most recent one: pressure-born and brittle. The transfiguration of past conditions serves the purpose of a late, superfluous denial that is experienced as a no-exit situation; only as lost conditions do they become glamorous. Their cult of pre-subjective phases, arose in horror, in the age of individual disintegration and collective regression.47 In his studies of Hegel, it will be recalled, the experience he claims shines through the Phenomenology is that of the inability of life to be subsumed entirely under concepts and the extent of the present order’s totalizing power to compel a social equivalent of that outcome. It is the tension between these two insights, which Adorno called Hegel’s depiction of the antagonistic totality, that is forgotten in Idealism and Lebensphilosophie. Despite his borrowing of Benjamin’s rhetoric of loss and decay in the passages cited at the beginning of this essay, Adorno understood, as he put it in Negative Dialectics, that “the concept of metaphysical experience is antinomical, not only as taught by Kantian transcendental dialectics, but in other ways. A metaphysics proclaimed without recourse to subjective experience, without the immediate presence of the subject, is helpless before the autonomous subject’s refusal to have imposed upon it what it cannot understand. And yet, whatever is directly evident to the subject suffers of fallibility and relativity.”48

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In short, redeemed experience, undamaged experience, authentic experience, if indeed such a condition can ever be attained, would not mean a restoration of innocence before the fall into language or a harmonious reconciliation in a utopian future but rather a nondominating relationship between subject and object. It would paradoxically retain the distinctions felt as alienated diremptions by what Hegel had called “the unhappy consciousness,” but now in such a way that they no longer frustrate the subject’s desire to master the world through conceptual and practical activity. Instead, the experiential happiness that is promised by works of art restores one of the fundamental senses of “experience” itself: a passive suffering or undergoing through an encounter with the new and the other, which moves us beyond where we, as subjects, were before the experience began. It is for this reason, as J. M. Bernstein has noted, that “the image of life without experience is finally the image of life without history, as if the meaning of life were in its eternal cessation: death. There cannot be historical life without experience; only lives articulated through experience can be fully and self-consciously historical.”49 Here precisely the opposite conclusion is reached from Agamben, who identifies history with the fall out of the pure experience that is prelinguistic infancy. Adorno himself, we have to admit in conclusion, never fully sorted out the welter of denotations and connotations that cling to the numimous word “experience.” At times he expresses an apparent nostalgia for a lost undamaged experience; at others, he mocks romanticizations of an alleged state of prelapsarian bliss. While invoking the rhetoric of a progressive loss, he only vaguely hints at the existence of an actual historical time before the decay. Accepting Benjamin’s critique of empiricist or Kantian notions of experience, he nonetheless resists accepting the maximalist notion of absolute experience that also infuses, as we have seen, Heidegger’s reading of Hegel in Holzwege. Looking for traces or prefigurations of undamaged experience in aesthetic experience, he clearly knows that semblance is not reality and that a gap looms large between works of art and redeemed life. In short, the experience of reading Adorno on experience is itself one of nonidentical refusals of easy consistencies, producing the realization that experience is an openness to the unexpected with its dangers and obstacles, not a safe haven from history but a reminder of the encounters with otherness and the new that await those willing and able to embark on the journey.

Mourning a Metaphor The Revolution Is Over

”Revolution,” it should be recalled, began its extraordinary career as a metaphor borrowed from astronomy, which had only recently revised its understanding of what in the heavens really revolved around what.1 In medieval Latin, revolutio meant a return or rolling back, often implying a cyclical revolving in time. This was its meaning, for example, in Copernicus’s famous treatise of 1543 De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Although its earliest political uses have been detected in mid-fourteenth-century Italy, the term did not come into its own in the lexicon of politics until the upheavals of seventeenth-century England, when “reformation,” losing its power as a way to characterize the tumultuous events of the day, settled into its now conventional role as a term of art for religious changes alone. By the 1650s, pamphleteers such as Marchamont Nedham were using “revolution” to define and defend the Cromwellian regime, while royalists such as James Howell were identifying it with calamity. By 1688, even moderate and bloodless regime changes could be called revolutions, and indeed glorious ones at that. Although other terms, such as “rebellion,” “sedition,” “revolt,” and “overturning,” vied for prominence, “revolution” apparently won out, for two reasons. First, many of the most prominent activists of the day understood their goal as the restoration of an earlier benign order that had been usurped by an innovating tyrant, who sought to undo the achievements of previous generations. Insofar as celestial revolutions of the planets around the sun involved a circular or elliptical return to a previous place of origin, the political usage of the term fit perfectly with the fiction that nothing radically new was being attempted, just a return to a lost, lamented past. Thus, the seemingly modern notion of revolu-

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tionary change grew out of a very premodern notion of restoring a cosmopolitical harmony that seemed temporarily out of tune. Second, the grandeur of celestial rotations, their occurring on a level of cosmic magnitude, lent an awesome power to the events understood as revolutionary. Like the wheel of fortune turning inexorably on its axis, revolutionary change could be understood as happening beyond the power of men to affect its course, however much they may work to speed up its pace or slow it down. Overwhelmed by events whose violence and unpredictability seemed impossible to comprehend, men found in the metaphor of revolution a useful way to express their feelings of relative insignificance in the face of powers beyond their control. Indeed, some of the pathos of the putative connection between astral events and their counterparts in the lives of humans, which lingered in astrological thinking, may have reinforced the sense of destiny underlying the adoption of the metaphor. Later, when it became fashionable in certain quarters to speak of “permanent revolution,” the celestial roots of the metaphor covertly lent it a fated inexorability, which suggested anyone standing in the way was a King Canute trying to hold the waves back (itself a metaphor that, after all, is based on the irresistible moon-driven motion of terrestrial waters). It also made it possible to think of “revolution” not only as a sudden and violent event, a rupture in normal historical happening, but also as a prolonged and sustained process that might easily outlast the life span of any individual actor in it. As is typically the case with metaphors that become embedded rather than explicit, the more literal associations of “revolution” soon lost their prominence as political activism grew more future-oriented and came to rely on human initiative rather than celestial fate. By the late eighteenth century, a utopian tomorrow rather than lamented yesterday was assumed to be the intended issue of revolution. With a linear notion of history associated with a strong notion of progress in the Enlightenment went a sense of revolution as the crossing of an epochal threshold, which could not be reversed. Something of the metaphor’s origins occasionally, to be sure, remained lurking beneath the surface. The goal of revolutions could still be interpreted at times in restorative terms—think of William Morris’s medievalist News from Nowhere—and their inexorability could be championed by those who believed in the “objective” course of history and the automatic intensification of dialectical contradictions. But slowly, the metaphoric origins of the term began to fade, as they so often do with concepts that come to be taken as direct expressions of classes of real object or processes in the world. Nietzsche’s oft-quoted definition


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of concepts as “metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous powers, coins which have lost their pictures and now matter as metal, no longer coins,”2 certainly came to describe this numinous term. From 1776 in American and 1789 in France through 1917 in Russia and 1949 in China, all the way perhaps until 1979 in Iran, major political upheavals could be called revolutions with little or no attention paid to the astronomical origins of the term. A flood of ink was spilled by scholars attempting to anatomize and dissect the typical workings of different revolutions as if they were all variants of an objective phenomenon in the real world that could be understood in comparative terms.3 In fact, so solid did its meaning seem that “revolution” itself became easily metaphorized to refer to events or processes outside the political realm, a transfer that began perhaps as early as the coinage of “scientific revolution,” which seems to have begun with Fontenelle in the 1720s, and “industrial revolution,” which can be traced to Arnold Toynbee’s study with that title of 1884.4 Soon after, any seemingly radical or decisive change in culture as well as in economics, in fashion as well as in technology, indeed in anything that needed to be hyped as really new, could easily be called a revolution, and often was (and still is). But in the last decade or so, it has become increasingly difficult to avoid feeling that the era of revolutions in their seemingly nonmetaphorical political sense has drawn to a close. The year 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Empire betokened a rapid erosion of belief in it as a mechanism of redemptive politics. Although it has still been possible defiantly to assert, as does the editor of a recent anthology called Theorizing Revolution, that “revolutions are going to be with us to the end of history,”5 it is hard not to acknowledge a widespread deflation of enthusiasm for what they might ultimately do for human emancipation. And with that deflation has come a growing deliteralization of the term. For as Hans Blumenberg once pointed out in his discussion of the comparable decline of theological dogmatics, “Demythicization is in large measure nothing more than remetaphorization: the punctual kerygma [preaching the Gospel] radiates out over a circle of linguistic forms that no longer need to be taken literally.”6 The same might be happening with “revolution.” It is as if Nietzsche’s coins once again show their inscribed faces rather than being taken for the intrinsically valuable metal out of which they are fashioned. With the tropic device more explicitly bared, it has become harder to believe that “revolution” is an adequate way to characterize the irreversible ruptures in history that have occurred in the past and those that may still await us in the future. It has been easier instead to acknowledge the ironic insight, at least as

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old as Alexis de Tocqueville’s L’Ancien régime et la Révolution, that strong continuities inevitably accompany and often serve to undermine the radical intentions of revolutionaries. It has become harder to ignore that even Marx had realized the importance of the tropological underpinnings of revolutions, as he did in his bitter ruminations on the failures of the 1848 revolutions in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. The first time as tragedy, the second as farce meant, after all, that revolution could involve an unheimlich—or perhaps more correctly, parodic—repetition, which even the most dialectical imagination could not fully recuperate.7 Although he continued to hope for a more decisive rupture the next time the “old mole” resurfaced, his disappointment at the outcome this time around allowed him to muse on the rhetorical underpinnings of revolution itself. For some in our own day, remetaphorization has also been a painful process, producing a kind of mourning for a lost object, the supposedly real historical event that the metaphor, turned into a concept, had come to signify. It is as if without the promise of redemptive change, political activism has become a gray and uninspiring enterprise, involving unheroic compromises, hollow victories, and meager results. This is not the place to rehearse arguments I’ve made before about the costs of holding on to an impossible political dream after we have awakened from dreaming it.8 Suffice it to say that realizing the metaphoric roots of “revolution” need not dissuade us from seeking real, perhaps even ambitiously drastic, solutions to exigent problems. In fact, if Blumenberg’s metaphorology is right, there can never be an end to the process of metaphorization, however much we may seek to find a terminal point in a fixed concept or absolute metaphor. That is, we need metaphors—making sense of the unfamiliar by comparing it with the familiar—in all of our attempts to grapple with a world that is forever beyond our desire to render it transparently clear. But we also need to acknowledge that they are no more than that. At times, as in the case at hand, we come to realize that we have forgotten that lesson and mistaken a trope for the real thing. But perhaps in that very realization lies a more adequate bias for political involvement, which is no longer beholden to maximalist fantasies of redemption and epochal transformation, fantasies whose defeat leaves us feeling impotent and lost. It may therefore be better to wander forever in the desert of metaphorical displacement than set up our camp in an oasis that proves only to be a mirage. Pardon the metaphor.

Cultural Relativism and the Visual Turn

On April 30, 1988, the Dia Art Foundation in New York hosted a well-attended conference on the theme of vision and visuality. It brought together a number of scholars working on the then nascent field of visual culture: Hal Foster, Jonathan Crary, Rosalind Krauss, Norman Bryson, Jacqueline Rose, and this author. The slim volume of conference proceedings, including vigorous debate among the participants, was published later that year as the second volume in Dia’s series Discussions in Contemporary Culture.1 In hindsight, Vision and Visuality, as the book came to be called, may be seen as the moment when the visual turn—or, as it is sometimes called, the “pictorial turn”2—really showed signs of turning into the academic juggernaut it was to become in the 1990s. Although anticipations can easily be found in the work of art historians like Erwin Panofsky and Michael Baxandall, cultural critics like John Berger, philosophers like Richard Rorty, and literary critics like W. J. T. Mitchell, only at the time of the Dia Foundation conference did a critical mass begin to come together around the question of the cultural determinations of visual experience in the broadest sense. Not only did the participants in the conference soon publish a number of influential new books or make important additions to those they already had written, but a slew of anthologies with titles like Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, Sites of Vision, Vision and Textuality, Visual Culture, Interpreting Visual Culture, Languages of Visuality, Vision in Context, The Visual Culture Reader, and An Introduction to Visual Culture quickly followed.3 Established journals like October conducted symposia on the challenge of visual culture to traditional art historical practice,4 while new forums like the Journal of Visual Culture, announced by Sage Publications for 2002, were launched to accommodate the flood of work being done in all corners of the humanities and social sciences on visuality.

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In the preface to the collection generated by the Dia Art Foundation, Hal Foster asked the question, “Why vision and visuality, why these terms?,” and gave the following answer: Although vision suggests sight as a physical operation, and visuality sight as a social fact, the two are not opposed as nature is to culture: vision is social and historical too, and visuality involves the body and the psyche. Yet neither are they identical: here, the difference between the terms signals a difference within the visual—between the mechanisms of sight and its historical techniques, between the datum of vision and its discursive determinations—a difference, many differences, among how we see, how we are able, allowed, or made to see, and how we see this seeing or the or the unseen therein.5 Although carefully crafted to resist a reductive congruence between vision and visuality, on the one hand, and nature and culture, on the other, Foster’s distinction within sight raises an important question: what is the role of the visual in either confirming or transcending what has come to be called cultural relativism? Are there, to borrow once again a term from the French film theorist Christian Metz, discrete “scopic regimes,” which can be understood as analogous to the various forms of life that have become known as distinct cultures in the anthropological sense of the term?6 And are these regimes distinct enough to defeat easy translation between or among them, producing a kind of ultimate incommensurability comparable to that which cultural relativists attribute to the other objects of their inquiry? Can we say, as Lyotard famously did with language games, that there are unbridgeable differends separating the visual equivalents of “phrases in dispute?”7 Or, to put it somewhat differently, is it ever possible to disentangle vision from what Foster calls its “discursive determinations?” Are the views we have of the world, in short, always like the intellectual “worldviews” that theorists since Dilthey have claimed were only partial perspectives on the reality they purported to describe and evaluate? One way that this issue was addressed prior to the visual turn was to distinguish between words as conventional signs and images as their natural counterparts, a distinction that can be traced back to Plato’s Cratylus.8 For Plato, there were two ways of representing a man, either by saying his name or by drawing his portrait. Whereas words were taking to be arbitrary signifiers without any necessary relation to what they signified, images were understood to be tied by natural forces to what they resembled, iconic analogues of their objects. Mimesis of the real was assumed to be better served by vision than by any other sense.9


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Although for some commentators the conventionality of words was taken to betoken their superiority as expressions of human creativity and imagination, for others, images had the advantage because of their ability to transcend specific cultural contexts and show ostensively what could not easily be said or merely described. In W. J. T. Mitchell’s summary of this time-honored position, which he was at pains to refute: The naturalness of the image makes it a universal means of communication that provides a direct, unmediated, and accurate representation of things, rather than an indirect, unreliable report about things. The legal distinction between eyewitness evidence and hearsay, or between a photograph of a crime and a verbal account of a crime, rests on this assumption that the natural and visible sign is inherently more credible than the verbal report. The fact that the natural sign can be decoded by lesser beings (savages, children, illiterates, and animals) becomes, in this context, an argument for the greater epistemological power of imagery and its universality as a means of communication.10 This assumption had not, of course, gone completely unchallenged—I’ve already mentioned Panofsky, whose 1927 exploration of the role of symbolic form in visual experience undercut the claim that perspectival representation was true to life11—but by and large it reigned supreme for a very long time. Indeed, as late as 1980, Roland Barthes could still claim that despite all its vulnerability to ideological distortion and connotative power, the particular visual object called a photograph was a “an image without a code,” an indexical emanation of the reality to which it referred denotatively.12 After the recent visual turn, however, the claim that images can be understood as natural or analogical signs with universal capacities to communicate has almost entirely come undone. Mitchell, to take a salient example from his influential collection Iconology, dismissively calls such a notion the “fetish or idol of Western culture,”13 and insists that images be situated firmly in the world of convention rather than nature. What Norman Bryson has called the “discursive” as opposed to the “figural” aspect of images, by which he means their embeddedness in language, has increasingly gained the upper hand in any discussion of their cultural significance. Witness the claim of John T. Kirby that “all images have a discursive aspect, at least insofar as we attempt to consider them cognitively or (especially) to communicate our cognition to another person. And to consider an image cognitively, to engage in discourse about it . . . is to textualize

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it.”14 Or listen to John Tagg, who claims, contra Roland Barthes, that the evidentiary status of a photograph “rests not on a natural or existential fact, but on a social, semiotic process . . . what Barthes calls ‘evidential force’ is a complex historical outcome and is exercised by photographs only with certain institutional practices and within particular historical relations.”15 Or to take a final example, Umberto Eco boldly argues that “everything which in images appears to us as analogical, continuous, non-concrete, motivated, natural, and therefore ‘irrational,’ is simply something which, in our present state of knowledge and operational capacities, we have not yet succeeded in reducing to the discrete, the digital, the purely differential.”16 Although one can attribute such hyperbole to the hubris of certain overconfident methodologists, the primary source of the new insistence on the discursive, textual, or institutional constitution of images, which makes any appeal to their natural, universal, or transcendental status seem naive, can be found elsewhere. It lies, I think it fair to argue, in the exponential explosion of what might be called the technical and cultural mediation of visual experience. This outcome followed from the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century that showed vision was physiologically dependent rather than a matter of the laws of refraction and reflection operating on a passive and neutral eye. For, as Jonathan Crary has noted, “once the empirical truth of vision was determined to lie in the body, vision (and similarly the other senses) could be annexed and controlled by external techniques of manipulation and stimulation.”17 What the French film critic Jean-Louis Comolli dubbed “the frenzy of the visible”18 was already emerging a century or so ago, producing increasing opportunities for fresh visual experiences but also intensified anxieties about their veridical status. The new “techniques of the observer” developed in the nineteenth century and explored in Crary’s influential book of that name were expanded and refined in the twentieth century to the point that some observers, such as Jean Baudrillard, could claim we inhabit entirely a realm of hyperreal simulacra without objective correlatives, and others, such as Régis Debray, argue that we now live in a “videosphere” whose dominant ideology is the relativism of opinions.19 If, as Guy Debord famously claimed, “the spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it has become an image,”20 then perhaps all of our images in the age of global capitalism are mediated through and through by the commodity form. Whether it be via technological virtualization or sociocultural mediation, or perhaps both at once, the image as a natural sign, a straightforward analogue of

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its object, is an assumption whose time, it seems, has clearly gone. The new doxa is hostile to any claim that the eye can be innocent. Symptomatically, the word “image” has regained much of the negative connotation that it had amassed during earlier episodes of iconoclasm, a shift already evident in such books as Daniel Boorstin’s celebrated 1961 study of American popular culture and politics entitled simply The Image.21 Instead of trusting in the integrity of the visual, we now comfortably talk about “the hermeneutics of seeing,” “iconic utterances,” “the rhetoric of images,” “imagistic signifiers,” “visual narratives,” “the language of films,” and the like, all implying that the decoding of both texts and images as cultural artifacts share a common vocabulary, but one originally generated for linguistic investigations.22 Visual culture, in other words, has come perilously close to being turned into a branch office of the cultural studies conglomerate, in which ocularcentrism is trumped by logocentrism and the autonomy of visual experience is denounced as an outdated ideology of high modernist art. Can we then conclude that along with the new fascination for visual culture has come the triumph of cultural relativism in visual terms, that “hard, rigorous relativism that regards knowledge as a social product, a matter of dialogue between different versions of the world, including different languages, ideologies, and modes of representation,” is explicitly advocated by Mitchell in Iconology?23 Can we argue that visual experience is always circumscribed by the protocols of the culture out of which it is generated, always an effect of the codes of that culture, and therefore cannot provide a means of transcending its limits? Are scopic regimes congruent with and dependent on the cultures that subtend them? Is the visual no longer separable from visuality, to recall Foster’s terms; is it culturally coded all the way down, with no excess beyond what the cultural mediation itself dictates? Before we try to address these questions, it will perhaps be useful to pause a moment with the larger issue of cultural relativism itself.24 Stemming from the Romantic response to the universalizing naturalism of the Enlightenment, a relativist respect for discrete and irreducible forms of life provided a healthy warning against the claims of any one of them to inherent superiority based on putative accordance with natural norms. It challenged the pretension of any one language or code to serve as the metalanguage or metacode for the species as a whole. Often understood in terms of national or ethnic entities, the anthropological culture concept proved elastic enough to be extended to virtually any other community able to generate a collective identity with normative constraints and affective demands on its members. In the context of our postmodern age, it is perhaps more frequently applied to groups within the

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nation-state—subcultures, as they are sometimes called—rather than the larger particularities favored by earlier cultural pluralists such as Herder. But as the recent events in the Balkans attest, the equation of culture with national identity is by no means exhausted. And yet, however large the unit deemed a discrete culture, the argument remains that no transcendental standpoint, no umbrella identity, no deeper essential human nature, can trump its mediating power. The result is that for cultural relativists, whatever is left of “the real” is located not in something we designate as nature but rather in that diacritical term called culture or, more precisely, in the plurality of different cultures that resist universalization. One familiar consequence of this conclusion is the rise of an identity politics that trusts only concrete subject positions rather than any alleged omniscient “view from nowhere.” Although there may well be a hidden residue of the natural in the cultural—as the initially agricultural concept of cultivation suggests is the case—a radical cultural relativism insists it can never be accessed except through its particular cultural mediations. Like Kant’s elusive thing-in-itself, it forever defies attempts to encounter it directly, an inability that led many late neo-Kantians in the nineteenth century and after to get rid of it entirely, which is repeated in the current claim that it is culture “all the way down.” As might be expected, however, the radical culturalist argument has often come under fire in ways that will help us address the more focused question of visuality and relativism. One familiar riposte, which is made to relativism of all kinds, is that the doctrine of cultural relativism must itself be relative to a particular culture, which undercuts its own universal claims. The so-called “myth of the framework” means that radical conventionalism cannot account for its assumed ability to stand outside its own context and know that all frameworks are constraining. In visual terms, it fails to overcome the tension between the metaperspectival view of the whole that knows all cultures are partial and the particular perspective of each individual culture. This is a version of the performative contradiction argument that will be familiar to most of you: asserting cognitive relativism through a statement that tacitly invites universal assent.25 This argument has, of course, been around for a very long time, but somehow it hasn’t succeeded in suppressing all relativist qualms, and I’m not sure it will work here either. Somewhat different reproaches against radical culturalism have been made by historical materialists like Sebastian Timpanaro, Kate Soper, and Terry Eagleton.26 Arguing that culturalism is no less an essentializing reductionism than other monocausal and undialectical theories like biologism or economism, they

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worry about the loss of critical purchase entailed by a pluralism that has no external standard by which to measure the values of each discrete culture. If all are equally ethnocentric, they wonder, why tax the West for its blindness toward others, in the manner, say, of Edward Said’s celebrated critique of orientalism? For if radical culturalism is right, how else could any culture function? Moreover, what if talk of universals—say, that of human rights—can be shown to emerge out of and remain intrinsic to a specific culture? Are these to be dismissed as nothing more than the expression of a partial worldview? In Eagleton’s words, “if talk of universals functions fruitfully enough within these local set-ups, enriching the language and enforcing some productive distinctions, why censor it? Pragmatism, a creed which many cultural relativists promote, would seem to yield no grounds on which to do so.”27 This ironically pragmatist defense of universals against the official pragmatist critique of them does, to be sure, little to challenge the radical culturalist argument on more substantial grounds. One way to begin this task is to put pressure on the culture concept itself, a concept inherited largely from an anthropological tradition that has in fact long since lost confidence in its self-evident power. What James Clifford called “the predicament of culture” in a widely read book, written at virtually the same time as the visual culture juggernaut began to move into high gear, meant an embarrassed awareness in the anthropological community that it was impossible to limit the boundaries or ascertain the internal coherence of those allegedly autarchic entities called cultures. “The concept of culture used by anthropologists,” Clifford remarked, was, of course invented by European theorists to account for the collective articulations of human diversity. Rejecting both evolutionism and the overly broad entities of race and civilization, the idea of culture posited the existence of local, functionally integrated units. For all its supposed relativism, though, the concept’s model of totality, basically organic in structure, was not different from the nineteenth-century concepts it replaced. Only its plurality was new. Despite many subsequent redefinitions the notion’s organicist assumptions have persisted. Cultural systems hold together; and they change more or less continuously, anchored primarily by language and place.28 Ironically, the organicist notion of individual cultures was itself beholden to a holistic concept of integration taken from the nature it sought so mightily to abject (while forgetting, moreover, that natural organisms are themselves structures of complexity open to some extent to the environments in which they are

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embedded and with which they engage in some sort of exchange). That there may even be problematic political implications of this displacement has not gone unremarked. Thomas Dacosta Kaufmann, for example, has noted with concern that “visual culture may suggest to some notions of visual mentalité. But more darkly, echoes of Volksgeist seem to me unmistakable, even if unintended, in discussions of national visual culture.”29 If, however, it can be shown that no allegedly distinct and integrated culture is really coherent and boundaried, none able to police its bordered successfully against pollution from without, none organized like a living organism, then the idea that different cultures produce incommensurable views of the world cannot logically hold. For no individual within such a porous container as a culture, at least once populations begin to interact, can be totally determined by it. He or she is necessarily in contact with something “outside” it that is always already “within.” Here the tacit alliance between culture and language is split apart as an implicitly deconstructionist version of linguistic complexity undermines the binary opposition between interiority and exteriority, one form of life from another. Thus the strong argument for cultural determinism and incommensurability begins to waver. An attempt to topple it entirely comes from the historian of science Bruno Latour in his provocative little book, We Have Never Been Modern.30 In addition to questioning the boundaries separating different cultures, he extends the skepticism to that between the cultural and the natural. Arguing against the assumption that there is a single natural world on which distinct cultures have different perspectives, which in our terms would be the claim that the vision of the natural human eye is always filtered through discursive screens, he notes that the very separation of culture (or plural cultures) from a single nature is itself a historical creation, which he calls the rise of modernity. Prior to the conceptual split, and still operative after it in a sub rosa way, there are only hybrid naturecultures, which are simultaneously worlds of humans, nonhumans, and divinities. Without falling back on a universalist notion of a real natural world, which Latour argues is always a conceit of modern Western science claiming to bracket its own cultural moment, he nonetheless challenges the relativist assumption that versions of nature are nothing but the conventional projections of discrete cultures. What he calls the “hyper-incommensurability” argument of postmodernists like Lyotard is based on a simplistic reversal of the modern faith in natural universalism. Latour’s alternative is what he calls a relational relativism, rather than absolute relativism, which sees the world made up of hybrids, quasi-

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objects that include as much as they exclude. “How can one claim that worlds are untranslatable,” he asks, “when translation is the very soul of the process of relating? How can one say that worlds are dispersed, when there are hundreds of institutions that never stop totalizing them?”31 Ironically, Latour’s argument in We Have Never Been Modern undermines the function that vision in one of its guises plays in supporting the discourse of cultural relativism. That is, it calls into question the visual metaphor of different perspectives on the real world, which produce different culturally filtered worldviews or phenomenological profiles of an objective real forever beyond our perfect understanding. For if there are hybrids prior to the very split between cultural viewer and natural viewed, the metaphor of perspective is patently inadequate. You can’t look, after all, from different angles at an object that no longer exists as an external reality by itself. Hybrid imbrication suggests a more haptic than visual interaction between subject and object—or rather quasi-subject and quasi-object—in what Merleau-Ponty famously called the “flesh of the world.” In an even more fundamental respect, Latour can be said to enlist visual experience against the more radical claims of culturalist constructivism. For what he alerts us to with his notion of hybridity is the impossibility of reducing figurality entirely to discursivity, images entirely to texts, the visual to nothing but an effect of the same codes that underlie the linguistic. That is, it is as impossible to reduce natural visual experience to its cultural mediations as it is to disentangle it entirely from them. We need only look as far as the silent film, which swiftly transcended the boundaries of the specific culture out of which it emerged to achieve global success, to see a clear example of the capacity of the visual to break free from linguistic and cultural constraints. Moving images, it was quickly apparent, didn’t need dubbing or subtitles to move beyond cultural boundaries. No better evidence of this capacity is the power of pornographic images as opposed to texts in foreign languages, even ones that a reader has mastered, to perform their intended titillating function. Equally telling is the ability of images of human suffering to stir compassion across cultural and linguistic boundaries. As many students of physiognomy have shown, interpreting the meaning of a facial expression may well have a cultural component, but there are also many transcultural constants in the way it registers delight, passion, fear, and pain. Although one can present comparable acoustic examples from the world of music or gustatory ones from the realm of cuisine, the relative ease with which images cross the line undermines the assumption that they are entirely relative to specific cultures, which are incommensurable with their neighbors. This is not to say, I hasten to add, that images can once again be seen as

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natural, unmediated signs that can shed all their cultural encoding. It is rather that however much they are filtered through such a screen, however much they are connotatively deflected by the magnetic field of culture, they remain in excess of it. Cultural relativism is thus called into question not by a naive return to transcendental universalism in which all mediation is overcome but rather by the inability of images to be relative to a specific culture understood as a boundaried and coherent way of life. In fact, much of the power of images, we might conjecture, comes precisely from their ability to resist being entirely subsumed under the protocols of specific cultures. As Régis Debray has noted, “to encode is to socialize (a language and a group go together). Such a gesture involves furthermore a will to curb the unsociable, to regularize what is irregular and disordered. Have we semiotized visual forms in order to be rid of them, dissolve their insistent barbarity in the analytical acid of linguistics? . . . The feared dizziness of vision may be precisely its monstrous and intimidating silence.”32 Although the rhetoric of monstrous barbarity may underestimate the ways in which images are themselves alternative modalities of civilized experience, Debray’s defense of their resistance to subsumption under linguistic codes is worth taking seriously. As the Australian filmmaker and anthropologist David MacDougall has noted in his recent analysis of ethnographic film entitled Transcultural Cinema, the materality of images “fails to participate in the creation of either narrative or symbol. This excess creates a fundamental psychological disturbance in all human endeavors to construct schemata of the world. It is nevertheless the source of much of the fascination of the photographic media, and a contributor to the underlying erotics and aesthetics of both art and science. Barthes describes this as figuration, in contrast to representation, for it traverses the grain of significance.”33 Filming the other thus leads us away from a simple belief in the pristine sanctity of different cultures espoused by cultural relativists, for it entangles us in a more complicated relations with the cultures on view. “Visual anthropology,” MacDougall writes with a nod to phenomenologists like Merleau-Ponty and Vivian Sobchack, “opens more directly onto the sensorium than written texts and creates psychological and somatic forms of intersubjectivity between viewer and social actor. In films, we achieve identification with others through a synchrony with their bodies made possible in large part by vision.”34 MacDougall’s evocation of the psychological dimension of visual experience comes from a largely phenomenological point of view, but one can discern similar implications in the case of those theorists who have found Lacan’s thoughts on vision a stimulus to their analyses.35 That is, by formulating such concepts as


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the mirror stage or the chiasmic intertwining of the eye and the gaze, Lacan was also asking us to consider the transcultural, perhaps even universal, mechanisms of visual experience. Whether or not one accepts all of his arguments or inclines to other schools of psychoanalysis (or perhaps to none at all), the recognition that sight is entangled with psyche suggests the limits of an exclusively culturalist approach, and with it the relativism that follows. For even if one discerns cultural biases in psychological discourse, calling into question its universalist pretensions, the tension between psychic interiority and social or cultural exteriority is not thereby effaced. And if we take seriously the idea of the figural moment in psychic life, which Freud himself recognized in the visual representation of the dreamwork, then it cannot be culture all the way down. Indeed, Debray has gone as far as to argue that “the image as corporeality takes us back and short-circuits our humanities, interrupts courtesies, approaches making perceptible for us the idea of animality. It disrupts the smooth symbolic order of surfaces—like the flesh before and behind the Word. This eruption is more traumatizing still with what Peirce called the indexical fragment than with the icon: the index, a physical trace, may be recognized in that even animals are sensitive to it.”36 Although one might well argue that the other senses, especially the so-called “lower” ones of smell and taste, remind us even more powerfully of our roots in the animal world, sight, no matter how seemingly disincarnated it might appear in certain scopic regimes, never loses its links with the flesh in which it is embedded. Even in the heady days when visual culture came into its own and vision seemed in danger of being subsumed entirely under visuality, this stubborn reside of what culture thought it had left behind was never entirely overcome. Now that the tide of cultural studies is beginning to recede a bit and the limits of radical culturalism are becoming increasingly apparent, relativism no longer seems as inevitable an implication of the abandonment of transcendental naturalism. The return of that alternative, to be sure, may well be foreclosed for any but the most benighted enthusiasts of what Edward O. Wilson called consilience, the hostile takeover of the humanities by the natural sciences.37 But as the persistent disruption of the organic, holistic concept of culture by visual experience reveals, we can do without choosing between extremes and live comfortably within the negative dialectic of culture and nature, knowing that neither term can suffice without the other. Relativism, cognitive and normative, may not be overcome, but the assumption that cultural differences are its source cannot be sustained.

Scopic Regimes of Modernity Revisited

“What are scopic regimes?” recently asked a curious, unnamed Internet questioner on Photherel, an official European e-learning website dedicated to the “conservation and dissemination of photographic heritage.”1 Although noting that the now widely adopted term was first coined by the French film theorist Christian Metz, the no less anonymous site respondent ducked answering the question head-on. He nonetheless could claim that “the advantage of the concept of ‘scopic regime’ is that it supersedes the traditional distinction between technological determinism . . . and social construction. . . . In the case of scopic regimes, culture and technology interact.” And then, to offer a “simple example,” he adduced the distinctions made by contemporary culture between fictional and documentary versions of reality, which are created by a number of different devices, such as the greater narrative coherence of fiction over the “possible fragmentation” of documentary. Other differences between scopic regimes, he continued, include the effects of gender—for example, the “male gaze”—and class, which he defined in terms of an opposition between the formalist look of bourgeois culture and the more politically infused variant betraying the scopic regime of dominated classes. The remainder of the entry stressed the important role played by photography in the generation of different scopic regimes. As this episode in random Internet knowledge dissemination demonstrates, there are at least two things that can confidently be said about the concept of “scopic regime”: first, that the term has begun to enter popular discourse, arousing curiosity on the part of people who have heard about it but are puzzled by its meaning, and second, that that meaning is by no means yet settled. In 1988, when I first composed an essay entitled “Scopic Regimes of Modernity” for a


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conference at the Dia Art Foundation in New York, which produced the widely read collection Vision and Visuality, edited by Hal Foster,2 only the second of these conditions obtained, as the term was familiar, if at all, to devotees of esoteric French film theory. When Metz had introduced it in 1975 in The Imaginary Signifier, he had, in fact, used it in a precise and circumscribed sense, solely to distinguish the cinema from the theater: “what defines the specifically cinematic scopic regime,” he wrote, “is not so much the distance kept . . . as the absence of the object seen.” Because of the cinematic apparatus’s construction of an imaginary object, its scopic regime is unhinged from its “real” referent. Representation is independent of what is represented, at least as a present stimulus, both spatially and temporally. Metz’s distinction was suggestive, but it’s fair to say, if a bit of self-congratulation can be excused, that “scopic regime” remained only a restricted and obscure term until the publication of “Scopic Regimes of Modernity” two decades ago. Inflating its meaning and expanding its range, the essay suggested that there were three competing regimes characterizing the era of history that has come to be called, with more or less precision, modernity. The audacity—or was it foolhardiness?—to do so came largely from the inspiration of a seminal essay by Martin Heidegger, which was at once the stimulus to my argument and its target. In “The Age of the World Picture” of 1938, Heidegger had taken the German word Weltbild, which had been a close synonym of the more familiar term Weltanschauung, or “worldview,” and given it a more than merely metaphorical meaning.3 Worldview, a term popularized by Wilhelm Dilthey and developed by later philosophers such as Karl Jaspers, had pretty much lost its connection with vision (still faintly audible in the “schau” in Anschauung) and become a synonym for a philosophy of life. Freud, for example, could define it in an essay of 1933 as “an intellectual construction which solves all the problems of our existence uniformly on the basis of one overriding hypothesis, which, accordingly, leaves no question unanswered and which everything that interests us finds its fixed place.”4 Paying more attention to the expressly visual nature of “Bild ” (“image” or “picture” in German), Heidegger explored the meanings of both “world” and “picture,” at least as he understood them. And then he posed the question, does every age have a world picture? Or is it only characteristic of the age we call “modern?” Mobilizing his special vocabulary, Heidegger explained that “Welt” is “a name for what is, in its entirety. The name is not limited to the cosmos, to nature. History also belongs to it. Yet even nature and history, and both inter-

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penetrating in their underlying and transcending of one another, do not exhaust the world.”5 This somewhat cryptic statement was clarified in the appendix to the essay in which he linked “world” to the ontological question of Being, which was of course the fundamental theme of his entire philosophy. What it did not mean, Heidegger contended, was the reduction of everything that exists to objects standing opposed to subjects viewing them from afar. This distortion was accomplished, much to his dismay, only with the introduction of the modern “world picture,” when “the world” became primarily a visual phenomenon, available to the allegedly disinterested gaze of the curious subject. As for “picture,” Heidegger made it clear that he did not mean a copy of something, an image of the world. Instead, he wrote, it suggests “the world conceived and grasped as picture.” Crucially, Heidegger continued, not every age grasps the world in this way. It is only a function of the metaphysical biases and impoverished cultural practices of the modern era, in which the broader reality he called Dasein, whose major trait was its concern for the question of Being, had shriveled into a subjectum, a punctual subject with all the myriad connotations of that word. Correspondingly, “the world” was reduced to mere objects standing opposed to that subject, objects understood solely in ontic rather than ontological terms, as objects to be represented in a frame, as if through a window. Thus, Heidegger emphasized, “the world picture does not change from an earlier medieval one into a modern one, but rather the fact that the world becomes picture at all is what distinguishes the essence of the modern age [Neuzeit].”6 Strictly speaking, according to Heidegger, neither the ancient nor the medieval world had a picture of itself in this sense. Neither of them posited a punctual viewing subject outside a welter of discrete objects in its visual field. For their inhabitants, still immersed in a richly meaningful world before the split between subject and object, the mode of representing the world as if it were in a picture to be viewed through a windowlike canvas was not yet prevalent. The vice of curiosity for its own sake, an expression of voyeuristic inquisitiveness distracting us from attending to more important matters, was still kept under control. Only with the rise of modern technology, in which the world was reduced to a standing reserve for human domination, did a true Weltbild arise. Only with the fateful advent of Descartes’ dualist metaphysics did the radical opposition of viewing subject and viewed object supplant earlier ontological ways of being immersed in the world. “The fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture,” Heidegger boldly asserted. “The word ‘picture’ [Bild] now means the structured image [Gebild] that is the crea-

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ture of man’s producing which represents and sets before.”7 In the terminology he would adopt elsewhere, it meant putting the world in a frame (Gestell), an act of “enframing” that turns the world into a “standing reserve” for human exploitation. Heidegger, in short, made two very broad claims in “The Age of the World Picture,” both of which inspired my own attempt to conceptualize the scopic regimes of modernity and yet seemed to me at the same time problematic. The first was his assertion that only the modern age could be understood to have possessed a true “world picture” in the sense he gave those terms. Modernity was radically different from what had preceded it, at least in terms of the domination of representational enframing and the primacy of the subject over the object. Cartesian philosophy, the technological domination of nature, and the rise of modern science were all factors in the creation of that outcome, or at least symptoms of the change, which involved the forgetting of Being and the privileging of the subjectum over Dasein, whose mode of relating to Sein had been care, not domination. Heidegger, however, himself provided a clue to the inadequacy of this conclusion, which too categorically differentiated historical epochs. Although insisting that “in the age of the Greeks the world cannot become picture,” he acknowledged nonetheless “that the beingness of whatever is, as defined for Plato as eidos [aspect, view] is the presupposition, destined far in advance and long ruling indirectly in concealment, for the world’s having to become picture.”8 That is, in the Platonic system of Ideas, visible to at least the mind’s eye, there is already the kernel of the world as a picture, which anticipates in some sense the radical departure that was the modern age. Premodern cultures could therefore be understood in part to possess inchoate “world pictures,” even if they were not yet fully hegemonic. As I tried to show in the book that followed a few years after the Dia Foundation conference, Downcast Eyes, Hellenic attitudes towards vision had been in fact often ocularcentric, even if not uniformly so.9 The Platonic eidos was not as idiosyncratic a concept in classical Greece as Heidegger suggested. What exists “in concealment” in a culture can, in fact, often disrupt the apparent coherence of that culture, even perhaps, to repeat Heidegger’s own phrase, “long ruling indirectly.” So although Heidegger may well have been right to stress the uniqueness of the modern era in terms of its clear-cut privileging of the world picture, it would be wrong to ignore the anticipations and manifestations in premodern cultures, both in the West and elsewhere, of that outcome. And, in fact, a good

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deal of subsequent scholarship on scopic regimes, as we will see, was to investigate precisely these prior historical instances. The second bold conclusion of Heidegger’s essay that seemed questionable was his characterization of the modern era entirely in terms of one dominant visual culture, that which he identified with Cartesian dualism, the technological domination of nature, and the punctual subject representing a world of objects at the other end of a visual field. To be sure, what might be called Cartesian perspectivalism was arguably the most prevalent model of visual experience in the modern era, as Richard Rorty had also contended in his influential Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.10 In fact, Heidegger’s case would be strengthened if we add post-Albertian perspective in the visual arts to the philosophical and scientific/technological evidence he provided. Although in “The Age of the World Picture,” Heidegger did not focus on aesthetic issues, elsewhere he indicated that treating works of art as objects for the aesthetic experience (Erlebnis) of a subject rather than as vehicles for the disclosure of Being also characterize the modern Weltbild.11 The revolution in painting during the Renaissance associated with the invention or discovery of perspective can be understood, among many other ways, as supporting this general conclusion. And perhaps we might also add, as Jacqueline Rose has urged, the development of the bourgeois subject in the early modern era, which from a certain political perspective might even be understood to underlie the entire epochal shift that Heidegger described.12 But however persuasive Heidegger’s critique of the hegemonic Cartesian perspectivalist “Weltbild” or scopic regime of the modern era might be—and, of course, there are many critics skeptical of the underlying premise of his argument about the alleged “forgetting of Being” in the West—a closer analysis of the complexities of the era we call modernity suggest that it was not quite as allpervasive as he implied. As a result, “Scopic Regimes of Modernity” sought to pluralize his monolithic argument and bring attention to two other less prominent but still important scopic regimes of modernity. This is not the place to rehearse the argument in all its details, but suffice it to say that they were characterized as the Dutch “art of describing,” a term taken from an important book of that name by the art historian Svetlana Alpers, and that of “baroque reason,” whose characteristics had been developed by the French philosopher and cultural critic Christine Buci-Glucksmann.13 Each of these was a manifestation of what Jacqueline Rose had called the “moment of unease” in the dominant scopic regime of an era.14 Each manifested a different combination of philosophical, aesthetic, and technological assumptions and practices. Indeed, as a later, ex-


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panded version of my initial essay tried to argue, each might also be extended to the competing urban design patterns of modern cityscapes.15 And perhaps, as I sought to show in a still later effort dealing with the threatened transformation of St. Petersburg’s skyline, they might even be helpful in our understanding of the different skyscapes of modern cities as well.16 It would, of course, have been possible to adduce many other examples of plausible candidates for modern scopic regimes, and in fact in several responses to the essay, a number were quickly suggested. One commentator, for example, pointed to the importance of the “criticisms of Cartesian perspectivalism offered by twentieth-century art and artists,”17 thus drawing our attention to late modern rather than early modern visual cultures, those informed by that critique of integrated subjectivity, representation, three-dimensional perspective, and realism we identify broadly with aesthetic modernism. It would be easy to locate philosophical correlates in twentieth-century thought, such as phenomenology or the later Wittgenstein’s theory of language games, for this plausible fourth modern scopic regime. And with the emergence of postmodernism still later in the twentieth century, it would be possible to posit a new scopic regime expressing its major traits, such as the triumph of simulacra over reality abetted by the digital revolution, which correlates with the philosophy of figures like Jean-François Lyotard or Gilles Deleuze, although some might argue that it really is better understood as a revival of the “baroque reason” of the early modern period. It would also be worth pausing to consider objections that have been made to the characterizations of the three scopic regimes or their relative importance in the original essay. For example, the philosopher Margaret Atherton has questioned the elevation of Descartes by Heidegger and Rorty, which I then appropriated, into the philosophical inspiration for the dominant ocularcentric regime of the modern era. Doing so, she argues, “often results in a dual oversimplification: it reduces the highly complex thought of Descartes to a caricature, and it removes attention from events that do not fit neatly the Cartesian mold. In discussions of vision, what can often get ignored is the alternative account of George Berkeley.”18 She goes on to claim that the camera obscura model of vision, in which the corporeal intervention of the spectator is bracketed out in the service of a formal, geometric model of visual experience, does not accurately describe either Descartes or Berkeley, as recent commentators such as Jonathan Crary have also mistakenly assumed. “For all of Descartes’ praise of vision of [sic] the beginning of the Optics, what he produced was an account that encouraged a

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distrust of vision,” which was continued by later Cartesians like Malebranche.19 Thus, using his name as a shorthand way to label the perspectivalist regime akin to Heidegger’s notion of the modern “world picture” is to do Descartes a disservice. Focusing instead on the implications of the alternative modern scopic regime called “baroque reason,” Christopher Braider, a scholar of comparative literature, accepts Buci-Glucksmann’s general description of its characteristics, but questions its allegedly subordinate status in comparison to the dominant one associated—rightly or wrongly—with Cartesian perspectivalism. “The baroque,” he claims, “marks indeed at once the apogee and crisis of early modern visual experience, simultaneously magnifying and deprecating human sight and the modes of depiction calculated to model and enhance it.”20 By focusing on the gender relations enacted in baroque visuality, violent and disruptive, he suggests that even Baconian science is characterized by a self-undermining of the claims it makes on the surface to visual mastery. “Perhaps the essential point is just the difficulty of saying or showing as such. The Naked Lady that images both nature and truth is an idea in Kant’s strict sense, a principle that guides us precisely because it can never be realized in the realm of representable experience.”21 It is therefore a mistake, he concludes, to date the terminal crisis of the dominant Cartesian perspectivalist scopic regime to the advent of impressionism in painting and Bergson in philosophy, as I had done in Downcast Eyes, for it was already in crisis at the outset.22 Rather, however, than speculate on the alternative candidates for scopic regimes of modernity or try to fine-tune the ideal types presented in the original essay, I want to use this opportunity to think a bit more reflectively on the larger issues raised by the concept itself. That is, what can we now say about “scopic regime” as a tool of critical analysis some two decades after its introduction into visual culture studies? How has the term been used, and what are the implications of that usage? Luckily, Internet search engines make it possible to canvas a wide variety of different cases, which might otherwise have slipped through the cracks, to arrive at a tentative answer. These include not only publications but also university courses, academic conferences, and even artistic production inspired by the concept, or at least illuminated by it.23 What first becomes apparent after such a search is the range of applications in terms of scale. We might for shorthand purposes speak of a division into “macroscopic” and “microscopic” regimes. At one end are attempts to characterize epochal configurations, inevitably coarse-grained and bold, in the manner of


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Heidegger’s critique of the Neuzeit’s “world picture.” Such were the three scopic regimes of modernity introduced in my 1988 essay. They should be understood, it bears repeating, as heuristic devices or ideal types, which allow many exceptions to whatever rules or patterns they claim to discern. The temporal and spatial boundaries of these macroscopic regimes are, of course, impossible to limit with any rigor, as is the case with all period categories used by historians.24 But attempts to provide large-scale generalizations about the visual cultures of a period, however imprecisely defined, provide at least benchmarks against which deviations and variations can be measured. They alert us to the ways in which untheorized and often unconsciously adopted background practices may inform a wide variety of phenomena during a period, from urban design and the conventions of painting to philosophical and theological doctrines to interpersonal interactions and self-images. How uniformly they may follow the patterns established is, of course, difficult to say, nor is it likely that the same pattern permeates every aspect of a regime. As is the case with all ideal types, there will always be refinements that will modify original characterizations, which are never to be understood as adequate to the reality they can only approximate.25 But enough rough coherence may characterize an epoch in ways that still allow us to speak with heuristic value of a macroscopic regime, such as “Cartesian perspectivalism,” “the art of describing,” or “baroque reason.” At the other end of the spectrum are those usages that focus on a very narrow and circumscribed set of visual practices and designate them a scopic regime. To take some examples at random, the term has been used to describe visual dimensions of “the war on terror” and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.26 It has been mobilized to investigate landscape styles under the rubric “land-scopic regimes”27 and to describe the erotic imagery of early modern Japanese prints called “Shunga.”28 It has been compared with the “spectro-scopic domains” within the rarefied science of spectrochemistry and identified with the visual experience of shopping malls.29 It has been introduced to make sense of orientalist encounters with the colonial other in Egypt, postcolonial photography in Mali, and the antihegemonic, “subaltern” novels of Bolivia.30 It has been employed to understand Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale in the fourteenth century and the poetry of John Ashbury in the twentieth.31 And the list could easily be extended in a way that would make Borges’s heteroclite Chinese encyclopedia, made famous by Foucault in The Order of Things, seem coherent by comparison. It would be tempting to condemn these motley uses as a misapplication of the term, which ought to be restricted only to the most extensive macroscopic

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regimes, such as those postulated in “Scopic Regimes of Modernity.” They are certainly less fleshed out in terms of all the possible elements in a force field, nonvisual as well are visual, metaphoric as well as literal. But insofar as no culture is homogeneous and consistent, allowing many different subcultures to flourish or compete, it would be healthier to learn from the wider and less rigorous use of the term, which, after all, has no strong claim to intrinsic, objective validity on any scale. What might be profitably explored are the congruences or lack thereof between macro- and microscopic regimes. Do they reinforce or challenge the more expansive fields in which they are situated? Are they the moments of unease on a microlevel of which Jacqueline Rose spoke? Can, for example, there be a comfortable fit between the historical regime identified by Christine Buci-Glucksmann as “baroque reason” and certain representatives of contemporary, postmodernist art, as exemplified by a recent gallery show in London with that very title?32 Can films like Sally Potter’s Orlando or Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtman’s Contract; The Belly of an Architect; A Zed and Two Noughts; The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; The Baby of Mâcon; and The Pillow Book be understood according to the same template, as one critic has suggested?33 Are the visual protocols of post-colonial photographers in Mali best understood as an “art of describing” challenge to Cartesian perspectivalism, a vernacular modernist “surfacism?”34 Can the new media as a whole be reckoned as inclining towards a resurrection of the baroque scopic regime?35 Or are there aspects of these contemporary phenomena that may escape or even contradict some of the traits Buci-Glucksmann attributed to the Baroque in its original form? It also may be worth addressing the issue of what elements need to be present to construct a complex of visual practices and habits that constitute what might justifiably be called a full-fledged scopic regime, macro or micro. In visual culture studies, we have learned to expand our focus beyond images, whether traditional easel paintings, devotional icons, printed illustrations, photographs, or the like, which were for so long the primary preoccupation of canonical art historical discourse, to more complex, historically variable force fields of visuality. What Rosalind Krauss called in her classic essay of 1979 the “expanded field” of sculpture, which emerged with installations and site specificity, has been extended to all visual artifacts. Within those force fields of relational elements, we have learned to question the protocols of seeing and the techniques of observation, the power of those who have the gaze, the right to look, as well as the status of those who are its objects, the obligation to be on view. The latter we have


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come to understand not only in terms of weakness and vulnerability but also at times as the privilege to exhibit, to attract, solicit, or demand the gaze of others in a struggle for recognition and attention. We have also learned to ask what is visible and what is invisible in a particular culture and to different members of the culture. We have explored what Walter Benjamin famously called the “optical unconscious” revealed by new technologies, registering the expansion, augmentation, or distortion produced by prosthetic devices enhancing the natural powers of the eye. We have learned to situate those technological innovations in more complicated apparatuses and practices of visuality that include cultural, political, religious, economic, and other components. All of these meanings are folded into the notion of the “scopic,” which thus extends beyond more limited concepts such as a “regime of perception.”36 But what precisely is added to the more generic notion of visual cultures or subcultures by the terminology of a “regime”? As the etymology of the term itself suggests—it is derived from the Latin regimen, which means rule or guidance—it implies a relatively coherent order in which protocols of behavior are more or less binding. As such, it fits well with what can be called the political turn in visual culture studies, in which relations of power are understood to be expressed in or reinforced by visual interactions. “Regime” suggests, however, more than just a governmental form with norms and rules, regulating behavior, enforcing conformity and setting limits. To cite one eminent observer, the political theorist Leo Strauss, regime is the order, the form, which gives society its character. Regime is therefore a specific manner of life. Regime is the form of life as living together, the manner of living of society and in society, since this manner depends decisively on the predominance of human beings of a certain type, on the manifest domination of society by human beings of a certain type. Regime means that whole, which we are today in the habit of viewing primarily in a fragmentized form: regime means simultaneously the form of a life of a society, its style of life, its moral taste, form or society, form of state, form of government, spirit of laws.37 Strauss’s remark about the “manifest domination of society by human beings of a certain type” gives away something important about the inevitable connotation of the word “regime.” Implying coercive or disciplinary constraint, it may tacitly suggest the lack of full legitimacy based on the absent or manipulated consent of the governed. Because of the longstanding habit of calling pre-

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revolutionary France, the France of the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties, the ancien régime, it may connote an autocratic, unjust and unpopular order, which constrains and exploits those under its control. We rarely talk of a democratic government based on popular sovereignty as a regime. As a result, it may also inspire thoughts about deliberately subverting and discrediting it, extrapolating from the recently fashionable idea of “regime change.” Indeed, merely exposing what had hitherto been an unconsciously followed regime may be seen as a step on the road to subverting it. Take, for example, the usage in an essay on the painter Paul Klee, whose “private visual language” is said to have “offered a ‘scopic regime’ that challenged National Socialism’s mimetic reproduction of mimetic myths.”38 Although Metz’s original use of the term to describe the cinema may not seem explicitly intended to discredit it, it is worth recalling nonetheless that he coined it at the very same time that he and his colleagues at the Cahiers du Cinéma were developing what became known as “apparatus theory” to criticize the ideological function of film as a whole.39 Typically, as two of their number, Marcelin Pleynet and Jean Thibaudeau, put it, “the film camera is an ideological instrument . . . [which] produces a directly inherited code of perspective, built on the model of the scientific perspective of the Quattrocento.”40 In other words, it is complicit with the Cartesian perspectivalist worldview, which was so much a target of the anti-ocularcentric discourse of the era. It is thus not surprising to see the very idea of a dominant or hegemonic scopic regime, no matter what its actual content, employed as a frequent target of critique, as much ethical as political. For example, in 2008 a blogger named Y. H. Lee suggested that tagging and graffiti can be understood as a way of “resisting the [sic] scopic regime by taking control over the visual landscape.”41 Similarly, in a recent book on Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, Jonathan D. Katz wrote, “From the perspective of postwar gay (that is to say, closeted) culture, there is something deeply, resonantly queer here: this sense of interrupted or blocked desire; this unwavering, implacable self-control; this persona staged for public consumption; and most of all this consuming awareness of audience, of a life lived under a scopic regime.”42 In a comparable vein, a University of Kansas literary critic, Kathryn Conrad, delivered a paper at a Canadian Association for Irish Studies conference in Toronto in 2008 titled “Queering the Scopic Regime in Northern Ireland.”43 In all of these uses, the very existence of a regime suggests that subversion or resistance will have progressive implications. With a kind of implicit anarchistic distaste for regimes of any kinds, commentators like


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these advocate subverting whichever one is in place. A regime becomes equivalent to an ideology, whose exposure and subversion are sought in the name of something truer or more just. But insofar as the fantasy of living outside a scopic regime at all is posited as the unstated alternative to being coerced by the present dominant one, the project of subversion or resistance loses, I would argue, its plausibility. For as in the parallel case of Foucault’s concept of a discursive regime, a pervasive “episteme” defining an age, the only alternative is another regime, another more or less coherent form of visual life with its own internal tensions and coercive as well as liberating implications. There may never be an “outside” beyond a cultural filter, allowing us to regain a “savage” or “innocent” eye, a pristine visual experience unmediated by the partial perspective implied by the very term “scopic.”44 Nor is it always clear that the politics of a specific scopic regime are predominantly sinister with, say, surveillance and the spectacle serving the domination of those who are victimized by them, as Chris Otter has prudently argued in his detailed exploration of the liberal implications of “the Victorian eye.”45 The inherent parallel with ideology critique thus falters. Some rules may be challenged and new ones introduced, although the effort may itself be less easy to realize than is the case when the rules are explicitly legislated, as in the political arena. But it is hard to imagine living with no rules at all. Heidegger to the contrary notwithstanding, the hope of ending the age of the world picture, all world pictures, and somehow forging a new or restoring an old nonvisual order of interaction between humans and their environment would be very difficult to achieve. There may well be an ineluctable modality of the visual, to borrow Joyce’s familiar phrase, even though the dominance of specific modalities can vary. The culturally and technologically abetted hegemony of the eye may, of course, be challenged by other senses, or at least the balance tilted back away from its domination. But it difficult to imagine that another sense can ever become dominant enough to allow us to talk of a hegemonic haptic, vocative, gustatory, or olfactory regime with the same plausibility we can assume for scopic regimes. Or rather no compelling cases have emerged so far, at least to my knowledge. The example of multiple competing scopic regimes does, to be sure, suggest that seeking other patterns in the relationship between the different senses and larger cultural wholes may well be fruitful.46 But for the moment, the most promising area of new inquiry remains in visual culture, where major questions about the coherence and integration of practices and protocols of interaction re-

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main to be resolved. Although we are still groping around in the dark for ways to articulate the relationships between micro- and macroscopic regimes and have by no means exhausted all the possible coherent regimes that might plausibly be found, we have certainly come a long way since Christian Metz first floated the idea that we might distinguish between the cinema and the theater according to the absence or presence of the object seen and defined each in terms of a unique scopic regime.

No State of Grace Violence in the Garden

In 1975, my wife and I made what in retrospect was our second wisest decision— second only, that is, to our getting married a year earlier—which was to buy property in the San Francisco Bay Area. Along with the house came with what in Berkeley was a reasonably sized garden, which had several generations of previous plantings waiting to surprise us when the seasons changed. I can remember in particular my feeling of delight when in February a profusion of delicate yellow petals on tall stalks above a cluster of clover-like leaves broke through the ground seemingly everywhere. Each day brought new outbursts of these stunners, glinting with reflected sunlight in virtually every flower bed in the yard. My reverie, however, was short-lived, as my wife, a native of California and the daughter of a serious gardening family, informed me that what I was so innocently admiring was, in fact, the dreaded weed oxalis, which ruthlessly invaded beds meant for other flowers and was extremely difficult to eradicate. If we wanted a decent garden, she insisted, we had to do all in our power to stamp it out. With a certain regret, I made the paradigm shift and began to see the little yellow flowers as the enemy.1 And what a formidable foe they were! For every attempt to pull them out by the roots left a tiny residue behind, a little nodule on the base of their root, which always rejuvenated the following year. Finally, after several seasons of Sisyphean labor, I resorted to chemical warfare and brought in toxic weapons to do the job, in particular the aptly named Round-up, which succeeded in reducing the menace to a manageable level. Although eternal vigilance is the price of an oxalis-free garden, I find myself feeling enormously superior to the other Berkeley gardeners who have given up the battle, allowing what is a horticultural version of urban graffiti to overwhelm their defenses.

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I begin with this trivial anecdote not only to make the obvious point that our distinction between flower and weed is an entirely cultural one, but also to introduce the vexed topic of violence in the garden. For there can be no doubt that my war against oxalis mobilized all of the sadistic and aggressive impulses I normally keep under control, and allowed me to vent them against a stubborn and resilient foe. For every intentional plant that I coaxed into healthy maturity or whose premature demise I mourned, there were hundreds of oxalis weeds that I gleefully uprooted or chemically annihilated. Whatever psychic benefit I was gaining from the activity flowed as much from the outlet for my anger as the opportunity to exercise my nurturant instincts. What I discovered in my own modest attempts to garden has become a theme of considerable importance in the discourse about landscaping in general. Linking the human desire to mold the environment for aesthetic purposes with the domination of nature in its more brutal forms is, in fact, now a commonplace. As W. J. T. Mitchell puts it in his hard-hitting essay “Imperial Landscape:” We have known since Ruskin that the appreciation of landscape as an aesthetic object cannot be an occasion for complacency or untroubled contemplation; rather, it must be the focus of a historical, political and (yes) aesthetic alertness to violence and evil written on the land, projected there by the gazing eye. We have known at least since Turner—and perhaps since Milton—that the violence of this evil eye is inextricably connected with imperialism and nationalism. What we now know is that landscape itself is the medium by which this evil is veiled and naturalized.2 Not only have we come to acknowledge what John Barrell called “the dark side of the landscape” in his 1980 book of that name,3 the toilsome labor that the ideology of the picturesque banishes from view, but we have also come to question the costs of the gardening impulse itself. Perhaps the most extreme version of the argument comes in the work of the Polish-born sociologist, now resident in Britain, Zygmunt Bauman, the author of such books as Legislators and Interpreters, Modernity and Ambivalence, and Modernity and the Holocaust.4 Inspired by Foucault’s analysis of the corporeal normalization of modern disciplinary societies, as well as his claims about the imbrication of knowledge and power, Bauman extends their scope beyond panoptical architecture, dressage of the body, and techniques of social control to an essential cultural attitude underlying modernity tout court. Here the complaint is not only against the hypertrophy of the visual and the disincarnation of


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the contemplative eye, as it often is in critiques of landscape painting or design, but also against the exercise of the more proximate tactile sense in working directly on the soil. For in addition to the surveillance abetted by the clearing of the land are the activities of pruning and grafting, as well as weeding. Following the distinction of Ernst Gellner between “wild and garden cultures,”5 the former reproduced spontaneously, the latter dependent on organized control over the environment exercised above all by the nation-state, Bauman has described the modernizing elite as “gamekeepers turned gardeners.”6 “The power presiding over modernity (the pastoral power of the state),” he argues, “is modeled on the role of the gardener. The pre-modern ruling class was, in a sense, a collective gamekeeper.”7 Its decline opened the way for the rise of a new managerial elite, intent on rationalizing time and space and imposing its superior knowledge on both a recalcitrant natural world and a human population in need of its benevolent care. “Gardening and medicine,” Bauman writes, “are functionally distinct forms of the same activity of separating and setting apart useful elements destined to live and thrive, from harmful and morbid ones, which ought to be exterminated.”8 Lest there be any doubt about the enemy of the gardening impulse, he adds: “The weeds—the uninvited, unplanned, self-controlled plants—are there to underline the fragility of the imposed order; they alert the gardener to the never-ending demand for supervision and surveillance.”9 In the early modern era, these included all those residues of popular culture and indigenous communities that were in the way of the Faustian project of rational development. But as modernity progressed, the costs of weeding grew even higher. Bauman goes so far as to claim that the gardening impulse, foreshadowed in the social engineering of enlightened despots like Frederick the Great, found its apotheosis in the totalitarian utopias of the twentieth century. He cites a passage from the future Nazi minister of agriculture, R. W. Darré, written in 1930, to make his point: He who leaves the plants in a garden to themselves will soon find to his surprise that the garden is overgrown by weeds and that even the basic character of plants has changed. If therefore the garden is to remain the breeding ground for plants, if, in other words, it is to lift itself above the harsh rule of natural forces, then the forming will of a gardener is necessary, a gardener who, by providing suitable conditions for growing, or by keeping harmful influences away, or by both together carefully tends what needs tending, and ruthlessly eliminates the weeds which would deprive the better plants of nutrition, air, light and sun.10

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Among the “weeds” to be “ruthless eliminated” were not only Jews but also “carriers of congenital diseases, the mentally inferior, the bodily deformed. And there were also plants which turned into weeds simply because a superior reason required that the land they occupied should be transformed into someone else’s garden.”11 In short, ethnic cleansing was a child of modern social engineering, which was itself an expression of a sinister gardening impulse that had no difficulty analogizing between the oxalis in a suburban flower bed and inferior human races. Even the most well-meaning vegans, it would seem, show complicity with the violent domination of nature and the annihilation of human “weeds.” How plausible, we might wonder, is Bauman’s rant against the gardening impulse as the ultimate cause of such twentieth-century horrors as the Holocaust? Is it just a loose metaphor, or does it express a hidden affinity that is occluded in the normal celebration of gardens as blissful islands of serenity, play, contemplation, and sensuous enjoyment? As a heuristic device, it has, in fact, had a certain success. Bauman’s work has been sympathetically received, for example, by some students of totalitarianism, including those specializing in the Soviet variety, who stress its utopian goal of radical improvement of the species and reliance on impersonal bureaucratic means.12 But many other critics have resisted Bauman’s self-consciously postmodernist attempt to link the project of modernity, understood reductively as the domination of man and nature, with such terrible outcomes.13 As in the comparable cases of Heidegger’s blaming the technological worldview of the West or Horkheimer and Adorno’s “dialectic of enlightenment,” they worry that it allows the specific responsibility of Germans for their actions to be subsumed under a more general explanation that is so broad it makes us all somehow equally culpable. Indeed, how plausible, others have wondered, is Bauman’s wholesale characterization of modernity itself with its impoverished notion of rationality as little more than bureaucratic instrumentalism? As one of his most trenchant critics, Michael Crozier, has put it, “It would seem that Bauman himself has engaged in a bit of trimming and pruning on his garden metaphor in order to topiarize a complete picture of modernity.”14 But in addition to essentializing modernity in a simplistic way, does Bauman do a serious disservice to the historical variations in gardens themselves, which cannot all be understood in terms of violent weeding or ruthless pruning as their essential raison d’être? This is the question I want to address in what follows. It is, in fact, the case that many of those variations have been interpreted in ways that support Bauman’s point. Thus, for example, it has become commonplace to note a sinister relationship between the great formal gardens of early


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modern European monarchs or landed nobility and their desire to project overwhelming power. It was not coincidental, students of the period have claimed, that the frontispiece of Hobbes’s great treatise on sovereign power, Leviathan of 1651, shows a gigantic ruler composed of his individual subjects looming over a miniature landscape spread out before him. Based on the calculated expansion of interior architectural control to the adjoining natural exterior, arrogantly defying the laws of gravity in their elaborate use of fountains, and extending the Cartesian perspectivalist scopic regime from urban to rural sites, these costly exercises in hubristic artifice have been easy targets for critics. Even in his own day, Louis XIV could be chastised by Saint-Simon for choosing to “tyrannize over nature” as well as his human subjects.15 A more recent typical account goes like this: “The Baroque landscape of the seventeenth century turned gardening into a species of martial construction. Techniques developed by military engineers— mensuration, irrigation, fortification, to say nothing of optics and hydraulics— transformed the park into a symbol of power. Versailles, Herrenhausen and Schoenbrun each owe as much to Vauban as to Le Nôtre, to Charbonnier or to Fischer von Erlach.”16 Lest this impulse be seen as confined only to the megalomania of the West, it has been possible to find it no less present in Eastern gardens like that of the Ming emperor’s Summer Palace in Beijing, whose beauty was often bought at the price of considerable human misery.17 Not only have the explicitly artificial formal gardens of imperial aggrandizement been accused of expressing violence and domination, so too have their apparent opposite: those gardens that sought to imitate wild or unconstrained nature. The exquisitely wrought miniature gardens of Japan, with their carefully balanced landscapes of flowing and still water, artfully arranged rocks, and subtly coordinated flora, have been condemned as no less an expression, if perhaps more subtly exercised, of the human will to dominate than the self-consciously artificial formal gardens of Versailles. The practice of Bonzai reduction has likewise been seen as a torture of nature comparable to the topiary concoctions of baroque gardeners.18 A similar critique has been made in the case of European landscape aesthetics after the heyday of Le Nôtre and his geometrical designs. As is well known, the formal gardens of the French court, their clipped hedges still bearing traces of the clearly demarcated borders of their walled medieval and Renaissance predecessors, were challenged beginning in the 1730s by the more informal, seemingly open “parks” of Lancelot “Capability” Brown, Charles Bridgman, William Kent, and Richard Woods. Vast manicured lawns and wide panoramas supplanted intricate knot patterns and symmetrical flower beds.19 The ideal Virgilian arcadias

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depicted in the paintings of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain moved from the realm of the imaginary to the real. Here the God’s-eye perspective necessary to make sense of French neoclassical gardens, a perspective that could be achieved only from the terraced heights of a great house, was replaced by a succession of pleasing pictorial scenes that were quickly immortalized by painters like Richard Wilson.20 But these examples of the picturesque—hovering somewhere between the beautiful and the sublime—have also come to be understood as only a more subtle form of theatrical, scenographic artifice, based on the invisible boundary of the hidden trench or “ha-ha” (whose purpose is more explicit in the French equivalent term, claire-voie). Their attempt to forget the agricultural exploitation of the land in the service of a horticultural fantasy of pastoral serenity made criticism inevitable. For a certain violence to the land for aesthetic effect could be discerned in the production of these scenic wonders. Hills, after all, had to be reshaped to undulate in a pleasing manner, branches removed to open up vistas, land cleared to produce great lawns, and water diverted to fill serpentine lakes. The pastoral idylls they were designed to facilitate could be exposed as a sentimental ornament of the ethic of the great country house, whose complicity with the economic order it pretended to forget has been the object of subsequent critique by writers like Raymond Williams in The Country and the City.21 Becoming boringly predictable in their studied sameness, the pictorial park was in turn replaced by a rougher, apparently more spontaneous English garden, heavily influenced by the fad of asymmetrical and irregular Chinese landscape design in the late eighteenth century.22 It was perhaps not by chance that this more radical version of unconstrained naturalism, deliberately shorn of arcadian idealization, gained momentum in the 1790s at a time when any residue of French rationalism could be stigmatized by its association not only with Bourbon neoclassicism but also with Jacobin terror. The diversitarian ethic of nascent Romanticism found its horticultural parallel in a naturalism that threw away the Lorrain glasses through which the theatricalized pictorial scenes of a Capability Brown were framed. This transformation was registered in the paintings of a Turner or Constable, who proclaimed in 1822 that “a gentlemen’s park is my aversion. It is not beauty because it is not nature.”23 The untamed Hampstead Heath became what Simon Schama has called “one of Romanticism’s holy places.”24 Accompanying this attitude went a new respect for totally unimproved natural landscapes, like the previously detested mountain ranges, whose sublime appeal was given moral, even spiritual value in the late eighteenth century.25 But even this style in retrospect has been decried as complicit with a cer-


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tain violence. As Ann Bermingham has shown, replacing the wide panoramas of Brown’s manicured pictorial landscapes dotted with neoclassical temples with humbler, smaller-scale, and less ordered versions of the picturesque could be seen as echoing or reinforcing the British resistance to abstract continental theory and its allegedly terrorist implications.26 Such a resistance might itself be situated in two different political narratives. One interpreted it as the landscape version of an egalitarian Wordsworthian celebration of rustic simplicity and individual sensibility, a place for solitary walkers rather than the choreographed collective fêtes of the French court or its revolutionary successor. As such, it might come to symbolize a benign combination of equality and liberty without any violent overtones. But alternately, the wild English garden could also be understood to express the conservative defense of an allegedly organic social hierarchy most famously mounted by Edmund Burke in his critique of the French Revolution. In the conservative reading, the abstract leveling of a French geometrical garden, and perhaps even the reshaping of the unruly natural landscape that produced the sweeping vistas of a Brownian park, was emblematic of the leveling produced by both tyrannical despotism and vulgar democracy. In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke explicitly excoriated “the French builders, clearing away as mere rubbish whatever they found and, like their ornamental gardeners, forming everything into an exact level.”27 In contrast, the unimproved preservation of what already existed was celebrated as the counterpart of cherishing the ancient liberties, time-honored customs, and unreformed idiosyncrasies of the British constitution rather than imposing an alleged universal system of human rights. It reinforced the sylvan utopia of what was called “greenwood freedom” before the Norman conquest.28 But for those less enamored of those allegedly immemorial liberties and customs with their valorization of traditional privileges and duties, the wild English garden could be understood as the perfect landscape expression of an unjust political status quo, with its covert violence toward those on the lower rungs of the ladder.29 Still in some ways an artificial concoction, “sweetly disordered” rather than left to random chance, it could be seen as contributing to the ideological work of the aesthetic as a soft form of that hegemonic control decried by critics like Terry Eagleton.30 Burke’s loving metaphor of the aristocracy as “the great oaks that shade a country” seemed less than compelling to the smaller plants that wanted some sun of their own. The wild English garden also could be questioned for reinforcing nationalist impulses in a Britain anxious to set itself apart

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from its continental enemy. Perhaps, as W. J. T. Mitchell has speculated, there may even be a more than coincidental affinity between the imperial pretensions of the Chinese inspirers of the English garden and those they inspired.31 There was, to be sure, a reaction to the extreme version of naturalist aesthetics in the mid-nineteenth century, as various eclectic combinations of formality and informality came into and went out of fashion, but it began to enjoy a revival with the defense of the “wild garden” by William Robinson in Britain and Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in America after 1870, the latter responsible for the landscaping of Central Park in New York. And then around the turn of the twentieth century, this time in Germany, it really came into its own. Perhaps its most explicit manifestation came in the writings of the influential garden architect Willy Lange, who popularized the somewhat oxymoronic notion of a “nature garden” in such works as Gartengestaltung der Neuzeit of 1907.32 Lange’s aesthetic was based on a rejection of anything geometrical, boundaried, regular, and architectonic. Pruning was forbidden, as were the importation of non-native plant species and the creation of artificial lawns and flower beds. Instead of an extension of a house, a garden should best be understood as an extension of the surrounding countryside. Each region, moreover, had its own ecological integrity, which involved respecting local animals as well as plants. What Lange called “plant physiognomy,” drawing on the lead of earlier writers like Alexander von Humboldt, meant that gardens should honor the harmonious appearance provided by their natural habitats. In so doing, the gardener would achieve an ethical balance with the natural world that had been violated by the tortured artificiality of previous gardening styles. A great deal of recent attention has been paid to Lange’s legacy and its political implications by the contemporary German scholars Joachim WolschkeBulmahn and Gert Groening.33 And according to their reading, those implications are deeply troubling. Noting Lange’s debts to the völkisch ideology of his day, with its exaltation of German national uniqueness and resistance to the rational abstractions of modernity, they argue that his mystical worship of nature bespoke a concomitant denigration of human civilization. His anti-anthropocentrism, they further contend, was laced with hostility to the Hebrew Bible and the “rootless” people who worshiped its God, which fit well with the anti-Semitic and racist tendencies in the völkisch movement. His cult of native plants, if sometimes transgressed in practice, echoed the suspicion of foreign cultures and alien races. The formal garden, he charged in 1933, was an expression of the inferior “South Alpine race.” Even the seemingly benign ecological principles underlying


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Lange’s aesthetic were suspect, if one recalls that the concept of ecology itself had been coined in 1866 by the Monist philosopher Ernst Haeckel, whose Social Darwinist beliefs figure in any genealogical history of Nazism.34 Wolschke-Bulmahn and Groening go on to argue that both Lange’s garden concept and his racist/nationalist Weltanschauung found their fulfillment in actual Nazi “blood-and-soil” landscaping theories and practices (Bodenständigkeit). Such figures as Hans Pastor, Alwin Seifert, and Heinrich Friedrich WiepkingJürgensmann sought to restore alleged Teutonic landscapes, including the idea of the forest “clearing” (Lichtung), which was realized in Heinrich Himmler’s SS “Grove of the Saxons” (and, although they don’t mention it, became a central concept of Martin Heidegger’s later philosophy).35 Positing a specifically German feel for the landscape in which the Volk was rooted and a biologically determined “Nordic feel for space,” they sought to banish international influences on German gardening styles, despite the fact that much of what they advocated was already present in the wild English garden of Robinson and his predecessors. Likewise, they sought to link the fight against non-native plants with the Nazi struggle against foreign elements, even using the rhetoric of a “war of extermination” against a certain variety of Impatiens parviflora. Ironically, however, they had no difficult in advocating the importation of the Nordic nature garden into those areas of conquered Poland that were destined for the expansion of German Lebensraum. Thus, in 1939, Wiepking-Jürgensmann, who was Himmler’s special representative for landscape design, wrote an essay titled “The German East: A Priority for Our Students” in which he enthused over the new opportunities presented by conquest to create a “golden age for the German landscape.”36 Wolschke-Bulmahn and Groening’s critique might be extended by acknowledging the ideological implications that have been attributed to German mountain worship, which gave a specifically nationalist twist to the comparable appreciation of the sublime we have already noted in late eighteenth-century Britain. As Siegfried Kracauer pointed out many years ago in his analysis of the mountain films in Weimar Germany made by Arnold Fanck, Luis Trenker, and Leni Riefenstahl, who starred in one of them before directing her own, they often combined a highly romanticized image of heroism amid the clouds with martial values.37 One might say that mountains in these films serve as an ultimate version of the unregulated garden, with humans reduced to ciphers in a landscape of awe-inspiring power. Pushing their argument to an extreme conclusion, Wolschke-Bulmahn and Groening contend that postwar German gardens

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often continue this ideology under the rubric of environmental or ecological correctness while blithely forgetting its earlier tainted associations. WiepkingJürgensmann, they point out, became a professor in 1948 and trained a whole generation of new students at the University of Hannover. Not surprisingly, their critique has been met with some skepticism by defenders of this movement, who point out that not everything the Nazis supported or accomplished was by virtue of their support inherently evil. Indeed, as Robert Proctor has recently shown in his unsettling book, The Nazi War on Cancer, their campaign against smoking and occupational carcinogens was in fact very much ahead of its time.38 Even granting that much of what the Nazis did promulgate in landscaping design was ideologically motivated, it may be wrong to tar all natural gardening principles as equally odious. In a recent issue of the New York Times Magazine, a very laudatory article was devoted to rediscovering the Danish immigrant to America, Jens Jensen, who died in 1951 after a long and illustrious career as the inspiration for what became known as “the new American garden.”39 As in the case of Lange, he was a fanatic believer in native rather than imported plants and abhorred artificial regularity. Against the static patterns of formal gardens or the vast panoramas of the English park, he preferred coaxing the visitor through unexpected, often shadowy passageways in a mysterious landscape. “No clipped hedges!” was his fervent motto, which earned him comparison with the great advocate of Prairie School architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright. Yet in political terms, Jensen’s worst sin was to design the grounds for the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. In a riposte to Wolschke-Bulmahn and Groening, the landscape architectural historian Kim Sorvig has insisted on the distinction between, on the one hand, sound ecological principles of land management, which follow the “location fitness” of plants rather than their culturally determined “hominess,” and neo-Nazi racist nature worship, on the other.40 Without acknowledging Zygmunt Bauman, Sorvig concludes that “if there is any valid horticultural equivalent of Nazism, it is the re-making of arid, tropical, or montane landscapes in the image of Versailles or Stourhead.”41 Mentioning Bauman brings us back to our point of departure, the plausibility of his condemnation of the gardening impulse as a motor of modern totalitarian violence. Putting aside the question of how fair Groening and Wolschke-Bulmahn have been to the long tradition of nature gardening, a question I will leave to scholars more expert in this field than I, their claim of a fit between the style that comes into its own in Lange and the Nazi Weltanschauung


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alerts us to the difficulty of accepting Bauman in all respects. That is, where he posits some sort of inherent link between rationalist modernizing projects of development and improvement and the totalitarian desire to remake the world in a utopian way, they show that at least in the case of the Nazi utopia, it was precisely a surrender of that rationalizing impulse that informed much of the landscaping practices of the Third Reich. If landscape is the “dreamwork” of imperialism, as W. J. T. Mitchell has claimed,42 it is clear that there is more than one kind of nightmare in the nocturnal imaginary of our species. For Nazi landscape aesthetics promoted antimodernist, antirationalist notions of regional specificity and resistance to internationalist mongrelization, even if it included certain pseudo-scientific elements of social Darwinism that might be seen as evidence of the mixed ideology that Jeffrey Herf has dubbed “reactionary modernism.”43 But however imprecise the fit between Bauman’s broad generalizations and the actual practices of Nazi landscape design, there may be several lessons worth heeding in his argument. First of all, it helps to undermine the assumption that gardens are best understood as absolutely distinct refuges from the rest of the world, as Edenic places of a grace that is lost outside their boundaries. Michel Foucault, it may be recalled, included them along with cemeteries, places of crisis (such as menstruation huts or boarding schools), and places of punishment and treatment (prisons or hospitals) in the “heterotopias” he saw as radical countersites to normal spatial organization.44 The word “paradise,” it is often noted, comes from the Greek paradeisos, which meant an enclosed garden or park. But the rhetoric of total otherness exaggerates the ability of the garden to keep at bay what it tries to resist. For not only when they are understood as extensions of architecture but also when they are seen as its antithesis are gardens connected to other spatial configurations with all of their ideological and cultural meaning. Wherever we place them on the spectrum whose ends we designate with those impossibly vexed terms “culture” and “nature,” gardens are hybrid entities with all of the complexities that status entails. Second, Bauman’s stress on the link between the weeding and pruning of plants and the sinister selection and breeding of humans, however exaggerated it may seem, alerts us to the importance of the nonvisual component in any analysis of the gardening impulse.45 It is sometimes assumed that the hypertrophy of disincarnated vision is the main culprit in the domination of a nature that is then understood to be enframed for purposes of subjective control. Heidegger’s influential critique of “the age of the world picture” is perhaps the locus classicus of this charge.46 The strong interaction between pictorial representations

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of gardens and gardens constructed as if they were pictures, which we’ve noted was especially prevalent at the time of Capability Brown and Richard Wilson, would support this assumption. With the ha-ha as its symbol of eye-pleasing deception, such gardens can easily be chastised for their duplicitous hiding of the onerous labor and violation of the land that was necessary to create picturesque scenes to be admired from afar. But by emphasizing the importance of the tactile dimension of gardening, the dirt under the fingernails that pull out the weeds, or the blisters on the hands that prune the shrubbery, Bauman’s argument reminds us of the proximate violence that is necessary to create such pleasing vistas. To put it another way, it also makes us question the now conventional assumption that it was the replacement of qualitative notions of local “place,” defined by the lived experience of real human bodies, with ideas and practices of abstract, homogeneous, and quantitative “space” that is somehow the ultimate cause of the violence in the gardening impulse.47 For instead it may just as well be caused by the desperate desire to reterritorialize ourselves in a familiar and comforting home as an antidote to our alienation into the abstract world of spatial grids and impersonal fields of force. If, as Marc Treib has speculated, “at the very bottom of the psychological urge to garden there also lies a sad and somewhat pathetic attempt to literally reroot oneself in a world of rapid change and rampant mobility,”48 the desperation of that attempt may abet a certain violence all of its own. Or at least that would be one implication of the nature garden tradition in German völkisch culture. It is perhaps the inevitability of that violence in the garden that is the last lesson that I think can be drawn from these ruminations on Bauman’s provocation. For no matter which version we have examined, it can be argued that some sort of ideological work of suppression and control is being exercised, either directly on nature or indirectly on the humans who inhabit it. Contrary to the Edenic myth, it seems as if the apple is always already eaten and recovered innocence is an impossible dream. The necessarily intrusive agricultural cultivation of the land for purposes of human sustenance always lurks behind the horticultural fantasy of a purely aesthetic vision, despite the attempts of ha-has to mask the labor behind it. The ordered geometric patterns of the French garden, as Keith Thomas has pointed out, echoed the symmetry and regularity of ploughed furrows and planted orchards in rows or quincunxes, which also came into their own in the seventeenth century.49 It is perhaps an acknowledgment of the inevitable violence, perhaps even deadly, that lurks in every garden that can be read on the mysterious and unfinished epigraph inscribed on the tomb in Poussin’s


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great allegorical painting of around 1755, The Arcadian Shepherds: “Et in Arcadia ego. . . .”50 But what does it really mean to say that violence is an inevitable moment in any garden? In fact, what exactly do we mean by violence itself? In her wellknown attempt to distinguish violence from power, Hannah Arendt provided one answer.51 Power, she argued, is based on people working in concert to achieve an end and therefore requires numbers; it gains its legitimacy from the initial act of people getting together to act. In contrast, violence can be the medium of one person or a minority to bring about an end through an instrumental extension of strength or force. It lacks legitimacy and can only undermine legitimate power, never support it. Its inherent tool is coercion, not persuasion. Arendt also sought to separate force, as “the energy released by physical or social movements,”52 from violence. The former, she argued, can justifiably be used to speak of the “forces of nature,” but it is imprecise to speak of the violence of nature. Building on her distinctions, I would argue in conclusion that gardens are precisely the sites in which natural force and human violence are in a tense constellation with collective power. That is, the overwhelming power of natural force has necessitated the instrumental use of human violence in order to make possible the survival and growth of our odd species. The first gardens, we might justifiably speculate, were inventions to compensate for the relative scarcity or capricious fickleness of the natural environment in providing for human subsistence. Gellner’s simple progression from gamekeeping to gardening, adopted by Bauman, fails to do justice to the fundamental role agriculture played in the earliest days of civilization, not merely in modernity. Cultivation, even horticultural, has never lost its intimate connection with the instrumental violence humans had to employ to make up for the unpredictable and often cruel environment provided by nature. What does change, however, are the ways in which power in Arendt’s sense of voluntarily acting together in concert inflects and mobilizes that violence. Gardens, in short, are not places of prelapsarian grace, arcadian heterotopias in tension with the rest of the fallen world, but rather laboratories for the unending human struggle to get the balance right between natural force, instrumental violence, and the power we give ourselves to do both good and evil.

Visual Parrhesia ? Foucault and the Truth of the Gaze The task of telling the truth is an endless labor: to respect it in all its complexity is an obligation which no power can do without—except by imposing the silence of slavery. —michel foucault, “the concern for truth”

Cézanne’s famous assertion in a letter to a friend in 1905, “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you,” was first brought into prominence by the French art historian Hubert Damisch in his 1978 Huit thèses pour (ou contre?) une sémiologie de la peinture and then made into the occasion for a widely discussed book by Jacques Derrida, La verité en peinture, later the same year.1 In that work, Derrida challenged the distinction between work and frame, ergon and parergon, that had allowed philosophers like Kant to establish an autonomous, disinterested realm for art, distinct from all surrounding discourses and institutions. Instead, Derrida insisted, the frame was always permeable, allowing the external world to invade the artwork. Apparent ornamental excrescences like columns in front of buildings or clothing on a statue cannot be fully detached from the object itself. In fact, the founding notions of artistic value—beauty or sublimity or form—came themselves, as it were, from the outside. So the truth of a painting could never be established by looking within the painting itself. Similarly, the debate over the actual model for Vincent Van Gogh’s Old Shoes with Laces between Meyer Schapiro and Martin Heidegger, a debate that saw the American critic accuse Heidegger of projecting his own philosophical investments into the work by calling them a pair of peasant shoes rather than those of the artist himself, could not be easily decided one way or another. Derrida sought to undermine Schapiro’s claim to having corrected Heidegger’s attribution by showing that his own argument was not disinterested, that it was impossible to know for sure what the painting depicted. In other words, the truth of a painting could not be established outside it either. A third example Derrida explored concerned the status of writing in the paintings of Valerio Adami, which


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incorporated literal examples of writing in his canvases, signatures, letters, even texts from Derrida’s own book Glas, but which were hard to read exclusively in formal, semiotic, or mimetic terms. Here the implication was that Cézanne’s promise of telling the truth was very hard to keep because radical undecidability undermined any clear-cut search for veracity in painting either inside or outside the frame. There is no reason to go further into Derrida’s complicated argument now. I have introduced it only as a prolegomenon to the question I want to address in this essay, which concerns the relationship between truth and not merely painting but visual experience itself, in the work of Michel Foucault. Was there in Foucault as well as Derrida a deep suspicion of the ability of the eye to verify truth claims or produce warranted assertions about the truth? What was his tacit response to Cézanne’s assertion of the painter’s obligation to tell the truth on his canvas? What would it mean for visual truth to be “told”? There has, of course, been a longstanding, often vexed, relationship between visuality and veracity. In juridical settings, eyewitness testimony often prevails over mere hearsay, and the very word “evidence,” as has often been noted, is derived from the Latin videre, to see. Whether metaphorically or literally, many philosophies, idealist as well as empiricist, have privileged illumination, enlightenment, transparency, clarity, and distinctness in their search for truth. Theory, rooted in the Greek word theoria, has often been related to the visual experience of looking at a theatrical performance. Of all the senses, vision has seemed the most disinterested because most distanced from what it perceives. And yet, as we know, the hegemony of the eye has become a topic of persistent suspicion in many different discursive contexts. In a book published a dozen years ago called Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought,2 I attempted to trace a variety of criticisms of what can be called the ocularcentric bias of much of Western thought. In that narrative, Michel Foucault played a central role, paired in a chapter with Guy Debord on the contrasting modalities of social control called the spectacle and surveillance. The book was by and large generously received and the larger point about the French interrogation of visual primacy widely accepted. But if there was any part of my argument that aroused significant resistance, it was my treatment of Foucault as an exemplar of its main thesis. In fact, even before the book had appeared, an earlier version of the claim had been questioned by John Rajchman, in an essay whose arguments I tried to address in the book itself.3 After its appearance, its inclusion of Foucault in the larger pattern I traced was challenged, in a

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nuanced way, by David Michael Levin and Thomas Flynn, and more vigorously by Gary Shapiro in a long book devoted entirely to the dialectic of seeing and saying in Nietzsche and Foucault.4 Flynn summarizes their common objections by claiming that “if Foucault has joined many of his French contemporaries in combating an ocular epistemology that extends from Descartes to the phenomenologists, he does so with the aid of a method that looks suspiciously ocular itself.”5 Shapiro marshals the arguments of Foucault’s friend Gilles Deleuze against my reading and argues that Foucault “must be understood as having substituted a binary of visibility and discursivity for the nineteenth century’s transcendental aesthetic of space and time. . . . Neither the visible nor the articulable (in contrast to a Kantian transcendental aesthetic) would be an eternal given; each mode would be susceptible of a historical, or speaking more precisely for Foucault, an archaeological analysis, that would disclose its specific character in varying contexts. Vision would not be generally suspect or denigrated; rather, every situation would be open to visual analysis.”6 In all of these instances, the claim is made that rather than being consistently suspicious of the hegemony of the eye in all its manifestations, Foucault discriminated among scopic regimes or at least visual practices, finding some more benign than others. Thus the implication that his analysis of the medical gaze or evocation of Bentham’s Panopticon as typical of the modern disciplinary order of surveillance could be extended to visuality in general is wrong. While acknowledging that Foucault did read the Panopticon as “the analysis of an ‘evil eye’ transformed into architecture,” Shapiro contends that Foucault has “no arguments that vision is generally dangerous; he is an archaeologist of the visual, alert to the differential character of various visual regimes. And within the space of a certain epoch or culture, he is alert to disparate and possibly conflicting visual practices.”7 He finds in a wide variety of visual artists—Shapiro lists Manet, Kandinsky, Klee, Magritte, Warhol, Michals, and Fromanger—alternatives to the sinister scopic regime based on surveillance and the Panopticon. Foucault, Shapiro claims, took great pleasure in painting, whose materiality caused him to love it even more than literature. Like Nietzsche and Lyotard, he understood the vital role of images in the unconscious, which, pace Lacan, was not structured entirely like a language. Whether or not Shapiro’s characterization of my position is perfectly accurate is not something I want to dwell on now, although I should point out that I did cite and acknowledge Rajchman’s argument that for Foucault, seeing was “an art of trying to see what is unthought in our seeing, and to open as yet unseen


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ways of seeing.”8 I would agree that despite his lament about being trapped in the “empire of the eye,” Foucault did understand its powers to be limited. In all of his treatments of power, including the power of the eye to dominate what it viewed, Foucault did, after all, acknowledge the inevitability of resistance. But it was never resistance that could entirely topple the hegemonic power that prevailed, only prevent its full realization. In the case of the modern scopic regime, alternative visual practices did exist and might be nurtured, but they could not restore the full innocence of the eye. My real question in this essay concerns how Foucault understood the relationship between those alternative practices, which Shapiro and others have found benign or even emancipatory, and the issue of truth. The “will to truth” and its relation to the “will to power” was, of course, one of Foucault’s perennial concerns, and he is often understood as following Nietzsche in providing us a powerful critique of the truth claims of traditional philosophy. In his 1970 Collège de France course, “History of Systems of Thought,” he spelled out the importance of the visual dimension of those traditional truth claims, in for example the Metaphysics of Aristotle: Visual perception, defined as the sensation of multiple objects given simultaneously at a distance and as a sensation that has no immediate connection to the needs of the body, reveals the link between knowledge, pleasure, and truth in the satisfaction it generates through its proper action. At the other extreme, this same relationship is transposed in the pleasure of theoretical contemplation.9 Nietzsche, in contrast, had understood that selfish interest comes before knowledge and corporeal needs preceded truth claims based on visual perception. Even earlier, in his 1963 appreciation of Bataille, “Preface to Transgression,” Foucault had linked the tradition of speculative philosophy, or as he called it “the philosophy of reflection,” with the subject created by the privileging of vision: Lying behind each eye that sees, there exists a more tenuous one, an eye so discreet and yet so agile that its all-powerful glance can be said to eat away at the flesh of its white globe; behind this particular eye, there exists another and, then, still others, each progressively more subtle until we arrive at an eye whose entire substance is nothing but the transparency of its vision. This inner movement is finally resolved in a nonmaterial center where the intan-

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gible forms of truth are created and combined, in this heart of things which is the sovereign subject.”10 It was Bataille’s great achievement, Foucault insisted, to undermine the speculative philosophical grounding of truth in a subject produced by the fantasy of pure, immaterial vision, putting in its place a violently enucleated eye, an upturned eye that can no longer see at all. The result was to disentangle philosophy from its dependence on visual metaphors of clarity, transparency, and distinctness. According to Foucault’s gloss on Bataille, “We do not experience the end of philosophy, but a philosophy which regains its speech and finds itself again only in the marginal region which borders its limits: that is, which finds itself either in a purified metalanguage or in the thickness of words enclosed by their darkness, by their blind truth.”11 Because truth was blind, however, it could not claim to reflect a world of external realities that it adequately represented. In fact, the issue of truthfulness to the outside world had to be discarded as irrelevant. As Foucault put it in his 1977 interview published as “Truth and Power,” “the problem does not consist in drawing the line between that in a discourse which falls under the category of scientificity or truth, and that which comes under some other category, but in seeing historically how effects of truth are produced within discourses which in themselves are neither true nor false.”12 That is, Foucault was interested less in establishing transcendental verification procedures than in examining the specific historical discursive systems that were the sources of the procedures themselves. Bracketing the obvious meta-question of how he meant his own account of those historical shifts to be taken—as useful fictions or as accurate depictions of real changes—we can say that he always insisted that any truth claim must be contextualized in the discourse out of which it emerged. Or to put it in a somewhat different vocabulary, the issue was the priority of validity claims, how we establish intersubjective consensus, over reality claims, whether or not the consensus judgment corresponds to the state of the world. In relation to the issue of visuality and veracity, two large questions can be asked. The first is did Foucault understand certain discursive regimes to single out visually ascertained knowledge—the evidence of the eyes or of their prosthetic extensions—as a privileged source of valid knowledge? And if so, how did he evaluate them? Were they always to be contested rather than affirmed? And the second is did Foucault himself ever argue that visuality could somehow do an end run around discursivity and provide a basis for a truth that was not


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merely an effect of a specific discursive regime? And if so, did it also escape the gravitational pull of the field of power in which it was immersed? Answers to the first cluster of questions are not difficult to discern. For Foucault understood the transition to the modern world precisely in terms of an epochal shift from truth as a function of the right way to live—moral, selfcontrolling, even ascetic—to truth as the evidence of the external world on the senses, most notably sight. As he argued in his 1983 afterward to Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow’s Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, the assumption of a link between access to the truth and the ascetic life, which went back all the way to the Greeks, lasted only until the scientific revolution of the early modern period. It was Descartes who “broke with this when he said ‘To accede to truth, it suffices that I be any subject which can see what is evident.’ Evidence is substituted for ascesis at the point where the relationship to the self intersects the relationship to others and the world. The relationship to the self no longer needs to be ascetic to get into relation to the truth. It suffices that the relationship to the self reveals to me the obvious truth of what I see for me to apprehend that truth definitively. Thus, I can be immoral and know the truth. . . . This change makes possible the institutionalization of modern science.”13 That institutionalization was embodied in the creation of the Royal Society of London in 1660 (its official charter came two years later), whose motto was nullius in verba—“in the words of no one.”14 Significantly, at the same time as he was writing these remarks, Foucault was delivering the lectures at Berkeley that became known as Fearless Speech, in which he developed an analysis of the Greek notion of parrhesia or “frankness in speaking the truth.”15 Although not given a final vetting by Foucault himself before his death, the texts of these lectures reveal a great deal about his attitudes toward the issues at hand. The parrhesiastes is one who speaks the truth, or more precisely, he “says everything he has in mind: he does not hide anything, but opens his heart and mind completely to other people through his discourse.”16 Because the speaker is willing to expose his sincere beliefs no matter the social cost, the parrhesiastes is someone willing to take a risk, willing to speak truth to power, no matter the consequences. Foucault, in fact, goes so far as to say that there is always a power differential between the one who speaks his mind and the one who is the listener, perhaps even the object of the speaker’s criticism. He summarizes his argument as follows: “parrhesia is a kind of verbal activity where the speaker has a specific relation to truth through frankness, a certain relationship to his own life through danger, a certain type of relation to himself or other

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people through criticism (self-criticism or criticism of other people), and a specific relation to moral law through freedom and duty. More precisely, parrhesia is a verbal activity in which a speaker expresses his personal relationship to truth, and risks his life because he recognizes truth-telling as a duty to improve or help other people (as well as himself ).”17 The rest of Foucault’s lectures trace the fortunes of this concept in Greek politics, literature and philosophy. His main point is that it migrated from a public concept as a guide to good citizenship in Athenian democracy into a more personal quality, a way to fashion a good life. Involving ascetic exercises— ascetic in the broad, pre-Christian sense of any kind of practical training—the latter version leads to what Foucault called an “aesthetics of the self.” Working out its implications occupied him in his last works in his series The History of Sexuality, namely, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self.18 Concerning the issue of truth, it allowed him to make a crucial distinction between what he called the tradition in Western philosophy of an “analytics of truth” and a “critical” tradition.19 Whereas the former was concerned with veridical statements about the world, the latter focused on the practice of truth-telling, of “veridiction.” Throughout his work, it was Foucault’s hope to write a genealogy of truthtelling, validity claims, rather than the analytics of truth, veridical statements about reality. As he put it in one of his last interviews, “while historians of science in France were interested essentially in the problem of how a scientific object is constituted, the question I asked myself was this: How is it that the human subject took itself as the object of possible knowledge? Through what forms of rationality and historical conditions? And finally, at what price? This is my question: At what price can subjects speak the truth about themselves?”20 The stakes of all this were clearly personal for Foucault himself as a political and cultural activist. As Didier Eribon, one of his most insightful biographers, has noted, Foucault came to understood that “if one wants to be credible and effective, one must first know, and above all speak, the truth. Speaking-the-truth, véridiction, has to be the founding principle of any journalism of intervention.”21 In Fearless Speech, Foucault once again made the distinction I cited earlier from his afterword to Dreyfus and Rabinow’s book between Cartesian notions of truth based on clear and distinct ideas of an external world and the parrhesiast tradition of claiming validity via personal qualities: “Since Descartes, the coincidence between belief and truth is obtained in a certain (mental) evidential experience. For the Greeks, however, the coincidence between belief and truth does not take place in a (mental) experience, but in a verbal activity, namely, par-

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rhesia. It appears that parrhesia, in this Greek sense, can no longer occur in our modern epistemological framework.”22 The implication of all this, I would submit, is that there is a radical rupture between a regime of truth based on the allegedly disinterested evidence of the eyes and one grounded in the sincerity of the speaker. In the modern scientific era, Foucault claimed with unconcealed dislike, “the breadth of the experiment seems to be identified with the domain of the careful gaze, and of an empirical vigilance receptive only to the evidence of visible contents. The eye becomes the depositary and source of clarity; it has the power to bring a truth to light that it receives only to the extent that it has brought it to light; as it opens, the eye first opens the truth.”23 Recent research—I am thinking in particular of the work of the sociologist of science Steven Shapin in A Social History of Truth24—has shown that this idea of a complete rupture between the premodern and modern scientific regimes of truth is in fact exaggerated. Examining the discursive regime supporting the scientific community in seventeenth-century Britain epitomized by the chemist Robert Boyle, Shapin shows that it relied heavily on trusting in the truth-telling virtues of certain types of people, in particular Christian gentlemen whose word was taken to be honest and disinterested. Although the ideology of the new science was to question authority and distrust textual in favor of direct sensual testimony, in practice it also respected the civil conversation of those with the cultural capital to engage in the language game of science. In other words, the earlier reliance on parrhesia survived well into the era when Foucault thought it had been replaced by a disembodied and disinterested knowledge based on the unimpeachable testimony of the senses and instruments alone. Nullius in verba was an ideal never fully realized. Be that as it may, it is clear that Foucault had little sympathy with the latter ideology, especially when it privileged visual evidence, which is of a piece with the types of suspicion of panoptical surveillance and the scientific gaze he developed in other contexts in his writing. As we have noted, he eschewed pursuing a history of the “analytics of truth” for a critical examination of the legitimating underpinnings of truth-telling. That there is a political dimension to all of this is evident in his oft-cited remark in The Birth of the Clinic on the French Revolution: “The ideological theme that guides all structural reforms from 1789 to Thermidor Year II is that of the sovereign liberty of truth; the majestic violence of light, which is itself supreme, brings to an end the bounded, dark kingdom of privileged knowledge and establishes the unimpeded empire of the gaze.”25 Lest there be any doubt that he linked the hegemony of the eye with violence,

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even in nonpolitical contexts, he added that “the clinician’s gaze becomes the functional equivalent of fire in chemical combustion; it is through it that the essential purity of phenomena can emerge; it is the separating agent of truth. . . . The clinical gaze is a gaze that burns things to their furthest truth.”26 We can now answer our first set of questions—did Foucault understand certain discursive regimes to single out visually ascertained knowledge, the evidence of the eyes or of their prosthetic extensions, as a privileged source of valid knowledge? And if so, how did he evaluate them?—in the following manner. Yes, he did identify certain discursive regimes as privileging visuality as the source of truth, those, for instance, exemplified by Aristotle and Descartes. The modern scientific episteme was based on a belief in the testimony of the senses, most notably vision, rather than the veracity of witnesses. Whether or not he was entirely right in that identification, after we acknowledge the lessons of Shapin’s Social History of Truth, is another question, but that he held it cannot be doubted. And when it came to evaluating the modern scientific episteme, he had no hesitation in seeing it as deeply problematic, both epistemologically and politically. These judgments, to be sure, may not be equivalent to denigrating vision as such, but rather only its mobilization in a specific discursive regime. Even if that regime were dominant for most of Western history, it would be wrong to conclude that Foucault thought no other alternative was possible. This raises our second main question: did Foucault himself ever argue that visuality could somehow do an end run around discursivity and provide a basis for a truth that was not merely an effect of a specific discursive regime? And if so, did it also escape the gravitational pull of the field of power in which it was immersed? Here we would have to examine the candidates for alternative modes of visual experience and see if they can be said to abet a kind of truth-telling— call it visual parrhesia—or perhaps better put, truth-showing. In his insightful study of Foucault, Gilles Deleuze noted that his friend’s hostility to phenomenology meant that he understood the primacy of discursive systems over different modes of visuality or perception. But he added that for Foucault, “the primacy of statements will never impede the historical irreducibility of the visible—quite the contrary. The statement has primacy only because the visible has its own laws, an autonomy that links it to the dominant, the heautonomy of the statement.”27 Whereas the statement is characterized by “spontaneity,” which implies human action and will, the visible is determined by “receptivity,” which suggests a certain measure of passivity. In his gloss on this claim, Gary Shapiro argues that “Deleuze suggests a


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rather Kantian reading of their relations, in which statements play the role of concepts and the visible plays the role of intuition.”28 But to the extent that intuition implies something that is immediate and prior to cultural construction, this interpretation seems to me questionable. As Deleuze notes, “if no original, free and savage experience lies beneath knowledge, as phenomenology would have it, it is because Seeing and Speaking are always already completely caught up within power relations which they presuppose and actualize.”29 That is, we live in a world of “Light and Language, two vast environments of exteriority where visibilities and statements are respectively deposited.”30 Because they are external to our biological perceptual apparatus, they always mediate any pure visual experience, precluding a recovery of an “innocent eye.” These environments, to be sure, are never reconcilable into one unified system, one totalitarian episteme without any internal tension. As a result, discursive regimes can be tacitly challenged and even explicitly resisted by their visual counterparts and vice versa. In much of the literature on Foucault stressing his suspicion of visuality, including my own account, the directionality of this mutual contestation is skewed in favor of language disrupting visuality. Thus, for example, Michel de Certeau in his important essay, “Micro-techniques and Panoptic Discourse: A Quid Pro Quo,” contended that in Discipline and Punish, Foucault had foregrounded three dominant optical figures, representational tableaux, analytical tableaux, and figurative tableaux, in his attempt to show how the machinery of modern normalization and discipline functioned. Although apparently clear, transparent and self-evident, these optical figures were in fact subverted by the way in which Foucault presented them: “The optical space is the frame of an internal transformation due to its rhetorical reemployment. It becomes a façade, the theoretical ruse of a narrative. While the book analyzes the transformation of Enlightenment ideologies by a panoptical machinery, its writing is a subversion of our contemporary panoptical conceptions by the rhetorical techniques of narrative.”31 That is, narrative somehow works to challenge the power of the hegemonic power of the regime of surveillance symbolized by Bentham’s infernal machine. Or to put it in another way, truth-telling via storytelling trumps the deceptive and manipulative power of the gaze. Shapiro rightly draws our attention to the ways in which Foucault could also mobilize subversive scopic practices to destabilize hegemonic regimes of either discourse or visibility, although he has to do so largely by juxtaposing different texts in Foucault’s oeuvre. He contrasts, for example, Foucault’s unfinished work on the painter Manet, abandoned in 1968, with the influential description of the

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Panopticon in Discipline and Punish, written around the same time. In a section of his book entitled “Shutters and Mirrors: Manet Closes the Panopticon Window,” Shapiro writes, “In the Panopticon the gaze is mobilized and fixed on each individual; it is a floating or functional gaze that need not appear as the look of anyone in particular. In Manet looks meet no object, no person, even though we see their source. What we see, then, is an eye disconnected from a content of vision.”32 By stressing the flat canvas against the ideal of an open window on the world, Manet disrupts the traditional perspectivalist visual regime of Western painting. Borrowing explicitly from Derrida’s analysis in The Truth in Painting, to which we have alluded earlier, Shapiro characterizes Foucault’s conclusion in the following way: “Manet, then, has brought the frame into the work; the parergon has become the ergon. And the frame’s function is not to make an interior visible, as in the Panopticon, but to produce an uncanny space in which figures hover between life and death.”33 But if Manet disconnects the eye from the content of vision and introduces the undecidability of the ergon and parergon into the uncanny space of the modernist canvas, can we claim that he is offering us a variety of visual parrhesia, of truth-showing rather than truth-telling? Clearly, Foucault intended his analysis of Manet, and here I would agree with Shapiro, to disrupt the problematic and perhaps even ideological—if we can apply the vocabulary of ideology critique about which Foucault had his doubts—scopic regime of what I have called elsewhere “Cartesian perspectivalism.”34 But is it disruption of a false system in the service of defending a truer one, either in terms of truth as epistemological adequation to a real world or truth as a function of the legitimate truth-teller? Are Manet’s canvases able to provide what Cézanne promised his friend, the truth in painting? Foucault’s examination of René Magritte’s This Is Not a Pipe provides us with more evidence to address this question. In that remarkable and much discussed little book, Foucault calls Magritte’s painting an “unraveled calligram,” thwarting the time-honored desire of the calligram to combine words and images in a single, isotropic meaning. But even though in tension, the image and text in this painting are not, strictly speaking, in contradiction because contradictions are only between two statements in language. Moreover, the image of the pipe above the words “ceci n’est pas une pipe” cannot contradict the words because what the canvas shows is not a real pipe, but only a drawing of one. “What misleads us,” Foucault concludes, “is the inevitability of connecting the text to the drawing (as the demonstrative pronoun, the meaning of the word pipe, and the


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likeness of the image all invites us to do here)—and the impossibility of defining a perspective that would let us say that the assertion is true, false, or contradictory.”35 We are no longer in the realm of painting based on resemblance to the world of external objects seen through a windowlike canvas—Foucault says “we are farthest from trompe-l’oeil”36—and therefore we have left behind the visually privileged episteme associated with Cartesian perspectivalism. This is clearly not a painting based on mimetic representation of an object realm on the other side of the window. But we have not entered an alternative scopic regime that can be understood as the visual equivalent of parrhesia, for Magritte has given us a series of similitudes without any objective correlative. “Resemblance predicated itself upon a model it must return to and reveal; similitude circulates the simulacrum as an indefinite and reversible relation of the similar to the similar.”37 What we get in a Magritte painting is the infinite play of transferences and metamorphoses that represent nothing outside of themselves, that reveal a decomposed calligram with no hope of bringing discourse and figure together into a meaningful whole. What Manet and Magritte—as well as other artists admired by Foucault, such as Warhol or Gérard Fromanger—do is undermine the pretensions to telling the truth in the hegemonic tradition of Western painting based on mimesis, resemblance, and representation. As Foucault puts it in the passage from This Is Not a Pipe cited above, they demonstrate “the impossibility of defining a perspective that would let us say that the assertion is true, false, or contradictory.” But what they do not do, I would argue in conclusion, is replace truth-telling with an alternative way of truth-showing that corresponds to the parrhesia Foucault admired in the Greeks and sought to emulate in his own activity as a public intellectual. Gary Shapiro may be right when he argues that “Foucault’s iconophilia is part of a general project of finding ways for the enjoyment of ‘bodies and pleasures,’ despite the disciplinary regimes to which they have been subjected, even the disciplinary regimes of socially established taste and criticism.”38 But merely enjoying bodily pleasure is not the same as practicing the ascesis—in Foucault’s broad definition of it as aesthetic self-fashioning—that underlies the parrhesiastes’s courageous willingness to say truth to power. Shapiro himself inadvertently acknowledges this difference when he defends Foucault against critics who charge he misunderstood Velázquez’s Las Meninas in The Order of Things by claiming it was a mistake to assume that “he intended to ‘get it right,’ to deliver the truth about the painting to us in words.”39 Instead, Foucault’s effort is

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directed at denying the possibility of our ever saying precisely the equivalent of what we are seeing. There are ways, I would agree, in which resistance to power may take visual forms, but these are understood by Foucault in largely negative terms, as disturbances in the hegemonic visuality of an era, like Manet’s challenge to traditional perspectivalist painting. They rarely, if ever, translate into positive expressions of another visual order that comes closer to a truth grounded in a form of life, a critical practice whose effects Foucault came to value, both theoretically and in his own life as a deeply engaged intellectual. This restriction of the visual to disrupting hegemonic visualities may not be equivalent to the denigration of all visual experience, but it is a far cry from the positing of a fully healthy alternative, for there is no veridiction of the eye, no intuitive apprehension of the world through sense immediacy. In short, there is no visual parrhesia for Michel Foucault, who, like Derrida, would have warned Cézanne that his obligation to tell his friend the truth about painting would be a debt left perpetually unpaid.

The Kremlin of Modernism

At odd intervals in the main galleries of the renovated Museum of Modern Art, there are textual supplements to paintings, rarely more than a paragraph, providing snippets of information about the artist, the context of the work’s production, or the place it holds in the narrative of modern art. What makes these random exceptions to the more frequent practice of labeling the artwork only by artist, title, and date so intriguing is that they seem to follow no obvious pattern that might justify the choices made by the curators to arrest the process of pure looking. Perhaps more text will follow as the museum adjusts its initial self-presentation and a uniform ratio between text and object will prevail, as is often the case in other exhibitions. Or, more likely, the curators, mindful of the press of visitors who struggle to get a glimpse of the masterworks arrayed before them, will choose to avoid anything delaying a swift passage of the hordes through the galleries and thus remain true to the modernist slogan, “less is more.” Only those determined souls willing to shell out even more than the $20 entrance fee to gain audio help will be given supplements to their unmediated visual experience. Lots of ink has already been spilled on the other decisions made by the curators—how to arrange the collection, which objects to display, what narratives of development to promote or ignore, how to balance American, European, and non-Western artists, and so on—but to my knowledge this unexpected labeling practice has not attracted attention. It is, I think, worth pondering, however, because it brings to the fore a major ambivalence about the status of MoMA itself as the world’s premier site for the collection, preservation, and display of the canonical works of twentieth-century art. It raises, to be sure, the perennial question, familiar to any museumgoer, of the proper ratio of isolated objects to

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the contextualizing discourses—iconographic, biographical, art historical, sociological, and the like—that surround them, a question that all repositories of works lacking self-evident immediacy must try to answer. But even more important, it forces us to confront a major transformation of the “objects” themselves in the very period whose history is on display at MoMA. Putting the term “objects” in scare quotes is necessary, because much of twentieth-century visual art fought over the definition of what could justifiably be called an art object. For what soon became and for a long time remained the orthodox view, aesthetically valued visual objects gained increasing autonomy from the external world they had once purported to represent. Frankly acknowledging their status as experiments in form and color on a flat canvas hung vertically on a wall, they firmly closed the window that had been opened on the world by Renaissance perspectivalism. What Bernard Smith has recently called the “formalesque”1 also glorified the spare, geometrical shapes of “international style” architecture, whose forms may have tried to follow function but were radically uprooted from any historicist or vernacular traditions with their richly symbolic meanings. Like the nonfigurative paintings that gained canonical status, these buildings were often attributed to master creators, “signature architects” with the power to realize their audacious visions. An alternative, initially less influential current of modernism began in the era after World War I to generate a very different concept of the art object. It questioned the ideal of self-sufficient artifacts fashioned by the skill and talent—in a word, the genius—of the artist. In fact, “object” itself seemed a more capacious term than “work” precisely because it underplayed the creative powers of its maker. Marvelous objects, as the surrealists in particular stressed, could just as easily be found as fashioned. Or even more provocatively, as Marcel Duchamp was the first to make clear, the redesignation of certain objects as worthy of aesthetic value was a new kind of fashioning that owed as much to the enunciative power of the artist as to his or her skilled hand. That is, someone with the authority to call something a work of art, no matter its provenance, could now find an audience willing to accept that act of designation as legitimate. The introduction of the ready-made, as is now widely appreciated, presented a radical challenge to the normative version of auratic art objects as beautiful, unique, and expressing the creative genius and technical finesse of their producers. What the ready-made also did was move the emphasis away from the object and its intrinsic qualities back to the authorizing enunciator, whose power to be taken seriously was granted not by his or her talent but rather by the institu-


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tion of art that legitimated the act itself. Duchamp had earned that authority because he had already demonstrated his ability to paint in the modernist style of his day. When he abandoned painting for a new relationship between artist and object, he was able to succeed—not, to be sure, without some delay and much resistance—in foregrounding the institutional role of galleries, journals, academic art history, and museums in producing the aesthetic judgment that commentators since Kant had identified entirely with the disinterested taste of the cultured beholder. Duchamp’s provocation, of course, was not immediately successful. The profane urinals, bicycle wheels, and bottle racks that he designated as art objects ultimately found their way into the sacred halls of museums, where it was possible to admire them for their beauty in more or less conventional “formalesque” terms rather than as time bombs designed to explode the museum as a temple of high culture. The much discussed hanging of the Bell 47D helicopter over the escalator in MoMA when it was renovated the last time by César Pelli in 1984 could thus be justified in terms of its formal beauty, not as a functional object designated as an artwork by an imaginative curator (and even less as a potential instrument of warfare whose function had been forgotten). Instead, it and comparable objects could be assimilated into the institution whose ruin they implicitly foreshadowed. Or at least they could for a while. The day of reckoning came sometime around 1970, when rumblings of a challenge to formalesque orthodoxies began to surface in a variety of ways, producing what some hailed as an epochal shift to a new period awkwardly dubbed postmodern (although it may perhaps just as easily be seen as the ascendancy of the alternative variant of modernism descending from Duchamp). What Leo Steinberg famously called “other criteria” in an essay of 1968 began to vie for prominence with those that had supported the metanarrative of modernist triumphalism.2 The relative decline of traditional easel painting as the quintessential mode of visual art, the rise of photography to a new importance (images that were “taken” rather than “made”), and the resituating of sculpture into what Rosalind Krauss called “an expanded field”3 were matched by the eclipse of formalist purism and unconstrained “opticality” in the exaltation of modernism associated, whether with full justice or not, with influential critics like Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried.4 The rise of journals like October, embracing the Duchampian provocation, fascinated by the informe championed by dissident surrealists such as Georges Bataille, open to psychoanalytic and structuralist interpretations, and learning from heterodox Marxists like Walter Benjamin, par-

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alleled and reinforced an awareness among artists themselves that something seriously new was happening. Fine arts, valued in both the aesthetic and the commercial marketplace, began to be deliberately replaced by those that were deliberately not so fine. Installations, happenings, site-specific art, video and digital art, auto-destructive and conceptual art, performance and body art, art that effaced the difference between original and reproduction all began to vie for the cutting edge with the type of work that MoMA had bravely collected back in the days when the cutting went in a different direction. The change was manifest in the sudden reversal of fortune of the value of abstraction, which began to lose ground, and not only as a synonym for nonfigural painting. It was also challenged by the re-embedding of the works in the life-worlds out of which they had been wrested and the reintegration of the eye into the lived body with its other senses and gendered specificity.5 Political challenges were leveled against the apotheosis of abstract expressionism—the “triumph of American painting,” as Irving Sandler had called it in 1970—by those who saw that victory as abetting the cold war struggle to defend “freedom” against the politicized art of the Soviet bloc.6 MoMA’s role in spreading the gospel of “international style” architecture—the third exhibition of the 1931–32 season, “International Modern Architecture,” put the term on the map—was remembered by those who disliked its putative complicity with global capitalism and the reifying abstractions of modern life. Rather than truly cosmopolitan, it could be chastised for its covert fostering of Western cultural imperialism. The goal of producing works of eternal presentness to be admired in an ideal moment of aesthetic apprehension was abandoned in favor of art as a practice designed to trouble, unsettle, shock, and stimulate new temporal experiences on the part of the beholder. What Hal Foster has recently called “tearing the image screen” meant the rupture of the flat canvases idealized by Greenbergian formalism, allowing the conflicted, multidimensional field of visual forces Lacan had dubbed the tension between “eye” and “gaze” to manifest itself, a field that soon came to include nonvisual forces as well.7 The carnal body with all its messy desires and unmastered anxieties bubbled up through an “optical unconscious” that had been repressed in the canonical version of formalist purity.8 The indexical trace left behind by the external world on photographs was deemed as important as the formal beauty of the iconic image produced by the photographer’s eye championed by John Szarkowski, the director of MoMA’s department of photography. Those photographs, moreover, could be silk-screened, as they were by Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, onto canvases that were


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no longer pure paintings, thus challenging the high modernist fetish of medium essentiality. Politically motivated artists such as Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Louise Lawler, and Andrea Fraser were working just as hard to break down the difference between object and its institutional environment: the museum not as sacred space but as prime real estate in the flow of capital, no less economic than symbolic. Following in the footsteps of figures like the Belgian Marcel Broodthaers, whose mocking Musée d’art moderne series began in the late 1960s, they demolished whatever was left of the art-for-art’s sake ideology’s pretension to have opposed the marketplace. And to the extent that the Museum of Modern Art could be identified with that pretension, it became a privileged target of abuse. In 1979 the photographer and video artist Martha Rosler, reminding her readers that MoMA had been originally sponsored by the Rockefeller family, could call it scathingly “the Kremlin of modernism.”9 A year later the conceptual artist Joseph Kossuth would denounce MoMA’s “thirty year hostility to contemporary art,” noting that “the work of living artists which the Museum of Modern Art grudgingly supports is nearly always an unhappy middle ground between its formalist view of modernism and what living artists are actually thinking—the result being a celebration of mediocrity.”10 That same year, it was possible for one of the most vigorous champions of the new dispensation, Douglas Crimp, to write a provocative essay called “On the Museum’s Ruins,” which became the title of an influential collection he published thirteen years later. And if there were any doubts that the leading museum in question was MoMA, he roundly condemned its leadership under William Rubin and Kirk Varnedoe for failing to understand what had changed.11 Or rather for resisting what Crimp saw as its inevitability, for he cited an interview with Rubin in 1974 in which the MoMA curator had acknowledged that posterity might realize that modernism had, in fact, ended in the 1960s: “Perhaps the dividing line will be seen as between those works which essentially continue an easel painting concept and that grew up associated with bourgeois democratic life and was involved with the development of private collections as well as the museum concept—between this and, let us say, Earthworks, Conceptual works and related endeavors, which want another environment (or should want it) and, perhaps, another public.” But Rubin himself was not so sure: “I’m not ruling this out; it may be the case, but I don’t think so.”12 A generation or so later, the jury, in fact, is still out, at least in terms of the definitive replacement of outmoded museums of auratic objects by other modes of aesthetic integration into everyday life. Although the latter has certainly oc-

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curred and continues to inspire much of the work done by contemporary artists, the staying power of the traditional museum cannot be denied, as the triumphant reopening of MoMA clearly indicates. It has, to be sure, lost some of its claim to maintain a high cultural distance from what surrounds it, as creeping— or in some instances galloping—commercialization and the embrace of entertainment values bring it closer and closer to the mass cultural world against which it once measured itself. But its death—like the much ballyhooed death of painting—was prematurely celebrated by those who were poised to dance on its grave. The Bell D47 still defiantly hovers above the heads of visitors in the new MoMA as a thing of formal beauty, despite the efforts of critics like Douglas Crimp to remind us of its sinister functional purpose. What has changed, however, is the status of the objects—if indeed that term is still apposite for the results of many of their practices—often produced by the contemporary artists who are most likely to warrant the attention of posterity. In addition to the challenges presented by Duchampian ready-mades or new mechanically reproduced media such as photography and video, mentioned above, there were other subtle ways in which those objects strained against the confines of their containment in the infamous white boxes of the modern museum. Take, for example, the case of minimalism, which so troubled modernist critics like Fried because of its “theatrical” redirection of attention from contemplating works to the experience of the viewer. Its practitioners sometimes produced objects that were too large in scale to be assimilated in a single gaze or from one perspective. Requiring the movement of the beholder, they introduced duration into the experience of looking, which undermined the contemplative ideal of the punctual, modernist eye. Fried’s art object, coolly existing in a world of immanent aesthetic value, was replaced by objects that were increasingly hard to distinguish from those in everyday life. The new MoMA’s response to this challenge of scale was to enlarge at least some of its galleries to restore the viewer’s ability to isolate the object as if it were still a modest size in a normal museum room (one, that is, derived from picture galleries in aristocratic houses rather than the vast expanse of great cathedrals). Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk is dwarfed by the soaring space of Yoshio Taniguchi’s atrium and can be seen elsewhere in the museum framed by viewing holes in the other galleries and stairwells, revivifying what even might be considered the premodernist window metaphor for visual experience. Reacting positively to the atrium with its multiple vantage points, Arthur Danto could tellingly enthuse, “I have never been in a building with so optical an essence.”13


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Another challenge to formalesque modernism was presented by the increasing textualization and devisualization of objects (or their surrogates) produced by artists influenced by conceptualist practices. It is, to be sure, true that easel paintings have traditionally been supplemented by some sort of texuality, whether it be the signature on the canvas or the title on or near the frame. Modernism itself began, of course, to introduce snippets of texts into its canvases, in for example cubist collages, but often these were there for their formal effect or as fragments of a world whose substantive meaning was left behind. Its titling practices, however, were complex and often tended toward minimizing their importance, at least as literal descriptions of what was shown on the canvas or even evoked by analogy. Among their practices, as John C. Welchman has shown in Invisible Colors: A Visual History of Titles, was simply using consecutive numbers, which signaled a withdrawal from textual—and, a fortiori, contextual—meaning into the self-sufficiency of the image.14 The art that rebelled against the purity of the visual reversed the primacy, leading in the case of some conceptualists such as Michael Asher to go so far as to exhibit “works” that were entirely titles without any images. Here Duchamp’s “antiretinal” campaign against visual beauty found its reductio ad absurdum. In more typical cases, the hierarchy between central image and surrounding text was at least radically disrupted, making manifest what Jacques Derrida had called the permeation of the boundary between “ergon” and “parergon,” work and frame, that haunted all attempts, such as Kant’s, to keep them totally apart.15 The austerity of the labeling practice noted at the beginning of the essay evidences MoMA’s continued adherence to the Kantian ideal (which Greenberg had explicitly adopted). Back in 1967, Susan Sontag wrote an essay titled “The Aesthetics of Silence,” in which she characterized high modernist art as the resistance to paraphrastic redescription. “Silence,” she noted, “is a metaphor for a cleansed, non-interfering vision, appropriate to artworks that are unresponsive before being seen, unviolable in their essential integrity by human scrutiny. . . . Towards such an ideal plenitude to which the audience can add nothing, analogous to the aesthetic relation to nature, a great deal of contemporary art aspires.”16 Although that silence has surely been broken as the art of our own day jabbers away in the hope of rescuing the spectator from his or her contemplative reverie, MoMA remains at its deepest level committed to the same ideal. Not surprisingly, the response to the new MoMA reflects the still smoldering battle between those who remain resolutely wedded to these now traditional values and those who follow the (no longer so) young Turks decrying them in the

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1970s and 1980s. Take, for example, two of the most prominent reviews of the reopening in the New York Review of Books by Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner and the London Review of Books by Hal Foster.17 Rosen and Zerner celebrate the new building in most respects and praise the continuing effort to realize the initial vision of Alfred Barr, which “made the collection itself into something like a work of art.” Their major complaint is that even with more wall space, the museum has been forced to exhibit only a fraction of its riches, leaving many old favorites in the vaults. Noting that recent work is represented by a small handful of exemplary pieces on the second floor, which are not presented with any meaningful explanation, they worry about MoMA’s future: “if it continues adventurously to acquire new works, it will soon run out of space—as, in fact, it already has.” If for Rosen and Zerner, the question is more spatial than substantive and the challenge presented by postmodernist art that asserts itself against museums like MoMA is ignored, Foster, a leading member of the October editorial board, is more sensitive to the stakes involved in trying to accommodate work done after 1970 and more sour about the results. Acknowledging that a number of previously ignored figures are now evident in galleries devoted to minimalist and pop art, he nonetheless notes that “some practices are not an easy fit: an alcove of Conceptual Art and institution-critical work by Robert Morris, Marcel Broodthaers and others feels like an embarrassment, as if it were a bathroom in the first plan.” And even if gestures of inclusion have been made, the domination of painting, characteristic of high modernism at its purest, remains palpable: “most work to do with materiality and corporeality, let alone the formless and the entropic, is cleaned up or not present.” Hopes for the inclusion of more context, Foster adds, have been dashed, and the lack of texts on the walls is part of the problem. By blithely ignoring the controversies that have swirled around the political implications of twentieth-century art, the museum “still uses the arc of ‘Modernist painting’—as testament to liberal democracy as well as historical continuity—to bridge the mid-century cataclysm.” Neither side, it seems to me, can claim unequivocal victory. The museum, pace Douglas Crimp, is not in ruins.18 The institution of art has survived its gravediggers (or those who hoped that art could be fully absorbed into everyday life in order to redeem or reenchant it aesthetically). As Craig Owens pointed out a while ago in a response to Krauss’s The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths, her own criticism and that of other voices urging attention to the frame must itself acknowledge that it “might also be institutionally deter-


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mined.”19 Artists such as Daniel Buren who challenged the museum often did so from within its confines, as was the case with Buren’s contribution to MoMA’s “Eight Contemporary Artists Show” of 1974. Whether or not this was intended as subversion from within, it did not produce the explosion of the frame. In fact, as Derrida’s analysis of ergon and parergon would suggest, the binary opposition itself cannot be overcome, even as its boundaries are permeated. Critics whose reputations were made on the basis of politically engaged contextualization, such as T. J. Clark, have recently rallied to the defense of abstract expressionism.20 And for what it is worth as an indication of the times, the trendy British collector Charles Saatchi has just replaced his collection of Young British Artist works with new paintings.21 On the other hand, MoMA’s rearguard effort to assimilate art after 1970 into the model of high modernist objecthood, the objecthood of the formalesque, has come up against the realities of a contemporary practice that refuses that reduction. Its strategies for assimilation can only go so far before the strains become apparent. Perhaps the best solution would be to acknowledge the historicity of modernism more frankly than the museum now seems willing to do, and forgo the attempt to acquire, display, and domesticate what has been done since the postmodern turn. This would free more of its exhibition space, still inadequate for its mammoth collection, and allow other sites to be the favored venues for new work. Even friendly voices, such as those of Rosen and Zerner, ruefully conclude this may be the best solution to the problem of hiding “old friends” to make room for new works. Foster agrees that the attempt to include contemporary along with modern art is unsuccessful, calling it a “shotgun marriage that looks like a Cinderella Ball.” It is, in short, time to let go of the utopian belief that modernism can itself avoid fading into history and that one building, however often it is rebuilt and expanded, can continue to accommodate all that has succeeded it. It should be recalled, after all, that the original Kremlin in Moscow can no longer claim to be ground zero for the political vanguard (or, conversely, serve as a metonym for totalitarian control over the canon). Once the same is acknowledged of its counterpart in the art world, we can all ease up a bit and enjoy—or at least continue to be moved, unsettled, and astonished by—the wonders it contains without being consumed by guilt at the experience. There are, after all, lots of more oppressive institutions to decry these days than the Museum of Modern Art.

Phenomenology and Lived Experience

In the struggle to define itself in opposition to its predecessor, the generation in France that fashioned itself as postphenomenological took special pleasure in deriding the concept of “lived experience.” Jacques Derrida, to take a salient example, charged in Of Grammatology that experience is an “unwieldy” concept that “belongs to the history of metaphysics and we can only use it under erasure [sous rature]. ‘Experience’ has always designated the relationship with a presence, whether that relationship had the form of consciousness or not.”1 The phenomenological attempt to raise it to a transcendental level, above the vagaries of historical and cultural change, was deeply problematic, he continued, because it “is governed by the theme of presence, it participates in the movement of the reduction of the trace.”2 It therefore fails to understand the temporal disunity of différance. Moreover, phenomenology naively believes that “all experience is the experience of meaning.”3 Likewise, Michel Foucault complained in The Order of Things that phenomenology was a philosophy that resolved itself into “a description—empirical despite itself—of actual experience, and into an ontology of the unthought that automatically short-circuits the primacy of the ‘I think.’ ”4 And in the interviews he gave in 1978 to the Italian journalist Duccio Trombadori, he argued that the phenomenologist’s experience is basically a way of organizing a reflective examination [regard réflexif] of any aspect of daily, lived experience in its transitory form, in order to grasp its meaning. Nietzsche, Bataille, and Blanchot, on the contrary, try through experience to reach that point of life which lies as close as possible to the impossibility of living, which lies at the


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limit or the extreme. They attempt to gather the maximum amount of intensity and impossibility at the same time.5 Whereas phenomenology sought to find within daily experience an ultimately integrated subject, the more transgressive thinkers he preferred gave experience “the task of ‘tearing’ the subject from itself in such a way that it is no longer the subject as such, or that it is completely ‘other’ than itself so that it may arrive at its annihilation, its dissociation. It is this de-subjectifying undertaking, the idea of a ‘limit-experience’ that tears the subject from itself, which is the fundamental lesson that I have learned from these authors.”6 Accordingly, Gilles Deleuze could claim Foucault’s major achievement was “the conversion of phenomenology to epistemology. . . . Everything is knowledge, and this is the first reason why there is no ‘savage experience’: there is nothing beneath or prior to knowledge.”7 Jean-François Lyotard, himself an early adherent of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s version of phenomenology, ultimately came to similar conclusions. In The Differend, he acknowledged that “an experience can be described only by means of a phenomenological dialectic,” but then added that the idea of an experience presupposes that of an I which forms itself [Bildung] by gathering in the properties of things that come up (events) and which constitutes reality by effectuating their temporal synthesis. It is in relation to this I that events are phenomena. Phenomenology derives its name from this. But the idea of the I and that of experience which is associated with it are not necessary for the description of reality. They come from the subordination of the question of truth to the doctrine of evidence.8 Auschwitz, or more precisely the way it has become a proper name for the ineffability of history and the impossibility of its capture by speculative discourse, had given the lie to the phenomenological concept of experience, which could be traced all the way back to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. “Can one still speak of experience in the case of the ‘Auschwitz’ model?,” Lyotard asked, and then, following Theodor Adorno, responded firmly that one could not.9 How valid, we need to ask, was this denunciation of “lived experience” so insistently leveled by postphenomenological critics? Did they do justice to the multiple ways in which experience was evoked in the phenomenological tradition? Were perhaps some of their own alternative usages anticipated in the work of certain of their targets? To answer these questions, it will be necessary to step

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back and provide a less tendentious recapitulation of the role of experience in the thought of the major phenomenological theorists. To make this dauntingly ambitious task a bit more manageable, we will restrict ourselves to the work of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, with only an occasional nod to others who also explored its implications. Any historian of the phenomenological movement will be immediately struck by the ironic fact that it was launched precisely in opposition to one powerful current of thought that had itself privileged experience in epistemological terms. What became stigmatized in Husserl’s 1900 Logical Investigations as “psychologism” meant the genetic reduction of ideas to their contingent, experiential context, in either the individual psychologies of those who held them or the social groups out of which they came.10 Even the grounding of ideas in a philosophical anthropology, species-wide in scope, was suspect. That is, Husserl was intent on rescuing secure knowledge from the relativist and naturalist implications of its situatedness in the lives of those who were the knowers. Insisting on disentangling Mind from the minds of fallible mortals, he disdained Protagorean anthropocentrism, in which man was the measure of all things. Included in the denunciation was the empiricism of a John Stuart Mill based on inductive method. “Truths” may seem persuasive for those who hold them as such, but it is wrong to confuse that conviction with an a priori criterion of veracity. The precise content of the ideal Mind might vary—mathematical truths, as Frege had stressed, or logical ones, as both he and Husserl argued, or even values, as other critics of psychologism such as the neo-Kantian Heinrich Rickert had claimed— but in all cases, the point was to resist its reduction to judgments, assertions, or worldviews, in short, the subjective or intersubjective experiences of those who held them. “Logical absolutism” meant the rigorous separation of genesis from validity, the rejection of probability for certainty, and the denial that logic needed to be validated by any criteria of reasonableness outside its own intrinsic value. But Husserl went beyond formal logic narrowly construed. It was possible, Husserl insisted, to get more direct and unmediated access to “the things themselves,” and indeed to do so in such a way that they would yield up their essential truth, understood as their inherent sense or meaning, to the “scientific” eye of the phenomenologist. The ordinary world of everyday opinions, mere “doxa” with all of its fallibilities, could be transcended in the search for universally true knowledge, “episteme” that earns the right to be honored as pure intelligibility. All genetic questions about the contingent origins of those truths in the flux of


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becoming could be successfully suspended. “True beginnings, or origins, or rizômata pantôn,”11 he argued, stood outside the ephemerality of the moment and overcame the prejudices of the day. What distinguished Husserl’s method of phenomenological description from that of more traditional rationalist or scientific approaches, however, was his provocative contention that experience, understood in a fresh and unexpected way, could itself be the immanent location for the appearance of those essential truths. In A. D. Smith’s gloss of his position, “we should not, as self-responsible philosophers, accept as absolutely binding mere second-hand opinions or things of which we have some vague intelligence, but only those things which we have directly experienced for ourselves.”12 This meant overcoming both naive naturalism and relativist historicism. A naturalist understanding of the world as comprised entirely of physical objects existing independently of conscious minds, which then experienced them through sense data, was as problematic as a historicist one that saw them in entirely genetic and culturalist terms. Opposed to the epistemological method derived from Cartesian dualism, with its strict separation of subject from object, and to more traditional methods of introspective selfreflection, Husserl sought to explore consciousness itself for “evidence”—and that was a critical word in his vocabulary, implying the unmediated and unqualified force of what is given to us13—of the ideal world. Describing the contents of that consciousness in a “rigorous” way, looking for the logos in the phenomena rather than proving it deductively, could yield up essential knowledge that was superior to the objectivist belief in a correspondence between what was “out there” in the world and “in here” in our minds. Against all odds, a passage was possible between the level of impure psychological events, temporal and relative to the knowing subject, to atemporal, ideal truths and meanings purified of any contingent, contextual dross. The bridging concept was, of course, intentionality, derived in part from Franz Brentano,14 which meant that consciousness was not self-contained and solipsistic, but always led out into—or was directed toward—the world of objects that appeared to it. Every cogito contained an equally immediate and compelling cogitatum. Intentionality meant the tendency of subjective consciousness to strive toward an object as its teleological goal, the object providing the terminal focus for the subject. In Husserl’s special lexicon, the intentional content or “noema” manifests itself in the “noetic” multiplicity of perceptions of its apparently objective existence. Using Kant’s vocabulary, but subtly altering its meaning by underplaying its

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active implication, Husserl argued that the subjectivity for whom the manifestation of noetic perceptions takes place can justly be called “transcendental.” It suspends the empiricists’ natural attitude, which takes for granted the givenness of external reality, and seeks understanding not in a naive reflection in the mind of that external world but in reflection on consciousness and its contents. Getting back to “the things themselves” can be accomplished only by returning to the apodictic self-evidence and presence of the data of our consciousness, the evidence of our lived experience. Going beyond Kant’s purely formal understanding of knowledge, which eschewed any contact with noumenal things-inthemselves, Husserl believed his method would provide access to the essences of material reality as well. Through what he called an epoche¯ (abstention from or bracketing of ) all contingent aspects of a phenomenon and the subsequent “reduction” of its residue to an essential core, a noema (which he sought to distinguish from the inductive abstraction underlying objectivist natural science), absolute, not relative, knowledge of being could be achieved. Or more precisely, what was achieved through an act of immediate intellectual intuition—the kind of inspired primordial seeing he called “eidetic”—was knowledge of ideal essences, the “ideas” of his first major work.15 What is revealed are meanings, which are themselves ultimately understood as rational. What is not discovered, however, is whether or not these essential “ideas” actually exist in a world exterior to the mind that grasps them. For Husserl, in fact, the question of existence is itself bracketed as irrelevant to the scientific search for essential meanings. No logical law, he went so far as to insist in Logical Investigations, “implies a ‘matter of fact,’ not even the existence of presentations or judgments or other phenomena of knowledge. No logical law, properly understood, is a law for the activities of mental life.”16 An enormous amount of ink has already been spilled in explicating, defending, and criticizing these ambitious claims, and this is not the place to attempt yet another serious analysis. For the issue of experience, however, the following points need to be emphasized. First, as Husserl put it in his Crisis of European Sciences of 1936, the crucial question was not “What do I experience?” but “What is my experience?”17 This meant that experience is not something a subject has of something outside, which then can be represented by internal imitation or reflection, but is itself the englobing site of consciousness and its intended object, whose ideal essence can be found only there. Phenomenology thus shared with other modern schools of thought such as pragmatism and hermeneutics a desire to expand experience beyond the narrow confines of its traditional epistemo-

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logical understanding, whether Cartesian, Humean, or Kantian in inspiration. Experience was more than perception, sensation, or even synthetic a priori judgments about a world of phenomenal objects. At times, the most fundamental version of experience seemed to earn Deleuze’s dismissive label of “savage” (a term that had earlier been given a positive connotation in the work of Merleau-Ponty).18 As Husserl put it in his Cartesian Mediations, “this beginning is the pure—and, so to speak, still dumb— experience which is now to be brought to the pure expression of its own meaning.”19 Dumb experience involves what he called “indication” (Anzeige), in which one sign can point to another, but without any meaningfulness (for example, a smiling face indicates happiness but doesn’t tell us its intrinsic significance). Only when it becomes “expression” (Ausdruck) will a sign bring out the meaning of originary experience, allowing access to the essential truths a rigorous science sought. In fact, because existence is irrelevant to essential meaning, an expression need not indicate any actual object in the world or the subjective state of a subject. Later commentators such as Merleau-Ponty and Derrida would challenge the plausibility of this distinction,20 but it allowed Husserl to think he could find ideal essences amid the flux of contingent subjective states and objective existences. In fact, where Husserl’s phenomenology differed from other anti-empiricist alternatives such as hermeneutics and pragmatism was in its far more ambitious goal of finding eternal, essential, ideal truths amid the flux of passing encounters between self and world or self and other, a goal that seemed to many ultimately comparable to Platonic idealism in its search for a priori truths. As Quentin Lauer has noted, Husserl optimistically sought a “logic of experience” by virtue of which “the ‘reconciliation’ of reason and experience will ultimately be complete, since reason itself will be a kind of experience, and experience itself will be rational.”21 In Experience and Judgment, the work compiled posthumously in 1948 from several of Husserl’s manuscripts, he emphasized that all predicative judgments in logic have to be grounded ultimately in prepredicative experience, defining the latter as the “self-evidence of objects.” In fact, the very distinction between experience and subsequent judgments about experience Husserl sought to efface. Grounding judgments of all kinds, he argued, involves “the task of the retrogression to the world as the universal ground of all particular experiences, as the world of experience immediately pregiven and prior to all logical functions. The retrogression to the world of experience is a retrogression to the ‘life-world,’

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i.e., to the world in which we are already living and which furnishes the ground for all cognitive performance and all scientific determination.”22 If in Husserl’s earlier work the impulse was to leave behind experience in order to find essential truths that would transcend their contingent, contextual origins, in his later work he stressed more and more retrogression into the life-world of prepredicative experience. What he called “founded experiences,” which included more active reflections, were always grounded in “simple experiences,” which were more passive in nature. The audacity and ambition of Husserl’s influential project have to be acknowledged, but its plausibility is another thing entirely.23 For those of his followers who could not accept his scientific ideals or believe in the possibility of knowing pure, rational essences or pursue his search for transcendental subjectivity purged of all presuppositions and prejudices, it was his focus on the prereflective, environing world (Umwelt) of doxa and sensations, habits and beliefs, that constituted Husserl’s true legacy. As Merleau-Ponty was to put it, “he kept getting a clearer and clearer picture of the residue left behind by all reflexive philosophy and of the fundamental fact that we exist before we reflect; so that, precisely to attain complete clarity about our situation, he ended by assigning, as the primary task of phenomenology, the description of the lived world [Lebenswelt], where Cartesian distinctions have not yet been made.”24 This development made it possible to mobilize the insights of phenomenology for progressive political projects, including the Marxism that Merleau-Ponty himself embraced for a while. For, “having started with a ‘static phenomenology,’ he ended with a ‘genetic phenomenology’ and a theory of ‘intentional history—in other words, a logic of history.”25 Whether or not the Marxist appropriation of phenomenology was fully persuasive—Merleau-Ponty himself came to doubt it at the end of his career— other aspects of the detranscendentalization of Husserl’s original project continued to attract positive attention. For example, his crucial distinction between the body as an object of observation from without, a body for natural scientific control (what he called Körper), and the body as lived from within and intertwined with subjective interiority (Leib) inspired a slew of phenomenological investigations of how the body had been alienated by modern science into an object of manipulation. It also led via the work of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty to a richer understanding of race relations explored by Third World theorists like Frantz Fanon. Husserl’s stress on the prepredicative “Lebenswelt” (life-world) as the a priori ground of all scientific thought likewise redirected attention to the


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concrete practices, institutions, and unreflected beliefs that subtended even the most seemingly disinterested, objective and value-neutral procedures. It would, however, be only a short jump to seek the historically and culturally specific features of distinct life-worlds, which Husserl’s stubbornly transcendental essentialism had tried to deny. For in addition to the uncertainty about his goal of grounding rigorous scientific knowledge and eternal ideal essences in the Lebenswelt, doubts were also often expressed about the ability of “experience” to lose its associations with psychologistic subjectivity. This latter doubt helps explain the initial hesitancy of Husserl’s most distinguished follower, Martin Heidegger, to employ the concept of experience at all in his earliest work. For not only did he reject the goal of disinterested inquiry into ideal essences and jettison any transcendental notion of subjectivity, Heidegger also worried that “experience”—even in the form of the subjective Erlebnisse that Dilthey and other exponents of Lebensphilosophie had elevated over scientific Erfahrungen—suggested an inner, psychological event, which was separate from body and world.26 Dasein’s moods could not be reduced to mere private experiences, Heidegger warned, because they were able to disclose the world rather than merely express interiority. Openness to the world, not psychological richness, was the road to the presencing of Being. Selfevidence was not sufficient to ground knowledge of essential reality because the punctual “self ” to whom the world was made “evident” could not be the point of entry for the unveiling of ontological truth. As he put it in Being and Time, “Our everyday environmental experiencing [Erfahren], which remains directed both ontically and ontologically towards intraworldly entities, is not the sort of thing which can present Dasein in an ontically primordial manner for ontological analysis. Similarly our immanent perception of experiences [Erlebnisse] fails to provide a clue which is ontologically adequate.”27 Did Heidegger ever lose his initial suspicion of experience in any of its various acceptations? Was it always a synonym for the psychological subjectivism he was so much at pains to discredit? According to one commentator, Calvin O. Schrag, Heidegger never succeeds in formulating a consistent position on the role of experience in his Existenz-ontologie. For the most part, in his earlier writings, he is discernibly critical of any “philosophy of experience.” In Being and Time, he relegates—probably without due consideration—all philosophies of experience to the limbo of subjectivism. In his book on Kant [Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics of 1929] he takes pains to distinguish the design of the

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Critique of Pure Reason from the program of a possible philosophy of experience. Admittedly, in his later work, Unterwegs zur Sprache, he speaks more approvingly of experience, and suggests a close connection between experience and language. But the fact remains that the question about the structure and dynamics of experience is never squarely faced by Heidegger.28 If Heidegger ever developed a more positive notion of experience, it was not by returning to traditional meanings of Erfahrung, which he associated with the experimental methods of modern science.29 Indeed, he left behind Husserl’s own methodological pretensions for a mode of thought that owed as much to poetic insight as to rigorous Wissenschaft. Instead, a bit like Walter Benjamin, who famously defended Erfahrung against Erlebnis by giving it an entirely fresh reading,30 he cautiously moved away from his disdain and embraced what might be called a notion of experience without the psychological subject. As Schrag indicates in the remarks cited above, this change involved a more positive attitude toward the relationship between language and experience, which are sometimes seen as opposed (especially when experience is tied to sense impressions and language is seen as merely a communicative medium). But it also involved a subtle revision of experience as a concept closer to what in his mature vocabulary would be called Ereignis. The shift is hinted at in the gloss he made in 1950 of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in Holzwege, which was translated into English as Hegel’s Concept of Experience.31 In many respects, Heidegger distances himself from Hegel in his commentary: he criticizes the priority of the knowing subject in the notion of the Absolute Spirit, resists the triumphal recuperation of alienation in the narrative journey (the Fahrt implied by Erfahrung) of that subject’s development, and challenges the ideal of full presence or parousia (the Christian idea of the “second coming”) he sees underlying Hegel’s dialectic. But significantly, he reinterprets Hegel’s notion of experience as a synonym for Being itself: “The parousia of the absolute takes place as phenomenology. Experience is Being, in accordance with which the Absolute wills itself to be.”32 Hegel’s still metaphysical understanding of ontology may have been faulty, according to Heidegger, but his linkage of Being and experience merits appreciation. “Because phenomenology is experience, the beingness of beings, therefore it is the gathering of self-appearance in concentration upon the appearance out of the light of the Absolute.”33 The role of Ereignis (normally translated as “event,” but closer to “appropriation” in Heidegger’s usage, and sometimes translated by the neologism “enowning”) gained in importance in his later work,34 but even in his earlier work


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Heidegger had imbued it with the passive implication of experience, the waiting expectantly for something to happen rather than deliberately making it happen. As he put it in his later essay “On the Way to Language,” “To undergo an experience with something, be it a thing, a person, or a god, means that this something befalls us, strikes us, comes over us, overwhelms us, and transforms us. When we talk of ‘undergoing’ an experience we mean specifically that the experience is not of our making. To undergo here means that we endure it, suffer it, receive it as it strikes us, and submit to it.”35 Heidegger also contrasted Ereignisse with experiences of objects that are set apart from a subject, the subject-object dualism he was so much at pains to overcome: “Experience doesn’t pass before me as thing that I set there as an object; rather I myself appropriate it [er-eignes es] to me, and it properly happens or ‘properizes’ [es er-eignet] according to its essence.”36 An Ereignis might well be a threatening one—expressing the link in German between Erfahrung and Gefahr (danger)37—as in the case of modern technology, but it also might be an opportunity for the revelation of a deeper truth. The belonging that is suggested by the eigen in Ereignis (thus the plausibility of the neologism “en-owning”) is not that of an object by a subject but rather of Dasein by Sein. Because it is not the same as a natural process (Vorgang), an Ereignis can take the form of a radical rupture in the course of things, a sudden appearance of Being in the midst of quotidian existence. Thus, the journey of experience—the Fahrt in Erfahrung—does not lead back to the point of departure, even at a higher level as in the case of Hegelian dialectics, but is rather an interruption in the narrative flow. Charles Scott is thus able to say of Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis), written in the late 1930s and published in 1989, Heidegger is in the midst of an Erfahrung—an experience of traveling along, a “progress” in older usage—as he writes; but instead of being centered in his own private world of feeling and observation, as many travelers are, he finds that he is drawn out by a troubling, persistent, indeterminate thought that is not his to own. “It” has no clear way leading to it. This thinking is thus more like exploring than a trip defined by a destination, and it does not present itself as naming any specific thing.38 Wandering with an openness to the world rather than purposefully thrusting oneself forward to ever higher planes of truth and reason allows experience in this sense to happen.

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Robert Bernasconi aptly summarizes the differences between Hegel and Heidegger in the following terms: “the former is tied to the rule of presencing and the latter commemorates it. Phenomenology for Hegel is a parousia, whereas for Heidegger it is letting the nonapparent appear as nonapparent. So Heidegger’s word Erfahrung is not set up in opposition to Hegel’s, but, in his remembrance of Hegel’s concept of experience as a presencing, he lets the oblivion of Being appear as the unsaid of what is said.”39 Whereas Hegel is confident of overcoming the lack or alienation that occurs during the perilous journey that is experience, and understands the recollection at the end of the process as an anamnestic ingathering of what had been lost, Heidegger remains suspended at the level of the search. Experience thus confirms lack rather than overcomes it, and whatever commemoration occurs is not of the perpetual presence of Being but rather of its oblivion. This version of experience as Ereignis was, in fact, very different from the notion of “lived experience” that was so scornfully disdained by postphenomenological critics. Perhaps because of their identification of it with the version they attributed to French disciples of Husserl and Heidegger, in particular the generation that called itself existentialist, they stressed its connection with traceless presence and self-contained interiority, even if the latter was not to be understood in psychological terms. Because of the traditionally subjective connotations of the term, they understood “lived experience” to be irrevocably tied to the notion of a strong self or agent able to learn from that experience. As such, this was a subject whose personal Bildung could be understood as a microcosmic variant of the learning process that Hegelian Idealism in particular had imposed on history. It was a subject whose life history was a coherent narrative, at least from a retrospective point of view. And if this version of experience as an emplotted story, whose meaning was established retrospectively, was problematic, so too was the prelinguistic alternative that Deleuze would dismiss as “savage experience.” For it suggested a kind of innocence that was the very opposite of experience in most of its traditional acceptations. There were, however, aspects of the phenomenological invocation of experience, as we have briefly outlined it above, that do not easily conform to either of these images. Ever since Husserl stressed the importance of intentionality, however much he may have wanted it to provide a smooth transition from the interior world of consciousness to essential things in themselves outside, there was an impulse in phenomenology to get beyond self-sufficient consciousness to something more. Experience (Erfahrung, if not Erlebnis) was, after all, always of

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an “other,” either a thing or another consciousness, never entirely subjective in any solipsistic sense of that term. Experience inevitably involves an encounter with an alterity that cannot be reduced to a mere emanation of the constitutive subject. It transcended the model of possessive individualism that some critics argued tacitly informed the stress on “authenticity” or Eigentlichkeit in early Heidegger.40 Moreover, although Husserl had struggled to find in experience rational essences, ideal truths, and eternal meanings that would transcend the contingent flux of existential becoming, his injunction to retrogress to the life-world of prepredicative experience meant that the latter in one guise or another inevitably crept back in. Heidegger and the existentialists thus put the question of existence back on the agenda, refusing to bracket it as irrelevant as had Husserl. The “dumb” experience of “indication” refused to disappear once the passage had been made to the more meaningful experience of “expression.” However much it tried to purify its method, transcendental phenomenology could not keep its existential potential at bay forever. A material eidetics could not, in other words, avoid going out into the world of historical and natural reality, however resolute its resistance to psychologism. Merleau-Ponty in particular would insist on its opening to biological and psychological discourses, even if he accepted the distinction between the body as lived (Leib) and the body as scientific object (Körper). In fact, among the most profound legacies of Husserl’s phenomenology were the social and cultural investigations he inspired, which extended from cinema studies and art history to psychology and sociology, anywhere where the traditional dualism of subject and object might be challenged. It was, however, in Heidegger’s radical rethinking of experience under the rubric of Ereignis that the most explicit counterexample to the critique of “lived experience” can be found. As we have seen, it turned against any residue of Hegelian post facto narrativization and metasubjective constitution, as well as the idea of fulfilled temporal presence. Instead, it suggested a notion of experience as rupture and dislocation, which reintroduced the moment of passivity, even heteronomy, that always sets experience apart from more active concepts like action or agency or praxis. Not surprisingly, there has been a recent reconsideration of the alleged conflict between the legacy of phenomenology and the theories of those who set themselves against it in the 1970s and after. A number of studies have found surprising anticipations of poststructuralist positions in the phenomenological

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tradition, broadly speaking. David Wood, for example, contends that “if phenomenology has an ethical dimension, it is not its alleged foundationalism or its search for essential intuition, it is this patience with experience. . . . If negotiation with alterity is the locus of the ethical, ‘experience’ is the essentially contested marker of that site.”41 He goes on to claim that Derrida might thus be considered a “radical phenomenologist,” despite his early critique of experience.42 Tilottama Rajan also argues that Derrida plays off the transcendental and existentialist impulses in phenomenology, adding that the influence of Jewish thinkers like Edmund Jabès and Emmanuel Levinas alerted him to an idea of “experience no longer linked positivistically to presence but rather to ‘that which is most irreducible within experience: the passage and departure toward the other.’ ”43 If there is any major implication of these reassessments of the relationship between phenomenological and postphenomenological theories for the question of experience, it would be that no single formula can adequately do justice to the experience of “experience” in the tradition we have been discussing. That is, the journey that experience itself so often connotes, the encounter with otherness that produces something beyond what was present at its beginning, the opening to newness that takes whoever makes the journey beyond his or her point of departure, has itself been undergone by phenomenologists’ disparate efforts to make sense of this vexed term. Along the way several alternatives were explored: experience purged of its psychologistic dross, understood transcendentally, and providing access to rational, eternal, essences; experience as existentially meaningful and located in the body prior to the objectifying gaze of science; experience as the passive waiting for a disruption in routine existence producing an “event” opening up a deeper connection with Being. What all shared was an attenuation of the traditional link between experience and the strong, centered subject of consciousness subtending it, a subject, either individual or collective, capable of a process of self-improvement or Bildung. Whether in its Cartesian or Hegelian form, this was a subject that was rejected by the twentieth-century phenomenological tradition. Instead, its adherents contributed to the paradoxical idea of experience without a subject, which was also defended in their own vocabularies by pragmatists, Critical Theorists, and, indeed, poststructuralist thinkers as well.44

Aesthetic Experience and Historical Experience A Twenty-First-Century Constellation

Ever since Homer—or the gaggle of bards who have come down to us under that name—sat down to commemorate in epic poetry the Greek siege of Troy, artists have been inspired to find in historical events the stuff of literature. Indeed, until Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations in Asia Minor in the 1870s, the Iliad was generally assumed to be only fictional, with scant basis in historical fact. We now know it to be a mixture of myth, legend, and semireliable memory of real events, with the precise balance still a source of scholarly conjecture. Even when the first acknowledged historians, such as Herodotus, tried to sift through the evidence to demarcate fact from fiction, the formative aesthetic impulse in their storytelling meant that “history” as the reconstruction of the past never lost its link with aesthetic fabulation. Like epic poetry, it too needed the inspiration of a Muse, Clio rather than the epic’s Calliope, to tell its story.1 Although the gathering of evidence, indeed the very concept of reliable evidence itself, moved history closer to the orbit of science, the presentation of the results in narrative form meant that aesthetic imperatives remained powerful. In fact, modern philosophers of history such as Hayden White have made a strong case for the ineradicable permeation of historical narrative—no matter how attentive historians may be to the “facts” as verifiable evidentiary traces of the past—by the formal properties of different tropic emplotments.2 History, they tell us, is a representation that, consciously or not, follows conventional modes of narration employed by epics, comedies, tragedies, satires, and other aesthetic forms. Meaning is not found in the facts, at least in pristine form, but made by their post facto interpretations. Modern historical narratives and the historical novel, which came of age with

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Sir Walter Scott in the early nineteenth century, shared a common dependency on the reality effects produced by a welter of concrete details and the adoption of a seemingly neutral narrator telling the story from the outside. Vivid descriptive scenes interlaced with narratives of action evoked the ancient practice of ekphrasis, in which poets devoted considerable rhetorical effort to “showing” something, making it visible through words (a canonical example is the shield of Achilles lavishly described at the beginning of the Iliad). The passage from the visual to the verbal has always, to be sure, been fraught with difficulty, with some critics going so far as to speak of the impossibility of ekphrasis.3 But even if a thousand words had to be marshaled to match one picture, novelists and historians alike have not shied away from the effort required to provide them. When it came to actual visual representations of the past as opposed to the verbal, tableaux rather than narratives, aesthetic considerations came no less to the fore. Painting in the West may have moderated its obsession with mythical or religious stories and sought instead to depict emblematic historical moments— a change that first occurred fitfully in the Renaissance and picked up steam only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—but the way those moments were rendered could not avoid reflecting the traditional aesthetic modes of visual presentation. In the hierarchy established by the French Academy in the seventeenth century, history painting was, in fact, considered the grande genre, above mere scenes of everyday life, landscapes, portraits, and still-lifes. Unlike those lesser genres, it was expected to have ideal and allegorical rather than merely descriptive significance.4 Great history paintings like the oft-discussed The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez (1634–35), commemorating the generous transfer of power from the Dutch to the victorious Spanish, led by General Ambrogio Spinola in 1625, give themselves up to iconographic and formal analysis every bit as complex as that applicable to paintings with religious or mythical subject matter.5 Showing us a moment with heightened and concentrated meaning invited the beholder to imagine an implied prequel and sequel in a story of unfolding development over time. In the era of European and American nation-building, visual renderings of key historical moments in national narratives—often glorious triumphs, but sometimes stinging defeats crying out for revenge—played a key role in fostering the “imagined communities” that print culture so sedulously cultivated.6 Even when the history was not that of the nation at hand—as was the case in the Paris Salon of 1784 with Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii with its ancient Roman topic—it could be allegorized to signify the gathering republican taste for

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freedom that was to burst forth in the Revolution five years later. By the time of empire, contemporary history, as depicted on the great canvases of AntoineJean Gros, such as his gargantuan and operatic Napoleon at the Battle of Eylau of 1808, no longer needed the support of classical allegories (although allegory did not, of course, lose all its charms, as shown by Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People after the Revolution of 1830). The modern era seemed, at least for a brief moment, to be an era of historical heroism. With the spread of techniques of mass reproduction, what had been so long the case for religious imagery extended to national iconography as well. By and large, the intent was to provide uplifting history lessons that would mobilize the beholders to feel a common identification with the master narrative of national realization. Through a process of imaginary witnessing, viewers were given a privileged vantage point on a significant historical event, which they could vicariously reexperience. By the end of the nineteenth century, as has often been noted, reactions to historical painting had set in on many levels. The triumphalist or lachrymose emplotment of their narratives lost some of its allure, at least for artists who began to worry about the ideological baggage they carried. The imperial gloire of a Gros battle scene had long since faded, indeed perhaps as early as Théodore Géricault’s romantic depiction of disaster in The Raft of the Medusa in 1819, although the popular entertainment of the panorama continued to show the power of traditional battles well into the century. Decontextualized formal issues seemed more pressing than either descriptive or narrative ones as modernist art began its ruthless exploration of the media of representation themselves. The protocols of realistic depiction of actual events seemed exhausted—or better served by photography—as the visual arts discovered anew the values of imagination and self-reflexivity over objective reference and representative fidelity to what was allegedly on the other side of the framed window opening on the world. In addition, it became increasingly clear that the genre of history painting had always privileged certain types of stories and excluded others in ways that could not be remedied simply by coloring the faces of its actors a darker hue or adding heroines to the canon of national heroes. Significantly, women had been prevented from even producing history paintings until well into the nineteenth century because they were prohibited from life drawing classes, being steered instead to supposed “lower” genres like landscape, portraiture, or, the most base of all, still-lifes, which supposedly appealed only to the mere senses rather than the elevated, idealizing mind. Although it took a while, the gender underpinnings of traditional history writing were challenged in a way that found its echo in the visual depiction of historical scenes as well.

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These kinds of changes were, of course, uneven. In the twentieth century, there were eras such as World War II, when the pendulum swung back, at least for a while, to heroic depictions of historical scenes for the purposes of political mobilization.7 Class heroes could receive the same exalted treatment as their nationalist counterparts by practitioners of socialist realism in the Soviet Union. Populist impulses could revive sympathy for an imagined past, often understood in regional or local terms, threatened by the onset of corrosive, homogenizing modernization. Traditional patriarchal assumptions could be reaffirmed in a time of masculinist self-assertion. But when the propagandistic implications of such work became too blatant to stomach, modernist formalism could reinvent itself as the emblem of unconstrained artistic freedom, as it did during the cold war and the heyday of abstract expressionism. That heyday, of course, has itself faded, in more ways than one, “into history.” The vain belief that we were somehow at the “end of history,” to borrow the title of Francis Fukuyama’s much ridiculed book about the triumph of liberal democracy after the American victory in the Cold War, has been left behind.8 Although our mood remains in many respects apocalyptic, as is inevitable in the aftermath of 9/11, we are less inclined to think in terms of “the end of . . .”—whether it be painting, art in general, or history—than was the case a few years ago. The twenty-first century is revealing itself to be full of surprises as historical change hurtles us into an uncertain future, and historical repetition revives what we thought was left behind. But the history that has reasserted itself as a concern for contemporary artists bears only the slightest resemblance to what preceded it. Now the assumption of a progressive metanarrative, whether of the triumph of the nation-state or the realization of a redemptive political utopia, is long gone. The allegorical impulse in earlier historical analysis, the ability of events to be interpreted as signs of some larger purpose or destiny, has waned. The idea that a serious contemporary artist would depict a scene from recent history to commemorate or celebrate some momentous event like the signing of a treaty is impossible to imagine. With the fall of communism throughout most of what was once called the “actually existing socialist” world, any remnants of socialist realism survive only in a parodic and citational way.9 In addition, there has been a comparable crisis within the frame of the aesthetic itself, as art history found it harder and harder to provide an orienting master narrative of immanent development making sense of the past of visual art and providing likely guidelines for the future.10 The assumption that its history could be read as a series of successive styles faltered with the arrival of con-

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temporary art practices that resist being grouped under any stylistic umbrella. The metaphor of an avant-garde struggling against a resistant philistine public in the name of a grateful and enlightened posterity, so long a source of selfunderstanding for artists seeking to validate their work (and rationalize their current lack of popularity), is now virtually exhausted. Without a firm sense that contemporary art is at the cutting edge of a general progress toward something better—the purification of the medium, the essence of the beautiful, the redemption of life through aestheticization, or whatever else might have served that purpose—artists can no longer fall back on the comforting belief that they are themselves moments in a grand narrative of artistic development. There are today no salons sheltering resentful refusés counting on vindication by the future. The fetish of newness, which made innovation itself the marker of highest aesthetic achievement, lost much of its allure as retro movements of reappropriation and resituation undermined whatever was left of the creative genius as a model for artistic self-description. Even the oxymoronic “tradition of the new,” as it was once called by Harold Rosenberg, has come undone.11 In addition, with the growth of more ephemeral art practices—installations, performance art, auto-destructive art, site-specific art, netart, and so on—the historical aura surrounding objects themselves, so long a staple of aesthetic value, was at least in part eroded. The sedimented experience embodied in the unique object with all its belonging to specific collections and owners, all its physical weathering and restorations, lost much of its importance with technologically reproduced art and art designed to be ephemeral events rather than eternal objects (although, to be sure, such objects still command enormous respect in both the cultural and the economic marketplace). Now when tableaux return they are likely to appear in videos, such as the slow-motion works of Bill Viola, rather than in paintings hanging in museums or collectors’ homes. How, then, we might ask, does history manifest itself in the work of contemporary artists, who have left behind modernist formalism and yet resisted any temptation to return to history painting as it was traditionally manifested? If totalizing, coherent metanarratives are now impossible, as Jean-François Lyotard famously claimed in his account of postmodernism a generation ago,12 are visual representations of the past equally bereft of the orienting principles that allowed their predecessors to function as moments of condensed meaning in an implied developmental story? If the choice between a continuation of such conventional historical narratives and the absolute synchronization of all values sometimes known as “posthistoire”13 is inadequate, what then is left? There is, of

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course, no single answer to this question, but the works collected in the exhibition curated by Nato Thompson at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) called “A Historic Occasion: The Uses of History” help us to see possible alternatives. They present imaginative experiments in the use of history—or perhaps better put, “history”—in contemporary artistic production. The need for scare quotes around the term is apparent if we register the extent to which reflexivity about traditional modes of historical research and representation is evident in the work. Take, for example, the perennial issue of reexperiencing or reenacting the past, which theoretically astute historians like Wilhelm Dilthey and R. G. Collingwood spent so much time worrying.14 These historians described their task as imaginative empathy with the subjective interiority of those who were considered the actors of history. Whether understood in holistic terms as encompassing the full range of emotions of those actors or more narrowly as reenacting their putatively rational judgments and motivations, reexperiencing was premised on two problematic assumptions. The first involved the paradoxical assumption of commensurability between present consciousness, that of the historian, and past consciousness, that of the historical actors, which suggested the very transcendental, ahistorical mind that historical sensitivity had called into question. That is, it assumed that there was no meaningful difference between, say, a twenty-first-century white American man and the tenth-century Chinese peasant woman whose experience he was trying empathetically to recapture. The radical otherness of the past was thus forgotten in the attempt to make it come alive today. Second, the focus on actors in the past, however one tried to recapture their consciousness, lost sight of the fact that history is often made against the will and behind the backs of actors, who never fully experienced what posterity can now see as the main structural or long-term trends of the eras in which they lived. The well-known cartoon showing a man running through the streets of a medieval town shouting the impossible warning, “The Hundred Years’ War has broken out! The Hundred Years’ War has broken out!,” cleverly makes this point. That is, there is no totalizing vantage point from which one can both act in history and write its post facto narrative, a narrative, moreover, that can never reach its final closure. What is problematic for professional historians may, however, provide suggestive stimulation for artists grappling with the ways in which history, however we understand it, refuses to release its grip on us. Historical reenactments, often of great battles, have been popular entertainments for some time, but normally

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scorned as kitsch allowing weekend warriors to prance around in period costumes, or at best as lower-level vernacular art by more critically minded cultural observers. Several of the artists in this show, however, have decided to stage reenactments of a sort themselves. The American Allison Smith draws on the robust tradition of Civil War reenactments to create an installation of sculptures and artifacts evoking the era, although in poses and postures that work to undermine the heroic reading of the war. The German artist Felix Gmelin reenacts a scene from the student movement in 1968 Berlin, in which his father was one of several runners carrying a red flag through the streets of the city to a balcony in the City Hall. The second time, however, the running took place in Stockholm and the flag never made it to the balcony, implying the futility of the gesture today. In 2001, the British artist Jeremy Deller produced an even more ambitious reenactment of an event during the bitter miners’ strike that took place in Britain in 1984, which became known as the “battle of Orgreave” from the Yorkshire village where it took place. Responding to the laying off of twenty thousand miners, five thousand of them gathered at the entrance to a coking plant and blocked trucks trying to enter to pick up coal. The Thatcher government mobilized some six thousand riot police to force the gates, and a pitched battle lasted all day until the miners were defeated. Jeremy Deller used a company called Event Plan to create a reenactment with period costumes—yes, 1984 had its own styles, such as denim jackets—and a cast of some eight hundred extras. Including two hundred eighty actual participants in the original event, the reenactment took place in a stadium, with a thousand rubber bricks substituted for the real thing. Interviews with participants testified to the sense of solidarity it engendered, despite its simulacral status, which led to a film aired on public television. Another contributor, the American photographer Greta Pratt, provides a metalevel reflection on reenactments that have already occurred in the culture, giving us images of nineteen impersonators of Abraham Lincoln. Here history as a story of progressive development is replaced by history as repetition and difference. The British video artist Eve Sussman adds further layers of reflexivity by unfreezing a canonical ekphrastic scene from Western art history, JacquesLouis David’s The Rape of the Sabine Women of 1799, which itself purported to record a historical—or more likely legendary—moment in the founding years of the Roman Republic. As she had done earlier with another celebrated canvas by a Western artistic master, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Sussman dereifies the frozen spectacle and restores temporality to what produced it. Raptus, her video of

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the thirty-minute battle scene she choreographed on the Greek island of Hydra with a group of actors, dancers, and musicians called The Rufus Corporation, includes the initial rape and abduction of the Sabine women before they return to make peace between their new Roman husbands and former Sabine menfolk shown by David. To complicate things still further, Sussman has her reenactors dress not as eighth-century bc Romans or even Greeks but rather as 1950s Americans. The results, according to curator Nato Thompson, are as follows: Bouffant-haired women adorned in slim mid-knee skirts and wrap-around black sunglasses a la Jackie Onassis, together with men in sharp noir suites, find themselves transplanted in a battle for the nuclear family, for the high modernist home, for the promised life of modernity. The film skids across narrative in a dream-like unfurling of images—all shot throughout with beautiful light—where modernity dissolves and conflates with the epic battles of antiquity . . . in this poetic battle that moves from butcher shop, to airport to high modernist home to the Herodian theater with a cast of over 800, we find a postmodern return to Empire. Reenactments of whatever kind, however, can only provide partial and subjective entry into the past, no matter how brilliantly imagined the empathetic reexperiencing of what is purported to have happened before. There are, as mentioned above, longer term trends that no one personally could have experienced in their entirety when they were occurring. Historians therefore have had to resort to perspectives from above, less intimate panoramic surveys of a landscape from afar. Certain artists concerned with the relevance of history have also been drawn to this dimension of historical reconstruction, one which understands that patterns, if they exist at all, can only be seen from a distance and not experienced by participants firsthand. Trevor Paglan, a geographer turned artist who had earlier mapped the prison system in the state of California from above in Recording Carceral Landscapes, now focuses on an even more hidden historical map, that of the “black world” of classified installations created by the Pentagon during the Cold War. The Secret Bases gives us an especially powerful insight into the disconnect between everyday experience and the occulted forces of history by choosing intentionally hidden features of the Cold War era, which only reveal themselves, if at all, to a surveillance camera high above them. Here aesthetic experience in the present deliberately severs any ties with reenactments of the experience of past actors. A similar absence is registered in the work of the Bosnian artist Nebojsa Seric-Shoba, who photographs the scenes of past


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historical events, such as Verdun or Auschwitz, where no visible trace of the horrible slaughters that occurred there can be directly seen but whose names still conjure up the ghosts of their victims. Yet another strategy employed by artists in the exhibition to allow the intrusion of history into the present involves the direct use of material objects from the past, but objects robbed of their numinous aura. Like the debris that is available to be reconfigured in a new amalgam, as Walter Benjamin famously argued in his discussion of dialectical images, they operate through juxtaposition to create new constellations of meaning. Whether it is the vinyl records melted and refashioned by the American Dario Robleto into soldiers’ boots or the pseudo-African cotton batik material used by the British artist Yinka Shonibare to clothe headless dummies in Scramble for Africa or the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s furniture sculptures made from personal effects of victims of her country’s civil war, the litter of the past is given new resonance by artists sensitive to the historical energies still latent in them. In a recent article in the journal History and Theory, the Dutch philosopher of history Eelco Runia has suggested that rather than stressing the metaphoric emplotment of the past as meaningful by contemporary historians, in the manner of Hayden White, it might be more fruitful to concentrate on the metonymic presence of residues of the past instead.15 That is, history can let us get in touch with realities left by past generations, which are discontinuous with our own lives, unassimilable to our own narratives. They are metonyms because they involve a substitution of an attribute or adjunct for the larger thing itself, a kind of deliberately inappropriate displacement of a word from one context to another (for example, the proper name of an author for his oeuvre, as in the sentence, “What we find in Tolstoy is a panorama of Russian life”). Sudden appearances of objects from the past serve this function in opening up an entire lost world. What Runia calls the “presence in absence” in these historical artifacts produces a spatial rather than temporal effect, one in which the two moments exist for us now, but without any integration. He cites as examples the novels of W. G. Sebald, such as Austerlitz, in which the journey of the main character is like a walk through a mapped landscape, where each location speaks of the past.16 What is of particular interest for our own purposes is Runia’s observation that historical metonymies need not always be verbal, but can be visual as well. “Curious specimens of nonverbal metonymies in a linguistic context,” he writes, “are the illustrations in the novels of Sebald. These illustrations—in Austerlitz only photographs, in Vertigo also train

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tickets, receipts, postcards, advertisements, and so on—function as fistulae or holes through which the past discharges into the present.”17 He then adds, citing the insights of the critic Heiner Boehncke, that “each individual hole is what Roland Barthes has called a ‘punctum’ (a snip, a little blemish, a pinhole)—and indeed, Sebald’s illustrations are a kind of ‘leak’ in time through which ‘presence’ wells up from the past into the present.”18 Something similar was anticipated in a distinction made by the Austrian art historian Alois Riegl in his essay of 1903, “The Modern Cult of Monuments.”19 There was a difference, Riegl argued, between historical value and age value (Alterswert). Whereas the former meant that objects could provide information about the past, which allowed them to be placed in a chronological narrative, a coherent developmental elucidation of a bygone era, the latter functioned to reveal “the past alone and as such.” That is, they reminded us in the present of a past whose existence helps the beholder register the inevitable passing of time, bringing forth in the beholder “a sense of the life cycle, of the emergence of the particular from the general and its gradual but inevitable dissolution back into the whole.”20 Working with comparable fossils or relics from their own countries’ history, artists like Robleto, Shonibare, or Salcedo give us what Sebald calls “’kernels of reality’ surrounded by expanses of nothingness.”21 They provide metonymic presences of absent past realities that are never recuperable into meaningful, emplotted narratives with a beginning, middle, and end. As placeholders of a strange and discontinuous past, out of place in our own current world, stowaways on a journey that never arrives home, they are the opposite of the allegorical history paintings of the past, replete with resonant meaning. They are what might be called antiekphrastic exercises, in which there is no highpoint in a narrative that can be visually rendered for the edification of the viewer. Indeed, if one tries to fit all these versions of historical and aesthetic experience together, they defy coherence and totalization. Rather than reducing events to moments in a meaningful story, the works in this show register the ways in which events resist complete contextualization. They turn away from any emblematic moment of heightened significance comparable to ekphrastic description in literature. In this sense, they bear witness to the collapse of the traditional notion of history, including art history, emplotted in a narrative, developmental mode. Or rather, since the term “collapse” suggests precisely an endpoint that tacitly restores linear narrativity, they paradoxically testify to the persistence of what they appear to overcome, but a persistence with a difference. For rather


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than being reduced to mere entries in a simultaneous archive that functions like an Internet, with only associative links serving as the principle of infinite connectivity, they are more like shards of a past that is not the same as the present, and constantly remind us of that difference.22 “Historical experience” in this sense is the experience of the radical otherness of what happened before in an elsewhere and elsewhen that refuses to be assimilated into a historicist flow of development or succumb to the cultural meat grinder of an eternal now.

Still Waiting to Hear from Derrida

The death of Jacques Derrida in October 2004, at the age of seventy-four, should not be seen as the end of an epoch, the demise of an intellectual movement, or even the final act in the life of the man with that proper name. For if Derrida left any legacy at all, it was a radical suspicion about closure and completion, the inexorable linearity of before and after, indeed any “straightforward” temporality not haunted by the specters of a past it imagines it has left behind or pregnant with a future (avenir) still to come (à venir). His many critics were right, at least in one sense, in calling his deconstructive theorizing a preposterous undertaking, for it clearly jumbled the pre and the posterior in ways that confounded those with a penchant for the sens unique of traditional narrative. As a result it remains especially resonant in a twenty-first century that in many respects—the return, for example, of religious violence and faith-based antiscientism—seems less like a continuation of the twentieth than a regression to the fourteenth. What also speaks to his continued relevance is the lesson he taught or better exemplified in his work and life, a lesson in what can be called the inescapable power of performativity. That is, among the most potent gifts he bestowed on those who read his texts and followed his career was an appreciation of the impossibility of disentangling ideas from the modes and vehicles of their presentation and the vicissitudes of their reception. Although the message, pace McLuhan, could not be reduced to the medium, it could never be entirely extracted from it. For Derrida, it was impossible to abstract ideas from their material substrate, to forget that that every looking glass has an opaque tain or silver backing behind its reflecting surface, which enables its function as a mirror. And while it would be wrong to make writing into an alienated expression of the spo-


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ken word or explain ideas away through reductive psychologizing, it would be no less problematic to efface the traces of their mediation through the unique, if never fully coherent, individuality of the writer and thinker. The value of that lesson was ironically made clear to me when I attempted to make sense of his work by situating it in a larger discursive context, which I characterized as the pervasive critique of hypervisuality—or “ocularcentrism”— in twentieth-century French thought from Bergson, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty to Foucault, Barthes, and Lyotard. In the book published in 1993 on that theme called Downcast Eyes, I devoted a chapter to Derrida and the feminist theorist Luce Irigaray. It was playfully entitled “Phallogocularcentrism,” a self-consciously monstrous word invented to highlight their common disdain for the mutually reinforcing hegemonies of logos, the phallus, and the eye in Western culture culminating in the modern Enlightenment. All were complicit, they argued, in the traditional power of the reifying male gaze, the fetish of rigid, fully transparent meaning, and the spread of disembodied visual surveillance. During the composition of the book, I had a chance to speak with both of them and sent copies when it was completed. Irigaray never responded, but in October 1993 I was thrilled to receive a letter from Derrida acknowledging its arrival. Until then my relations with him had been oblique and distant—a few scholarly conferences together, dinner at the house of a mutual friend in Berkeley, no sustained intellectual exchanges—and it would have been easy to infer a likely incompatibility between our views on a number of issues (assuming, to be sure, that anyone was benighted enough to compare them at all). Identified as I was with the Frankfurt School and seen as a defender of Habermas’s pro-Enlightenment critique of postmodernism, I often found myself easily positioned by others during the so-called theory wars of the 1980s as an opponent of deconstruction—indeed, of poststructuralism as a whole. And in fact, there was some truth to this characterization.1 When the Irvine campus of the University of California invited Derrida, Lyotard, and J. Hillis Miller to its precincts in the 1980s as the stars of a new program in “theory,” there was also a sense in some quarters that Berkeley, where Michel Foucault had been a powerful presence in the first years of the decade, was hostile territory (Derrida and Foucault having been at odds since their quarrel over the reading of Descartes in the latter’s Madness and Civilization). Before his death, in fact, Foucault had cautioned me against affiliating myself with the Collège internationale de philosophie when I went to Paris in 1984–85, because Derrida was one of its sponsors (advice I fortunately did not follow).

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At the founding conference for the Critical Theory Institute at Irvine in 1987, to which I was invited as a kind of ex officio delegate from the north, Derrida also explicitly scolded the new and threatening movement in literary studies he identified with Berkeley: “It would thus be easy to show that what has recently been called or what calls itself new historicism—assuming it had a stable identity outside the institutional place which makes this new species grow in Northern California after transplants from French vineyards—new historicism introjects while denying it, incorporates without admitting it, a concern with history which . . . was already active, present and fundamental, for example, in the very poststructuralism which the supporters and promoters of new historicism think it is absolutely crucial to oppose.”2 I was, to be sure, not directly involved with Representations, the Berkeley journal most identified with the new historicism and the site of an infamous article by poststructuralist apostate Jeffrey Mehlman that had left Derrida apoplectic with rage.3 However, my wife, Catherine Gallagher, was one of its founders and leading lights, a fact not likely to have been lost on those who understand the power of personal alliances in intellectual matters. To add to the likelihood that Derrida would have been wary of me, I had just positively blurbed The Heidegger Controversy, a collection edited by my friend Richard Wolin, which contained without Derrida’s permission the interview called “Philosopher’s Hell,” a contribution he then demanded with unrelenting fury be expunged from any later edition.4 Derrida was, of course, a notoriously embattled figure both in France and abroad, fiercely loyal to his friends and implacable toward his foes, so it would not have been surprising if he had been predisposed to react negatively to my characterization of his attitude toward visuality. Downcast Eyes was, in fact, written in part as a nuanced critique of the wholesale denigration of the visual, which I had found so prevalent in the discourse I had examined. Although I had tried to qualify characterizations of the protagonists when warranted by the ambiguities of their arguments, there was a certain inevitable homogenization implied by the larger argument of the book. It was with some trepidation therefore that I opened his letter. But my fears were soon dispelled. Covering both sides of a single sheet of stationery that he had brought back to Paris from New York University, his handwritten letter had all the signs of a gracious and generous response. Or at least I think it did. For despite my best efforts, the combination of Derrida’s obscure handwriting and his elusive style made it difficult, indeed impossible, to decipher a good part of what the letter said. Although my French is


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passable, I quickly enlisted the help of a colleague with even more fluency, Carla Hesse, to aid in the cause. We worked very hard to make sense of about seventyfive percent of it. The rest defeated our best efforts. But rather than pursue the task further, I allowed the letter to remain in its largely undeciphered state. The note I sent Derrida to acknowledge it was filled with polite banalities, and when we saw each other next—I think it was in his seminar in Paris—I didn’t bring it up. Indeed, a dozen years later, I am still not completely certain what Derrida was actually saying about my account of his work! Although my reluctance might be attributed to an abiding anxiety about learning I got his argument wrong, I have come to think of it in more positive terms, as a kind of tacit tribute to Derrida’s performative lesson. That is, the incomplete and imperfect transmission of Derrida’s reactions to his intended addressee neatly exemplifies the inevitable process of miscommunication or “destinerrance” that he attributed to all such efforts. As he argued in The Post Card, one can never be certain that letters will reach their addressee, for no postal system can avoid losing at least some of them. Arrival is necessarily premised on the possibility of nonarrival, a structural basis of the communicative system of transmission as a whole. The dream of perfect communicability and unequivocal significance is a utopian fantasy, as intended meanings can never escape the refracting distortions of their medium of delivery and the institutional frame in which they are embedded. The stubborn materiality of that medium, the inability of signifiers to efface their distance from what they purport to signify, cannot be entirely suppressed, as clearly demonstrated by the idiosyncratic quasi-legibility of Derrida’s scrawl. The obfuscation of meaning is, of course, abetted by difficulties in translation between languages, as is evidenced by his moving back and forth in his letter from French to English, the latter often citations from Downcast Eyes, which were themselves paraphrases of the ideas he and his compatriots had originally expressed in French. Moreover, even if both of us had spoken the “same” language, Derrida liked to point out that monolingualism is always paradoxically of “the other,” insofar as no one can really call his or her mother tongue entirely “mine.”5 As a result, infinite translation dogged by the risk of mistranslation is a challenge facing communication within a single language as well as between different ones. In addition, the uncertainty of when or where an utterance takes place, even one that pretends to hover above the deictic specificity of its moment of origin, is instantiated in his letter by Derrida’s crossing out of the original in-

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stitutional location signaled by the stationery—New York University’s English Department—and its replacement, but not complete erasure, by a new Parisian address. Both theories and theorists travel freely across the Atlantic—and other great oceans as well, in our increasingly globalized intellectual environment—in ways that prevent their being easily situated in any one defining context. The traces of previous iterations destabilize their current incarnation. As a result, it is impossible to overcome textual undecidability by referring to a stable generative context that is fully coherent and perfectly legible. And finally, the conventional balance between the body of the communication and its apparent supplement, what might be called the text and its sub- or paratext, is upset by the fact that the addendum signaled by Derrida’s asterisk is in fact longer and more substantive—or so it provisionally seems, pending a fully satisfactory reading—than the main body of the letter itself. Footnotes, which disrupt the pure linearity of the reading experience, may be more significant than what they interrupt. Hierarchical reversals of value can be performatively expressed when what is below the line trumps what is above it. All of these factors conspired to defeat whatever expectation of direct and lucid communication I might have harbored when Derrida’s letter arrived. Although I very much doubt that this outcome was intended in this case, he did at times deliberately seek it. As he confessed to an Italian interviewer in 1995, “my own experience of writing leads me to think that one does not always write with a desire to be understood—that there is a paradoxical desire not to be understood. It’s not simple, but there is a certain ‘I hope that not everyone understands everything about this text’ because if such a transparency of intelligibility were ensured it would destroy the text, it would show that the text has no future [avenir], that it does not overflow the present, that it is consumed immediately.”6 Rather than a way to assert the power of the author over the bewildered reader, this refusal to be transparent, Derrida continued, was in fact more of a gift to him or her. “Giving to the other to be read is also a leaving to be desired, or a leaving the other room for an intervention by which she will be able to sign in my text. And it is here that the desire not to be understood means, simply, hospitableness to the reading of the other, not the rejection of the other.”7 My gift of a book, which was in some measure a discussion of his work, was thus met with the reciprocal gift of a letter that returned the compliment, but with the added “bonus” of its refusal or inability to be fully transparent. The essay you are now reading, one might then say, is a delayed version of the “signing in the other’s text” that Derrida’s gift of opacity abetted.


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The widespread preference for opacity over transparency among twentiethcentury French thinkers is, of course, what the book itself was about, so Derrida’s letter was a performative instantiation not only of his own theories about language but also of my larger argument about the denigration of the eye. No deceptive Cartesian transparency here; no God’s-eye view from above the fray; no panoptic surveillance of the landscape as a whole. Did it mean, however, a concomitant privileging of the ear and of listening? Derrida himself apparently broached this issue in his extended footnote to himself, where he alludes to the critique of auto-affection, hearing oneself speak, as a source of the logocentric “metaphysics of presence” in Western thought he had been attacking since his earliest work. Spacing, he reminded me, exists in hearing as well as writing, and here too miscommunication rather than perfect transmission is as much the rule as the exception. In retrospect, it is clear that I took this caution to heart. For when I was asked, “Have you heard from Derrida?” about his reaction to the book, my answer was always, even after the letter arrived, “No, not yet.” Writing, in other words, was not the only source of delay, an illegible scrawl not the sole culprit in producing destinerrance. Even if I had pushed him in person to spell out his reactions verbally, they would likely have not been fully clear to me. Uncertainty was built into the communicative exchange between us from the beginning. As Nietzsche pointed out in a metaphor Derrida adopted for his own, the ear too is a labyrinth in which meaning wanders interminably.8 This is not to say, however, that attempting to communicate is a sham, a cynical use of pseudo-signifiers in order only to manipulate or deceive. Derrida insisted instead that “every time I open my mouth, each time I speak or write, I promise,”9 making an implied pledge that real language, despite all its imperfections, is on the way. The promise is made to the one who is addressed: “it is the monolanguage of the other. The “of ” signifies not so much property as provenance: language is for the other, coming from the other, the coming of the other.”10 There may even be a kind of messianic dimension to the promise, even if it lacks content, a “messianicity” that is an opening that will never be filled by the arrival of actual redemption. The inevitable delay in fulfillment, the thwarting of a completed reception, the always “à venir” of a meaning that may never arrive, may seem to end when the sender is no longer able to repeat the gesture, no longer alive to dispatch another mysterious gift. Death, as Derrida himself knew well, disrupts the imperfect economy of exchange that describes the circulation of generosity among the

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living.11 It may even allow the other to define the life that has ended. As he put it in The Ear of the Other, “Nietzsche’s signature does not take place when he writes. He says clearly that it will take place posthumously, pursuant to the infinite line of credit he has opened for himself, when the other comes to sign with him, to join with him in alliance, and, in order to do so, to hear and understand him . . . it is the ear of the other that signs.”12 Accordingly, with Derrida’s death, I can now try harder to crack the code and come closer to understanding his thoughts, turning them into my own, familiarizing them in my own idiom in order to overcome their opacity. I can make more of an effort to hear from Derrida, after all. To that end, I have photocopied the letter here just in case one of you reading it is tempted to give me a hand. But perhaps even if you do, I may just keep the uncertainty going a little bit longer, and resist hearing from you as well. For in so doing, in however small a way, I somehow may help prevent Derrida’s death from becoming a closure, a boundary between epochs, a terminal punctuation mark. It is the least I can do to return the gift—with all that phrase’s undecidable ambiguity—of his unintelligibility. .

Pseudology Derrida on Arendt and Lying in Politics

In 1993, Jacques Derrida was invited to participate in a lecture series at the New School dedicated to the memory of Hannah Arendt, who was closely associated with the school during much of her American exile. Although both can in some sense be called Heidegger’s children (if perhaps by different intellectual mothers),1 the result was his first sustained engagement with her legacy. Entitled “History of the Lie: Prolegomena,” it was published in several places, most recently in the collection edited by Peggy Kamuf called Without Alibi.2 The texts he discusses at length are Arendt’s essays of 1967 and 1971, “Truth in Politics” and “”Lying in Politics: Reflections on the Pentagon Papers.”3 Derrida masterfully situates Arendt’s reflections in a long tradition of philosophical ruminations on lying, which he calls “pseudology.”4 Plato’s Hippias Minor, Augustine’s De mendacio and Contra mendacium, Montaigne’s “On Liars,” Rousseau’s Reveries of the Solitary Walker, Kant’s “On the Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns,” even Alexandre Koyré’s “The Political Function of the Modern Lie” are all brought to bear on the crucial questions raised by Arendt: what is the role of lying in politics, and does that role have a history? As the title suggests, Derrida claims that his remarks were nothing but prolegomena to a more sustained treatment, which, alas, he never attempted to complete. He admits with his characteristic coyness that “I will not say everything, nor even the essential part of what I may think about a history of the lie . . . I will not say the whole truth of what I think.”5 One of the other essays in Without Alibi, “ ‘Le Parjure,’ Perhaps: Storytelling and Lying,” returns, however, to the question of lying and perjury, this time stimulated by Henri Thomas’s novel-play Le Parjure, which contains in it a novel called Hölderlin in America.


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The latter, Paul de Man confessed to Derrida, was a roman à clef paralleling his own checkered personal past, about which he had publicly lied. In yet another attempt to defend his friend against accusations of disingenuously denying his dubious political past, Derrida draws on J. Hillis Miller’s essay “The Anacoluthonic Lie,” which explores the implications of an internal narrative doubling, a resistance to following a single syntactic track, in Proust (the rhetorical trope of anacoluthon means a sudden change of syntax in a sentence, as often in streamof-consciousness writing). No straightforward confession, Derrida implies, can avoid the ambivalence of the anacoluthonic lie. The plausibility of this defense of de Man is not at issue here, although it would be hard to find it entirely satisfactory. What is important to note for our purposes is that the second essay in Without Alibi adds little to the core arguments of “History of the Lie,” and touches only fleetingly on politics in a final observation about Bill Clinton’s perjury and his own private scandal. It does not work through in a sustained fashion the issues raised in the earlier essay about lying in politics. And although Derrida returned to the related question of secrecy in A Taste for the Secret,6 here too not much was added to his earlier tentative ruminations on Arendt’s questions. If underdeveloped, “History of the Lie” is still a rich text, far more than a mere prolegomenon, and opens up a number of important new lines of inquiry into the issues it treats. I want to ask your indulgence as I rehearse at some length its complicated and often convoluted reasoning. Whether or not it is fully fair to Arendt’s own argument is a question I will address at the end of this essay. “History of the Lie” opens with what Derrida calls two confessions or concessions—for some unexplained reason, he can’t seem to decide between these terms—which he claims with no apparent irony are “sincere,” even if they deal with fable, phantasm, and specters. He thus cloaks himself in the mantle of a truth-teller, what the Greeks would call a parrhesiast, to borrow the term Michel Foucault adopted for himself near the end of his life.7 The first confession/concession is that his title is a play on Nietzsche’s “History of an Error,” from Twilight of the Idols. Contrary to Nietzsche, however, Derrida claims he wants to maintain a strict distinction between the concept of error and that of lie. Whereas errors are mistakes about the truth of what actually is, including the ontological claim to know that such a truth exists, lies are deliberate, subjective attempts to mislead. They have therefore what Derrida calls an “irreducibly ethical dimension. . . . where the phenomenon of the lie as such is intrinsically foreign to the problem of knowledge, truth, the true and the false. . . . One can

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be in error or mistaken without trying to deceive and therefore without lying.”8 Lying, as Aristotle pointed out in his critique of the overly capacious and vague treatment of the idea of pseudos in Plato’s Hippias Minor, is only understandable as an intentional act, not one that merely gets the truth wrong. And it is an act with profound ethical implications, as Augustine had understood. “The lie is not a fact or a state, it is an intentional act, a lying. There is not the lie, but rather this saying or this meaning-to-say that is called lying.”9 Thus Nietzsche’s attempt to look at truth and lying in an entirely “extramoral sense” was doomed to fail. But having seemingly established a radical distinction between a constative statement, which is true or false, and the performative act of lying with all its ethical implications, Derrida, as might be expected, then proceeds to undo the distinction. “The lie,” he writes, “includes a manifestation of the performative type, since it implies a promise of truth where it betrays it, and since it also aims to create an event, to produce an effect of belief where there is nothing to state or at least where nothing is exhausted in a statement. But, simultaneously, this performativity implies references to values of reality, truth, and falsity that are presumed not to depend on performative decision.”10 Thus, unlike purely performative speech acts such as religious prayer, lying has some irreducible link with the truth, with what we may call “what is in fact the case.” Truthfulness and the truth cannot be entirely disassociated, even if they cannot be equated either. The strongest, most direct version of mendacity, based on the conscious intention of the speaker to deceive the listener about what the former truly believes, is what Derrida calls the “frank concept of the lie,” which “delimits a prevalent concept in our culture . . . because no ethics, no law or right, no politics could long withstand, precisely in our culture, its pure and simple disappearance.”11 There are, to be sure, more indirect versions, such as silent dissimulation or nonverbal behavior designed to deceive—the example he gives is fake orgasmic ecstasy—but Derrida’s focus is on the frank lie, a decision that will influence, as we will see, his critique of the concept of self-deception. The history of the concept of lying is tied up, Derrida then adds, with the history of the actual practice of lying. Both are themselves dependent in turn on the possibility of our narrating a true history of their development. “How is one to dissociate or alternate these three tasks?” he wonders out loud, but doesn’t pause to provide an answer, lamely saying only that “we must not ever overlook this difficulty.”12 But plunging on anyway without attempting to resolve it, he then makes his second confession/concession, to which I’ve already alluded:


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that he won’t, after all, be telling us all he thinks about the question of lying, or certainly not the whole truth of what he thinks. “Does this mean that I have lied to you?” he asks teasingly? “I leave this question suspended, at least until the discussion period and doubtless beyond that.” With the uncertainty of his own candor, his own status as a parrhesiast, now hanging tantalizingly in the air, Derrida then provides what he calls two epigraphs to his prolegomenon: one touching on the historicity of lying, the other on the sacredness of truth. The first is from Hannah Arendt’s essay “Truth and Lying,” and establishes the intimate, perennial connection between politics and lying; the second is from the philosopher Reiner Schürmann’s Heidegger on Being and Anarchy and links the concept of the sacred both to an originary moment, which is historical, and a contrary moment of presencing, which is outside history. The duty one has to avoid lying, according to Augustine and Kant, is a “sacred imperative” in this dual sense. Precisely what constitutes its sacred quality Derrida does not really elaborate, however, nor does he tell us how much he shares this religious conception of truth (if at all). Derrida turns instead to Arendt’s essays, which help him formulate a rough historical narrative based on what he calls a “mutation” in both the concept and practice of lying. That mutation involves the development in “our modernity” of the lie’s attainment of its extreme limit, “a hyperbolic growth of the lie, its hypertrophy, its passage to the extreme, in short the absolute lie: not absolute knowledge as the end of history, but history as conversion to the absolute lie.”13 Derrida expresses, however, some skepticism about how absolute the lie can ever be, insofar as the liar must himself know the truth in order to conceal it. As Socrates had known, there is a link between knowledge, self-consciousness, and the capacity to lie. “If it must operate in consciousness and in its concept,” Derrida warns, “then the absolute lie of which Arendt speaks risks being once again the other face of absolute knowledge,”14 which he clearly disdains as a philosophical fantasy. Still, Derrida remains with Arendt’s distinction between premodern and modern lying. Whereas the former is based on the hiding of a truth that is known, the latter involves the very destruction of the reality to which the lie refers. That is, the modern period is based on the substitution of simulacra “all the way down” for a belief in a reality that exists and can then be hidden (an argument perhaps most widely identified with Jean Baudrillard, although Derrida doesn’t mention his name). “Because the image-substitute no longer refers to an original, not even to a flattering representation of an original, but replaces it advantageously, thereby trading its status of representative for


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that of replacement, the process of the modern lie is no longer a dissimulation that comes along to veil the truth; rather it is the destruction of the reality or of the original archive.”15 Derrida then contrasts Arendt’s historical account of the lie, as broad as it is, with Kant’s very different, totally nonhistorical critique of it as an unconditional evil that must be opposed at all costs. Here the sacredness of the commandment always to tell the truth is evoked, with no considerations of consequences or allowance for mitigating factors. Derrida is clearly not on Kant’s side on this issue, preferring the alternative position of Benjamin Constant, who argued that all social relations would cease if lies were utterly banished as immoral.16 But rather than dwelling on his reasons, he turns to two examples to hammer home his larger point about the performative dimension of lying. The first concerns the reluctance of several French presidents to apologize officially for the crimes against humanity committed by the collaborationist Vichy regime in World War II. Derrida claims that the concept of “crimes against humanity” was a performative invention not yet really in play when the acts were committed. But more important, he also argues that the very existence of all states are themselves the product of performatives, which create their legitimacy, their boundaries, and their responsibility for acts committed in their name. Successful performatives—he ups the ante by calling them “acts of performative violence”—create the law. “For better or worse, this performative dimension makes the truth, as Augustine says. It therefore imprints its irreducibly historical dimension on both veracity and the lie. This original ‘performative’ dimension is not taken thematically into account, it seems to me, by either Kant or Hannah Arendt.”17 In so arguing, Derrida may seem to be passing too quickly from the insight that lies have a performative dimension to the conclusion that all performatives—such as creating a state—are like lies. But he does catch himself and acknowledges the dangerous implication that could easily be drawn from the claim that performative speech acts, including lies, actually “make the truth,” for it opens up the possibility of rewriting history by falsifying past facts. Eyewitness testimony, he concedes, may never be sufficient to prove what happened; bearing witness to truth is not enough when it can be just as easily fabricated by lies. But he steps back from the full implications of this logic, whose outcome would be to countenance such abominations as Holocaust “revisionism.” Although he rejects the idea that states can themselves verify facts for all time or legislate the truth—thus providing a defense in advance for Holocaust-deniers like David Ir-



ving against being jailed by the Austrians—he struggles to provide an alternative. “Will this perversion be resisted by establishing by law a truth of state? Or rather, on the contrary, by reinstating—interminably if necessary, as I believe it will be—the discussion, the recalling of evidence and witnesses, the work and discipline of memory, the indisputable demonstration of an archive? An infinite task, no doubt, which must begin over and over again; but isn’t that the distinctive feature of a task, whatever it may be?”18 The second case study Derrida provides also takes off from the scandal over the French presidents’ delay in condemning Vichy complicity, but takes the argument a step further. It involves an article in the June 19, 1995, New York Times by the New York University historian Tony Judt that lambasted French intellectuals, Derrida included, for failing to condemn the lack of presidential condemnation. Settling scores with Judt, he notes that in 1992, a petition signed by more than two hundred primarily leftist intellectuals, among them Derrida himself, did, in fact, call on President Mitterrand to acknowledge and apologize for Vichy responsibility for persecuting Jews. Judt, Derrida concedes, did not tell a deliberate lie, but rather committed an error, which he would not have committed had he known the truth. But the reason he didn’t pause to find it out, Derrida then charges, is that Judt was in a hurry to confirm his general thesis about the irresponsibility of French intellectuals, developed in his book Past Imperfect,19 which meant he was anxious to produce an “effect of truth.” “What I want to underscore here,” Derrida tells us, “is that this counter-truth does not belong to the category of either lie or ignorance or error, doubtless not even to the category of self-deception that Hannah Arendt talks about. It belongs to another order and is not reducible to any of the categories bequeathed to us by traditional thinking about the lie.”20 But precisely what that different order might be Derrida does not pause to spell out, despite having spent so much time venting his spleen against Judt’s transgression against the truth (and Derrida’s own honor). Is it more than simply a tendentious inclination to believe what one wants to believe without regard to contrary evidence? Giving us no help in resolving the problem, he turns instead to the vexed question of self-deception, which, as we have noted, he thinks is problematic, at least from the perspective of lying as deliberate trickery. It is not precisely “bad faith” in Sartre’s well-known sense, but, like the countertruth uttered by Judt, it too requires its own unique logic, even another name: “it requires that one take into account both some mediatic, techno-performativity and a logic of the phantasma (which is to say, of the spectral) or of a symptoma-


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tology of the unconscious towards which the work of Hannah Arendt signals but which it never deploys, it seems to me, as such.”21 That is, in the first case, it would require an exploration of modern technical media informed by an appreciation of the “hauntology,” the logic of ghostly traces that Derrida himself was developing around this time in Specters of Marx.22 In the second, it would necessitate a more extensive application of psychoanalytic theory than Arendt felt comfortable attempting. Whatever it might be, it was not to be confused with frank, intentional lying. Making sense of the question of self-deception is nonetheless important, he avers, because Arendt thought it was intricately tied up with the modern practice of lying in mass democracies, which did so much to prepare the way for the totalitarian absolute lie. To grasp its importance, Derrida turns in the final section of his essay to the work of another émigré, Alexander Koyré, whose 1943 “Reflexions sur la mensonge,” translated two years later as “The Political Function of the Modern Lie,”23 anticipated all the major Arendtian themes. Written at a time when the modern version of the lie seemed equivalent to totalitarian total lying, Koyré’s essay raises the question of whether a condemnation of lying necessitates a recognition of a categorical distinction between truth and falsehood, which an overly eager deconstruction of binary oppositions threatens. “How can one conduct the deconstructive history of the opposition of veracity and lie,” Derrida ponders, “without discrediting this opposition, without threatening the ‘frankness’ of a concept that must remain decidable, and without opening the door to all the perversions against which Koyré and Arendt will always have been right to warn us?”24 But having acknowledged the danger, Derrida then backtracks and wonders if Koyré’s categorical distinction may itself have a cost, which is to deny the very “possibility of institutive and performative speech (be it only testimony, which is always an act that implies a performative promise or oath and that constitutes the element, the medium of all language, including constative language).”25 Veracity and lying, it must be understood, are “homogeneous with a testimonial problematic, and not at all with an epistemological one of true/ false or proof.”26 Koyré, however, himself helps us to get beyond this dilemma when he notes that totalitarian leaders do not themselves challenge the traditional view, based on a stable metaphysics, that lying should be understood in the latter context, that of truth and falsehood (or error). Rather, they maintain it, refusing to acknowledge the performative dimension of truth-telling, and simply reverse the hierarchy, believing in the “primacy of the lie”27 or what is false or an error (not what is intended to be a deliberate act of lying). They accomplish



this end in part by the perverse tactic of saying the truth while knowing that no one would take them seriously, what Arendt called a kind of conspiracy “in broad daylight.” The idea of conspiracy introduces yet another important issue, which Koyré develops in a way Derrida finds questionable. That is, the former argues in a proto-Habermasian manner that secrecy of any kind is anathema to an open, transparent democratic polity, in which the public sphere is an arena for open discussion. “I wonder,” Derrida writes, “if we do not see here signs of the inverse perversion of politicism, of an absolute hegemony of political reason, of a limitless extension of the political. By refusing any right to secrecy, the political agency, most often in the figure of state sovereignty or even of reason of state, summons everyone to behave first of all and in every regard as a responsible citizen before the law of the polis. Is there not here, in the name of a certain kind of phenomenal truth, another germ of totalitarianism with a democratic face?”28 That something might be amiss with this Rousseauist paean to perfect transparency is indicated to Derrida by Koyré’s example of a problematic training in lying, that practiced by the Marrano, whom he lists along with the Jesuit and the young Spartan as emblematic dissemblers. For the Marrano, refusing to admit his still Jewish identity to forces of Catholic oppression, shows that secrecy can at times function as a justifiable resistance to power, a kind of clandestine civil disobedience.29 With these ruminations behind him, Derrida moves to his conclusion by returning to Arendt, asking what the positive implications of her work might be for writing a history of the lie. He first notes that, like Nietzsche, she clearly tries to distance any understanding of the role of lying in politics from moral judgments (which is puzzling for him now to account a virtue, for he had contended it was a mistake earlier in the essay). Second, he argues that unlike Koyré, she understood the new simulacral character of the public realm in which the very distinction between knowing the truth and intentionally lying no longer makes any sense. The resulting artifactuality of images, he writes, which are appearances all the way down, is “at once less and more serious than the lie. Less serious because no one has, in bad faith, sought to deceive anyone else. More serious because the absence of any transcendent referent, or even of any meta-normative norm, makes the effect of the operation not only difficult to measure and to analyze, but fundamentally irreparable.”30 Third, he acknowledges Arendt’s strong intention to delimit the boundaries of the political, a realm of plurality distinguished from the isolation of the solitary philosophical man concerned with the truth.

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This realm is also different from that of the judiciary and the university, where the responsibility to seek the truth is also paramount (he might have added a free press, at least in its ideal form, here as well). And fourth and finally, Arendt understands, if perhaps with insufficient depth, the performative function of the lie, its links with imaginative action to change the world. “Between lying and acting, acting in politics, manifesting one’s own freedom through action, transforming facts, anticipating the future, there is something like an essential affinity. . . . The lie is the future, one might venture to say, beyond the letter of her text but without betraying Arendt’s intention in this context. To tell the truth is, on the contrary, to say what is or what will have been and it would instead prefer the past.”31 There may as a result be no history in general, and certainly none of the lie, without the freedom and action, the ability to imagine a different future, which is ensured by at least the possibility of counterfactual mendacity. Having established these four positive reasons why Arendt helps us envisage a plausible history of lying, Derrida concludes his essay by pointing to four negative ones preventing her argument from being fully satisfactory. The first problem is her inability to distinguish sufficiently between testimony and bearing witness, on the one hand, and the proof of textual evidence in an archive, on the other; the distinction she does draw between factual and rational truth, he claims, does not adequately register this importance difference. Because she fails to acknowledge it, Arendt blithely assumes the self-evidence of the concept of lying. Second, she employs a confused psychology in invoking the idea of “lying to oneself ” in her analysis of the modern totalitarian lie, which as he has argued earlier is “logically incompatible with the rigor of the classical concept of the lie and with the ‘frank’ problematic of the lie,” which will “always mean to deceive the other intentionally and consciously, while knowing what it is that one is deliberately hiding, therefore while not lying to oneself.”32 For all its problems, the Marxist concept of ideology, informed by a certain application of psychoanalysis, might have served her purposes better than the idea of self-deception. A third problem in her account is the latent optimism Derrida detects underlying her argument, an optimism based on the dubious assumption that ultimately the truth will win out. “By excluding the indefinite survival of mystification,” he charges, “Arendt makes of history, as history of the lie, the epidermic and epiphenomenal accident of a parousia of truth.”33 Fourth and finally, her “certainty of a final victory and a certain survival of the truth (and not merely of veracity),” even as a regulating idea in politics or history, produces a diminished estimation of the history of the lie as such, a kind of comforting banalization that fails to


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confront the possibility of its infinite survival. Although such a future history cannot, of course be proved or even become the object of secure knowledge, it must be entertained at least as a serious possibility. “One can only say, beyond knowledge, what could or should be the history of the lie—if there is any.”34 With this ambiguous and cryptic final sentence, Derrida ends his prolegomena to a full history of the lie, which he never lived to complete (or abandoned as unworkable). It has been necessary to follow the twists and turns of his complicated argument in some detail in order to do justice to the dexterity of his mind and the indirectness of his approach, which characteristically involves ambivalently critical encounters with the texts of predecessors. But how close or persuasive a reader of these particular texts was Derrida? And how plausible are the conclusions he drew from his interpretations? In the case of Arendt, I want to argue, he did derive many compelling conclusions from her two essays on lying, but in several instances he seems to have gone astray. In what follows, I want to highlight what I think are dubious readings of Arendt’s texts and raise questions about the uses to which Derrida put them. Perhaps the first thing to notice about Derrida’s ruminations on lying is that although he pays lip service to the idea of writing its history, and even adopts for a moment Arendt’s distinction between premodern and modern lying—the former based on the distinction between truth and falsehood, the latter premised on a Baudrillard-like claim that it is simulacra all the way down—he ultimately displays little confidence in carrying it out. As he admits in the aside mentioned earlier about the paradox of narrating a true history of lying, a difficulty that “we must not ever overlook,” he has no practical way to resolve it. Insofar as statements about history refer to the past, while lying often points toward a future that may or may not have been or ever be realized, it is hard to reconcile the two. Moreover, in his consideration of the arguments about the total or absolute lie in the modern era, a limit approached by totalitarian states at their most mendacious, Derrida stops short of agreeing that such an endpoint can ever be attained. For the very act of lying, in particular that of the frank, intentional lying he is most concerned to treat, assumes that the liar can know what is true, if not about the state of the world, then at least about the state of his intentions. That is, there must always be a gap between internal belief and external statement to make the concept of lying plausible.35 Otherwise we are on the slippery slope toward the idea of self-deception, which we have seen him deny. The absolute lie is as problematic as the ideal of absolute knowledge of the truth. But if it is incoherent to believe in a state of affairs in which the ability to distinguish

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between truthfulness and deceit is lost—an illusory world of simulacra all the way down—then the historical distinction between premodern and modern is hard, perhaps even impossible, to maintain. Without it, however, Derrida cannot pretend that he is giving us an even grossly periodized historical account of lying. If there is a limit to what might be called the subjective side of lying—its dependence on the ability of the liar to distinguish between his real intentions and his public statements to others—Derrida holds on to an objective or external one as well. For in responding to the threat of complete historical revisionism, the making up of facts out of thin air, he appeals to what he surprisingly calls “the indisputable demonstration of an archive,” which supplements that of the sometimes unreliable testimony of witnesses.36 In other words, in texts in historical archives there is hard evidence that resists the ambiguity and undecidability that in other contexts, Derrida seems to have attributed to all texts. Although he argues that veracity and lying are closer to the problematic of testifying than the epistemological one of knowing what is true or false, he nonetheless concedes that the latter can—indeed, must—intersect with the former in the way that the constative dimension of speech acts mingles with the performative one (except in the limit case of prayer).37 Thus, he is able to mobilize the record of his signing the petition urging the French president to deal with Vichy as an archival fact that refutes Tony Judt’s “counter-truth” about the alleged cowardice of the French intelligentsia. Here the cartoon version of deconstruction as a simple foe of truth and truthfulness breaks down.38 Lying in politics, both Arendt and Derrida emphasize, doesn’t always involve making up false evidence about the past, but may also points toward a promised future. Politicians who promise something if elected, but do so with their fingers crossed, cannot be contradicted by the “indisputable testimony of the archive,” for there is no archive of things to come. It is for this reason that Derrida follows Arendt, indeed even intensifies her claim,39 that lying and action, lying and imagination, and lying and even creating history are all closely related (although not, of course, identical). He follows her in stressing the link between the ability to lie, to say what is not the case, and the freedom to change the world. One can lie also about one’s plans for the future and produce action as a result, which changes the status quo.40 Derrida seems to go beyond Arendt, however, in calling the founding acts of politics a kind of “performative violence,” for although Arendt did argue that the political arena, the space for political action, was founded according to no



principles and by an act of ungrounded assertion, she did not identify it so readily with violence. In On Revolution, she lavishly praised the American example for defying “the age-old and still current notions of the dictating violence, necessary for all foundations and hence supposedly unavoidable in all revolutions. . . . [T]his revolution did not break out but was made by men in common deliberation and on the strength of mutual pledges.”41 She did, to be sure, acknowledge that at least the organized lies of governments “harbor an element of violence: organized lying always tends to destroy whatever it has decided to negate, although only totalitarian governments have consciously adopted lying as the first step to murder.”42 But in general, she was careful to distinguish political action, which involved acting in concert based on persuasion and judgment, from the isolated exercise of violence, mute and speechless, to bring about an end.43 That is, not all governments take the second step toward outright murder that distinguishes totalitarianism from alternatives modes of governing. Arendt was, of course, an eloquent defender of the glories of political action, and concludes “Truth in Politics” by reminding her readers that despite the ubiquity of mendacity in politics, it has a “greatness and dignity” and provides the “joy and gratification that arise out of being in company with our peers, out of acting together and appearing in public, out of inserting ourselves into the world by word and deed, thus acquiring and sustaining our personal identity and beginning something entirely new.”44 This paean could be meaningful only if there were a fundamental distinction between political action and violence, genuine democracy and totalitarianism, no matter how performative both might be in disrupting the status quo. Not all performatives, she seemed to understand, are the same; acting together to change the world can involve sharing common intentions in a truthful way. In stressing the distinction, Arendt fell back on the possibility of selfdeception, which she indeed worried might well engulf those who spin the “big lies” of totalitarian politics. Undeterred by the logical qualm later introduced by Derrida—that “frank” lying necessitated a capacity to tell truth from falsehood absent from lying to oneself—she argued that “self-deception still presupposes a distinction between truth and falsehood, between fact and fantasy, and therefore a conflict between the real world and the self-deceived deceiver that disappears in an entirely de-factualized world.”45 But she was also convinced that “our apprehension of reality is dependent on our sharing the world with our fellowmen,” which meant it takes an unusual character to resist what others believe is true, especially because “the more successful the liar is, the more likely it is that

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he will fall prey to his own fabrications.”46 The modern lie, the lie that destroys more than it hides, she agreed with conservative critics of mass democracy, is especially dangerous today because of “the undeniable fact that under fully democratic conditions deception without self-deception is well-nigh impossible.”47 The quarrel between Derrida and Arendt on this issue was an old one—curiously, her position was closer than his to that of Nietzsche, who famously said that “the most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one’s self; to lie to others is relatively exceptional”48—and continues to exercise students of the problem.49 Clearly, the outcome depends on what kind of a self is understood to underlie the act of self-deception, with a split or incoherent self capable of an “internal” lie more easily than an integral and fully aware self. Derrida was certainly no champion of a fully integrated and entirely conscious self, so his evocation of what he calls the “classical rigor” of the frank concept of lying is not likely to be a straightforward endorsement of it. What he seems to be challenging is Arendt’s failure to think through the contradictions entailed by calling whatever the self may be doing to occlude the truth a lie or act of deception. His alternatives to self-deception, however, are only suggested in the lapidary formula cited above— “some mediatic techno-performativity and a logic of the phantasma (which is to say, of the spectral) or of a symptomatology of the unconsciousness”—and are never fully fleshed, at least in this essay. He is gesturing here toward a more developed theory that would incorporate elements of Freud’s insights into the ways the conscious mind can know only a portion of what the unconscious really desires and Marx’s analysis of the lures of ideology, neither of which Arendt fully exploited.50 But the gesture is never fully elaborated. Be that as it may, a closer look at Arendt’s argument about self-deception and the loss of the distinction between truth and falsehood shows that it is virtually as qualified in practice as Derrida’s. For she also introduces limits to its full realization on a polity-wide level. One reason is the existence of a global information network that defeats attempts to create a seamless “big lie” in one country. “Under our present system of world-wide communication, covering a large number of independent nations, no existing power is anywhere near great enough to make its ‘image’ foolproof. Therefore, images have a relatively short life expectancy.”51 Another reason is that the political realm itself is surrounded by other institutions—the judiciary, the academy and the press—that have a more principled devotion to truth, even if not always realized in practice. These often intersect with the political realm and prevent a wholesale triumph of even a “big lie” that destroys rather than hides the truth.


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But even beyond these checks to the full realization of absolute political mendacity, there is also a stubborn residue of truth within the political realm itself, no matter how much it resists being absorbed into other realms outside it. Arendt’s acknowledgment of this residue may explain Derrida’s final—and I think unsubstantiated—claim about her optimism that truth will ultimately win out, what he calls faith in the “parousia of truth” and “certainty of a final victory and certain survival of the truth (and not merely veracity).”52 The issue is the vexed question of how truth intersects with politics. Arendt clearly opposed the subordination of politics to the one truth of the rational tradition of philosophy derived from Plato. Favoring the Sophists in their confrontation with Socrates, she preferred the plural opinions, the messy unregulated doxa and rhetorical argumentation of public life, to the singular orthodoxy of the monologic philosopher’s ivory tower. Or rather she did so in the specific realm of politics to the extent that it can be set apart from other modes of human behavior. “To look upon politics from the perspective of truth,” she writes, “means to take one’s stand outside the political realm. This standpoint is the standpoint of the truthteller, who forfeits his position—and, with it, the validity of what he has to say—if he tries to interfere directly in human affairs and to speak the language of persuasion or of violence.”53 From within the political realm, the imposition of a singular truth is an act of domination and coercion, which stills the on-going struggle among competing opinions and values that is the lifeblood of politics rightly understood. When truth therefore means the singular, monologic, contemplative, rational unity sought by philosophers, there can never be, pace Derrida, a parousia that will signal a triumphant overcoming of agonistic difference. Politics, by definition, is a space of human interaction unmastered by the tyranny of universal, univocal, unequivocal truth. For Arendt, in its precincts, there is no “sacred imperative” to tell the truth.54 What about the second kind of truth Arendt postulates in her essays, that of the facts? Does she believe in the “certainty of a final victory and a certain survival of truth” in this acceptation of the term? Here the question grows decidedly murkier. In her consideration of the Pentagon Papers in “Lying in Politics,” it is clear that she faults the policymakers who got us into the quagmire of Vietnam for their blithe defactualization and lack of political judgment in the name of technocratic calculation. Accordingly, “Truth and Politics” begins with an attempt to incorporate factual truth into the political realm rather than place it outside it like philosophical truth: factual truth, she writes, is “always related to other people: it concerns events and circumstances in which many are

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involved; it is established by witnesses and depends on testimony; it exists only to the extent that it is spoken about, even if it occurs in the domain of privacy. It is political by nature. Facts and opinions, though they must be kept apart, are not antagonistic to each other: they belong to the same realm.”55 The solidity of facts about the past cannot be denied, as exemplified by Clemenceau’s famous reply to a question about future historians’ judgment about the origins of World War I: “This I don’t know. But I know for certain that they will not say Belgium invaded Germany.”56 But then Arendt expresses second thoughts and backs away from the full consequences of her claim: “when I stated that factual, as opposed to rational truth, is not antagonistic to opinion, I stated a half-truth. All truths—not only the various kinds of rational truth but also factual truth—are opposed to opinion in their mode of asserting validity. Truth carries with it an element of coercion. . . . Seen from the viewpoint of politics, truth has a despotic character. . . . [F]actual truth, like all other truth, peremptorily claims to be acknowledged and precludes debate, and debate constitutes the very essence of political life.”57 Thus, for all of her respect for the importance of factual truth as it intersects with political action, for all her understanding of the importance of the judiciary, the academy, and the free press in introducing uncomfortable facts to resist the imaginative excesses of political fantasizing, for all her faith that power cannot entirely erase the factual record, she never envisaged—and a fortiori never desired—a wholesale invasion of politics by truth-telling, either philosophical or factual in nature. Thus, her peroration to the joys and gratifications of the political life, cited above, concludes by saying that “it is only by respecting its own borders that this realm, where we are free to act and to change, can remain intact, preserving its integrity and keeping its promises. Conceptually, we may call truth what we cannot change; metaphorically, it is the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us.”58 There is, in short, no parousia of truth for Arendt, factual or philosophical. What, can we say in conclusion, about Derrida’s ambivalent and sometimes tendentious reading of Arendt on lying in politics? Derrida perhaps needs to construct an overly optimistic Arendt, one who believes in the sacred imperative to tell the truth (thus his evocation of the religious concept of parousia, which as far as I can tell appears nowhere in her own discourse) to contrast with his own seemingly more skeptical alternative. Thus he asks about seemingly indisputable “facts” of the type Clemenceau cited about the German invasion of Belgium: “how can one still subscribe to them when the ‘facts’ in question are already phe-


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nomena of performative-mediatic discourse, structured by the simulacrum and the virtual, and incorporating their own interpretive moment?”59 No contextual explanation, he argues against Arendt, will suffice to fix factual truth, which is always already a function of linguistic performance. Derrida, moreover, clearly wants to place more weight than Arendt did on the image as opposed to linguistic discourse in describing modern politics. For all his stress on the importance of speech act theory, which Arendt never explicitly used in understanding lies, he goes so far as to claim that “in the ‘modern’ simulacrum (‘live television’ for example) the substitute takes place of what it replaces and destroys even reference to the alterity of what it replaces, by means of its selective and interpretive performativity, and by means of the absolute and indubitable ‘truth effect’ that it produces. Here, then, is doubtless the space of an absolute lie that can always survive indefinitely without anyone ever knowing anything about it or without anyone being there any longer to know it or remember it.”60 The destruction of the modern lie, as opposed to the hiding of its premodern predecessor, can be complete. The result is more than mere selfdeception; it is a new ontological condition. But then, catching himself in a contradiction—as we have seen, he stresses the logical necessity of being able to tell the truth in the frank concept of lying, absolute or not—he backtracks by returning essentially to Arendt’s position: “It can always do so, perhaps, but we must maintain this regime of the perhaps and this clause of possibility if we want to avoid effacing once again the history of the lie into a history of the truth, into a theoretical knowledge that comes under the authority of determinant judgments.”61 Like Arendt in her ruminations on the importance of Kant’s Critique of Judgment for politics, he resists the subsumptive, algorithmic logic of theoretical reason, although his weak “perhaps” does not match Arendt’s vigorous endorsement of Kant’s alternative idea of reflective judgments.62 Both lying and politics, they agree, cannot be understood by subordinating them to determinant judgments, and one might add normative as well as epistemological. Neither can be judged from the point of view of abstract, universal rules or categorical imperatives (which is why the Kant of the first two critiques is not helpful in dealing with them). If this is so, then the general claim that we live in a world entirely dominated by simulacral images and absolute lies can itself be challenged as an inappropriately determinant judgment that has no place in politics, an attempt to tell a universal truth that should not be allowed to dominate the messier realm of counterfactual political action. If we take seriously the “perhaps” that Derrida

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himself wants to emphasize, then we are no longer fully dominated by the ideological image machine that he sees as more prevalent than self-deception. Instead, we are in a more Arendtian world of agonistic political discourse in which opinions, rhetoric, and, yes, the ability to lie are signs of a freedom that is— perhaps—inextinguishable so long as politics resists the domination of sacred imperatives of whatever kind.

The Menace of Consilience Keeping the Disciplines Unreconciled

Over the years, I have been given many opportunities to present my research to audiences across the waters in a number of different institutional settings. Invariably, two responses have been forthcoming—in addition, that is, to whatever howls of disbelief greeted the arguments of the talks themselves. First, someone would express surprise at how much younger I was than they imagined, and second, someone else would profess bafflement at my being a historian. Of late, I have noticed, alas, for not very mysterious reasons, a palpable decline in the frequency of the first of these reactions; the second, however, remains stubbornly constant. In Europe, Asia, Latin America, or Australia, what I do, whatever that may be, is still not normally done by scholars housed in departments of history. As a result, I usually find myself classified as a social theorist or cultural critic or visual arts expert or even, dare I say it, a philosopher. I won’t deny that this kind of misidentification produces a certain frisson of pleasure, as if I have somehow broken free of my earthly ties and emerged as one of Mannheim’s free-floating intellectuals, able to soar over the walls of my disciplinary cage. But at the same time, I can’t quite shake a nagging anxiety that my impersonation of a nonhistorian will be revealed for what it is, a fraudulent misrepresentation by someone who has foolishly allowed himself to graze in someone else’s field. I impose these confessional remarks on you to make three initial points. First, any discussion of the construction and demolition of interdisciplinary boundaries and identities has to take into account the radically distinct contexts in which they take place. Even in the age of traveling theory, turboprofs, and Internet globalization, local variations are still very meaningful. No general pronouncements about the state of the humanities tout court can hope to do justice

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to the regional, national, and cultural anomalies that defeat homogenization. However powerful the Americanization of the international culture may be, it is wrong to assume that our ways of mapping the intellectual and scholarly world are fully hegemonic. The expectations of audiences count as much as the selflabeling of those who stand in front of them. The second point I want to make is that the metamorphosis that is imposed on me when I stray into other contexts is not entirely successful. That is, no matter how I try to meet those audience expectations, I cannot entirely jettison the professional formation—or perhaps deformation—produced by my training and socialization as a historian and reinforced by more than three decades of squatting with members of the same tribe. Although my subfield of intellectual history can often serve as an excuse for forays into interdisciplinary no-man’sland or even alien disciplinary territory, I always feel the obligation to keep my papers in order in case my cover is blown. If challenged, in other words, I can always fall back on the identity of a professional historian, whose role is merely to chronicle the intellectual triumphs and follies of others rather than commit some of his own. Don’t expect me, I can defensively protest, to solve your philosophical or political dilemmas, I only need tell you where they came from and what may explain their curious evolution. My third initial point is that contrary to the implication that might be drawn from this reticence, which may suggest to some an excessive modesty about the role intellectual historians can and should play in plunging into the discourses whose history they reconstruct, I think it is essentially a healthy reaction to the pressure to efface disciplinary boundaries that is coming at us from so many directions. In what follows, in fact, I want to mount a modest defense of the need to keep the walls up, or at least to dispel the idea that knocking them down is somehow a self-evidently good thing. Perhaps the most insistent current voice arguing for this outcome is that of Edward O. Wilson, the Harvard sociobiologist whose best-selling plea for what he calls “consilience” not only among the humanities but among the natural and social sciences as well has attracted considerable recent attention.1 Borrowed from the nineteenth-century philosopher William Whewell, the term denotes a “jumping together” of facts and theories from different levels to form a single grand theory uniting them all. Although Wilson’s frankly reductionist and often naive version of the unification argument, which is little more than a hostile takeover bid from the natural sciences, need not detain us in its details, it at least gives us a useful name for the most extreme expression of the hostility to disciplinary boundaries. By calling this essay

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“The Menace of Consilience,” I want to suggest that the weakening of disciplinarity in the humanities, let alone in a larger arena, may lead us down a slippery slope into intellectual incoherence—or perhaps what is worse, an extorted and sterile supercoherence. The inclination to efface boundaries separating disciplines has come, of course, not only from attempts such as Wilson’s to find a master key to unlock the mysteries of human culture and society by reducing conscious mind to physiological brain but also from some of the most reflexive work done by people resolutely still on the mind side of the dichotomy. The past few decades have seen the emergence of a kind of superdiscipline that we might call, following the lead of a recent collection of essays by many of its most notable practitioners, “historical and critical studies in disciplinarity.”2 In a slew of books, special journals issues, and conferences, the formation, dissolution, collapse, and cross-breeding of disciplines have been put under a microscope. What Clifford Geertz in a celebrated essay of 1980 called “blurred genres” has become as much a normative goal as descriptive statement.3 Since 1988, there has even been a successful journal called History of the Human Sciences explicitly devoted to the following aim: “to promote linkages between the different human sciences, encourage the exchange of ideas and the establishment of interdisciplinary projects.”4 The rise of what David Hollinger calls new “transdisciplinary journals,” such as Critical Inquiry, Salmagundi, October, Representations, Social Text, Raritan, The Stanford Humanities Review, and Common Knowledge, further exemplifies this trend, which is evident as well in the enormous success of Lingua Franca, whose purview is the professional academic world as a boundaried whole.5 And what was once a scattering of isolated humanities centers, serving as oases of interdisciplinarity in a desert of departmental sand dunes, has developed into a dense network of interlocking channels through which nimble scholars can navigate their careers with scarcely ever a need to retreat to dry land. As a result, we have learned to be acutely aware of the ways in which dubious origin myths, reconstructed teleological narratives, rhetorical demarcation strategies, institutional consolidations, and professional credentialing mechanisms all conspire to lend the aura of naturalness to what has been in fact only historically construed. To cite one representative formulation, that of the historian of science Timothy Lenoir, “disciplines are political institutions that demarcate areas of academic territory, allocate privileges and responsibilities of expertise, and structure claims on resources . . . disciplines are embedded in market relationships regulating the flow of social and technical practices; they are creatures

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of history reflecting human habits and preferences rather than a fixed order of nature.6 No one can deny the advance produced by this kind of reflexivity about the enabling—or perhaps disabling—conditions of our work. A genealogical rather than teleological historical consciousness, one that disdains triumphalist narratives of disciplinary consolidation, usefully undermines any residual Whiggishness in the legitimating stories we tell ourselves (and use against our rivals in the struggle for the scarce resources of academic life). Vigilance against canonical accounts that culminate in a presentist celebration of the status quo is a valuable lesson for all historical reconstructionists, especially when they are so blatantly in the service of maintaining existing hierarchies of power and influence. After the work of Pierre Bourdieu in particular, we cannot ignore the continuities and homologies between academic fields and their counterparts elsewhere in the social order or deny that struggles over cultural capital and the distinctions it subtends can be as fierce as those over its economic or social counterparts. The realization, moreover, that active research programs are not necessarily congruent with given disciplinary boundaries, indeed may thrive when they cross them, can only be considered an advance. But in all of this, one can also hear the echo of the connotational shift produced by Foucault’s fateful linking of discipline with punishment, undermining its earlier and more neutral implication of following rules. That is, the realization that knowledge is significantly determined by power and that disciplines are artificial constructs in the service of power maintenance lends an aura of heroic resistance to attempts to transgress boundaries, disrupt settled ideologies, and dereify what has congealed through the oblivion or mythical rewriting of origins. Our conventional wisdom, in fact, now routinely favors hybridity over purity, pollution over abjection, marginalization over centralization, and fragmentation over wholeness, so that it has been easy to infuse the blurring of genres with an almost moral value. The rhetoric of crisis, which once might have suggested pain and distress, now seems to imply the well-deserved toppling of brittle and antiquated residues of a benighted past. That frisson of naughty pleasure to which I confessed at the outset is the result, and we all seem to share some of it these days. There is, however, an important distinction that has to be drawn between modes of blurring genres and effacing boundaries. The one I have identified with Wilson’s universalizing and objectivizing concept of consilience has its tacit counterpart in certain tendencies in the humanities and social sciences.

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The most boldly totalizing enterprises, such as the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research’s ambitious collaborative program of the 1930s, whose rise and decline I have discussed elsewhere, may no longer seem very compelling.7 But there are still at least tacitly holistic tendencies in certain contemporary trends. Perhaps the most obvious is the recent inflation of the idea of culture to encompass virtually everything that is traditionally compartmentalized in discrete subspheres. Raymond Williams’s celebrated plea to extend the concept from its elite usage to an anthropological “whole way of life” has been answered by the vigorous growth of “cultural studies” as an omnivorous leviathan that threatens to swallow up everything else. Understood in the light of this approach, academic disciplines themselves are conceptualized as cultural practices rather than epistemological categories that open up vistas on the real world outside. Although there have been rumblings of discontent about the hypertrophy of the culture concept— see, for example, Geoffrey Hartman’s The Fateful Question of Culture and at least some of the essays collected by John Carlos Rowe as “Culture” and the Problem of the Disciplines8—the homogenizing force of cultural studies, at least in certain of its guises, is not yet spent. A similar effect has been produced by the succession of so-called “turns” that have made discrete disciplines seem more like fields of obedient flowers straining to face the same sun than settled scholarly traditions. The “linguistic turn” was only the first of many that have recently produced this contagious tropism; we now have interpretive, rhetorical, and pictorial or visual turns, and perhaps are on the cusp of performative and ethical ones as well. With so many suns to turn to, the homogenizing is by no means uniform, but the weakening of received disciplinary identities is abetted nonetheless. We may therefore be moving toward yet another “post” moment, that of postdisciplinarity. Or so it might seem, if we neglect the second mode of blurring genres in the humanities, which cannot be analogized from Wilson’s imperial notion of consilience and disdains any hegemonizing concept like critical theory, culture, or the rhetoric of collective turns. Here we encounter what might be called the antifoundationalist, anti-universalizing variant of blurring genres, which resists seeking any master key to subtend all of them. Instead, it rests content with the realization that disciplines themselves, for all of their homogenizing pressures, have often been tense and fragile agglomerations of competing methods, interests, and focal points with elusive essences, if there are essences at all. It knows as well that the demarcations separating them have always been porous and shifting, with no impermeable walls keeping out intruders. But rather than

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bemoaning this condition, it celebrates it. It knows that no amount of policing has ever prevented subdisciplines from rising to challenge the hegemony of the mainstream definitions of what a discipline really is. And, perhaps most important of all, it recognizes that the pressures to dissolve, fragment, and hybridize what may seem solid at one moment are met by counterpressures to form affinity groups and new collective identities around nascent research programs or innovative methodologies or challenges from the world outside the academy. This version of postdisciplinarity turns out to be just as much predisciplinarity, insofar as new configurations and alliances are on the horizon. Unlike the consilience model of universal coordination, it embraces a pluralist welter of fresh agglomerations, which resist being synchronized and hierarchized in a grand system. Some of these may well supplant older models, although others may create palimpsests in which the older order is not so much effaced as partly covered over. Or to employ yet another metaphor, the ruins of old disciplinary boundaries are not so much leveled in order to remap the world anew as recombined to form what begin as fragile and eclectic juxtapositions and soon congeal into pseudo-natural discursive edifices. One way to account for, or at least conceptualize, the dynamism of disciplinary reinvention is, in fact, to rethink some of the metaphorical assumptions that often underlie our traditional ways of approaching the issue. Often we borrow our terminology from planar geometry in which fields are taken to be boundaried spaces with explicit borders and homogeneous interiors. We talk, as indeed I have at various earlier points in this essay, about “walls” around disciplines or “turf wars” for control of contested territory. The implied perspective on such a field is that of a distant observer with a God’s-eye view—or at least that of an omniscient dean—above the surveyed landscape. Disciplines become like so many nation-states on a two-dimensional map. If one gains, the implication is that others are diminished; if two merge, the resulting territory is assumed to be so much greater than before; if one retreats, others will fill the vacuum left behind. But what if a different metaphoric were evoked, one in which fields are of force or energy and the dimensions at least three in number? What if, with Bourdieu, we acknowledged, that “to think in terms of field is to think relationally?”9 The force field model, which was advanced as well by Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, is one I have often invoked in the past, and I do not want to rehearse all the arguments in its favor now.10 But with reference to the question of disciplinarity, the following points are worth underlining. Like the familiar

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trope of “family resemblances” advanced by Wittgenstein, but with the added virtue of alerting us to the multiplicity of pushes and pulls that go beyond the duality of matrilineal and patrilineal descent, a force field resists the logic of subsumption. That is, every discipline is a juxtaposed set of elements that cohere for at least a certain period of time because of the energies that tie them together rather than a smoothly homogeneous body of practices, methods, and subject matters subsumed under and governed by shared rules. Within constituted disciplines, there is thus no privileged location from which the whole can be seen and controlled. As Julie Thompson Klein has noted, “unidisciplinary competence is a myth, because the degree of specialization and the volume of information that fall within the boundaries of a named academic discipline are larger than any single individual can master.”11 If we treat disciplines as relational networks of elements, tensely kept together by the discursive equivalent of gravitational or electromagnetic energy, rather than coherent, two-dimensional territories with explicit boundaries, we can, moreover, better understand the ways in which their internal workings and external environments may seem roughly continuous rather than radically divided. For disciplines themselves can, of course, be the elements in higher order force fields, which allows us to place them in such categories as the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Because they are dynamic and relational rather than static and saturated fields, their elements are often simultaneously involved in other juxtapositions with elements from other disciplines. Because the forces that tie them together may be weaker, at least at certain moments, they can seem more firmly located in one disciplinary network than another. However, the constellation of forces can shift for a variety of reasons, so that identities may be transformed. Economic history, for example, may move from history to economics departments and back again, or new fields like visual culture or theory may set up shop on their own. These are all pretty self-evident observations, but they may help us understand that the so-called fracturing or dissolution of disciplines is not as unusual as it may seem and certainly need not be a cause for alarmist talk of disciplinary “crisis” or “collapse.” But how do they support the point I sought to make at the beginning of the talk: the need to mount a modest defense of the relative independence and coherence of disciplines? If, as I have just said, the internal and external dynamics of fields are roughly homologous, doesn’t this undermine the very solidity of discrete disciplines I seem to be defending? Doesn’t it provide ammunition for a nonfoundationalist variant of the universalization argument

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by positing a metanetwork of energies and forces in which disciplines are merely fragile constellations of ephemeral juxtapositions? Am I not just advancing another version of the metadiscipline of disciplinarity, which seeks a vantage point above the fray? Although I would concede the plausibility of these readings, let me suggest three reasons why I think they are not fully adequate. First, to make a familiar point that nonetheless bears rehearsing, the fact that a temporal constellation of elements can be seen as ultimately impermanent and open to future adjustment or even dissolution does not undermine the fact that for a certain, albeit finite, period of time, the forces that keep it in order do prevail. Our Solar System will not last forever, but I wouldn’t bet on it spinning out of control in the near future. Or to put in the terms of another discourse, which harks back to the Western Marxism of a Lukács, to realize that fixed structures are reifications, sustained in part by the oblivion of their origins in human practice, is not sufficient to undo their effects. Successful dereification is a much more onerous and time-consuming effort, one that goes beyond mere consciousness-raising. We may, in other words, know that knowledge is an effect of power, that disciplines are in the service of hierarchy, that the world they depict can be described in very different ways, but we can’t then immediately reverse their power over us. Disciplines, in short, are institutions as well as discourses, and changing institutions is not as quick or as easy as it may seem to radical constructivists. Second, if we take seriously the three-dimensionality of the force field model, we can appreciate the inertial staying power of the constellations that have come to exist. Rather than assuming fields are flat, planar, two-dimensional spaces, we have to acknowledge the bisecting axes of the subjects who enter the disciplines and the objects that are assumed to be their external points of reference. Rather, that is, than seeing disciplinary discourses as self-sufficient and entirely immanent, constructing both their subjects and objects with no remainder, we need to be alert to the ways in which practitioners and worlds exceed their discursive interface. To take the former first, we have to recognize that even if we accept the discipline-as-cultural-practice model, we must leave some leeway for the agency of those who engage in the practices. This helps us to account for the very reflexivity that allows us to see outside the discursive field in which we are situated, and thus perhaps challenge some of its characteristics. But conversely, we should also understand that included in that agency is the formation of the practitioner within specific historical constellations whose inertial power remains powerful over time, no matter how radical his or her attempt

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to leave it behind and remake the disciplinary world anew. That is, the sense of fraudulent interloping I mentioned at the outset of this talk when discussing my own forays beyond the boundaries of history is an almost inevitable result of the baggage I bring with me. The same might be said of unapologetic universalizers like Edward O. Wilson, whose allegedly neutral call for consilience turns out, to no one’s surprise, to be a plea for the power of evolutionary biology and cognitive science to explain everything. No one, in short, is socialized into a fully transcendental, transdisciplinary identity, not at least since Leibniz, who is frequently taken to be the last intellectual to claim universal mastery. Even the most versatile polymath has his or her limitations in a context in which the intellectual division of labor has become irreversible. For this reason, interdisciplinarity must be at best a collaborative project, but one that cannot fully overcome the individual prejudices of the participants in the game, who cannot fully leave behind their idiosyncratic formations. No collapse of disciplines is thus possible when we recognize the subjective role of the actual people, none of whom is beyond particularity, who engage in and sustain cultural practices. A similar conclusion follows if we think closely about the objects of inquiry that are the substantive focus of disciplinary investigation. A realist epistemology will, of course, contend that the different areas of inquiry correspond to natural kinds, which are not merely the effects of discursive construction. We cut into nature at the joints, so the familiar metaphor goes, and need to make sense of its parts through different approaches that will best reveal its separate workings. There are, as examples, individuals and there are societies, which allows psychology and sociology to carve out their respective disciplinary domains. Both have their ontological or at least historically congealed truth, which makes any attempt to privilege one over the other by dogmatic adherents of methodological individualism or methodological holism an exercise in misplaced concreteness. As Adorno once put it with reference to the project of a social psychology: “the separation of sociology and psychology is both correct and false. False because it encourages the specialists to relinquish the attempt to know the totality which even the separation of the two demands; and correct insofar as it registers more intransigently the split that has actually taken place in reality than does the premature unification at the level of theory.”12 Such an argument may not convince many in these days of strong constructivist and culturalist critiques of naturalization, but even a historicist version of the objects of disciplinary inquiry must take into account the stubborn effects of disciplinary constellations in the past. Training in a discipline, after all, involves

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more than mastering its methods and knowing how to apply them; it also entails becoming fully conversant with what we call the “literature” in the field, knowing, that is, its canon. Although we may work to go beyond it, a struggle that ironically often involves acquiring knowledge of the canonical literature in another field, we cannot construct the objects of our inquiry ex nihilo. They come to us always already filtered through their prior constitution, which more or less tenaciously determines their current and future status. Even if we can question the legitimating narratives of disciplinary identity and show that power and the scramble for cultural capital rather than disinterested knowledge subtend the hierarchical division of the pie, we cannot simply undo the effects of prior consolidations and demarcations. In short, a relational and three-dimensional notion of a force field will allow us to understand that both the subject of disciplinary inquiry and the object carry with them the residues of past configurations, which cannot be jettisoned at will in the name of universalizing consilience. Perhaps these considerations make my plea for preserving distinctions a bit too defensively. Perhaps they suggest only why it will be unlikely that disciplines will collapse, not why it is a good thing that they won’t. One final thought will, I hope, help to provide a more positive answer. It will be evident as I have spoken that I think it imperative to foreground the metaphorical assumptions underlying any discussion of disciplinarity: consilience as a jumping together, disciplines as either boundaried, two-dimensional fields or relational networks of forces in three dimensions, even the word discipline itself as carrying connotational baggage from its placement in a Foucauldian universe of normalization and coercion. What, we might ask, is the more fundamental role of metaphor in the relations between or among disciplines? Here the efforts of the German historian of ideas/philosopher Hans Blumenberg to defend what he calls the value of “nonconceptuality” may give us some guidance.13 According to Blumenberg’s “metaphorology,” metaphor is more than a mere ornament of speech, more than a mere linguistic expression that can be improved by the imposition of a precise, conceptually rigorous terminology, such as that often sought by science and analytic philosophy. It shows instead that often sedimented in seemingly univocal terms are the corpses of dead and forgotten metaphors, an argument famously made by Nietzsche. These metaphors arise out of a prescientific life-world in which attempts to master reality depend on analogizing from the known to the unknown, the familiar to the unfamiliar, what is present to what is not. “Analogy is the realism of metaphor,” Blumenberg writes.14 It even appears in modern natural science, where, for example, the mac-

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rosystem of the Solar System was analogized to explain the workings of the microsystem of the molecule, at least for a while. What metaphors preserve, even when they seem to imply homologous relations and symbolic integration, is the inevitable heterogeneity of the two terms metaphorized. Napoleon may be like an eagle in his courage, nobility, and predatory guile, but one of them has feathers and the other does not. Even in nonaesthetic contexts, therefore, metaphors should not be seen as weak anticipations of concepts, preliminary approximations of what a more rigorous linguistic univocality can more precisely provide. They are rather salutary checks to the homogenizing power of conceptual subsumption, or in the words of Husserl cited by Blumenberg, as “resistances to harmony.”15 As a form of nonconceptual knowledge, and Blumenberg wants to emphasize that they are legitimate forms of knowledge, they are akin to the ineffable understanding we derive from reading a face, something that is closer to an art than a science, but meaningful nonetheless. Blumenberg does not, to be sure, extend his analysis to the relations among disciplines. In fact, at one point in his argument he says that “the homelessness of metaphor in a world determined by disciplined experience can be seen in the uneasiness encountered by everything that does not meet the standard of language that tends toward objective univocity.”16 Here it seems that disciplining once again connotes a repressive Foucauldian world of normalization and control. But if we allow ourselves to think of disciplines in the ways I have suggested above, as relational force fields with internal heterogeneities and three-dimensional configurations, then their proximity to nonconceptuality in Blumenberg’s sense becomes clearer. That is, the analogical rather than subsumptive logic of moving from one discipline to another should be recalled in order to resist the homogenizing danger latent in dreams of universal consilience. When, for example, advocates of the linguistic turn suggest that we understand kinship structures, the syntagmatic structures of films, or the unconscious as if they followed the semiotic and grammatical protocols of a language, what needs to be remembered is that although something is gained by the simile “like a language,” something is inevitably lost. When we talk, to take another example, of reading images as if they were texts, we may be stimulated to ask questions of them that would be ignored otherwise, but we have to stop short of concluding that they are nothing but texts with no remainders that make them specifically visual. Likewise, borrowing the idea of capital from economics and applying it to culture is a healthy check to idealist illusions of cultural autonomy, but applied too literally and reductively, it can preclude in advance any acknowledgment of those


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aspects of culture that transcend all economic modes of behavior. And when we enrich our understanding of historical narratives by placing them in the context of more general theories of narratology, we must also acknowledge that the differences between historical and fictional narration are sufficiently meaningful to prohibit our turning an analogy into an identity. If within what has temporarily congealed into a disciplinary force field, the elements in the field are themselves not subsumable under a single conceptual logic, even if they form meaningful configurations, in an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary force field, the prohibition against forcing such a subsumption should be even more powerfully in effect. With these warnings in mind, one might be tempted to go to the opposite extreme from the defenders of consilience and endorse the recent call of Bill Readings and J. Hillis Miller for “a new university of dissensus, of the copresence of irreconcilable and to some degree mutually opaque goods,” or what they call “a university of respect, rather than knowledge.”17 Such a university, they tell us, would be so fearful of the coerced reconciliations and technological imperatives that motivate the project of consilience—or weaker versions of convergence that, according to Readings and Miller, hide behind the vapid slogan of “excellence”—that it would actively seek to short-circuit any dialogue between or among different fields. The old university model of integrated Bildung, the liberal arts dream of a humanist well-roundedness, is now only a dilapidated ruin, they argue, which cannot, indeed should not, be reconstructed. I am not sure, however, that so radical a hostility to projects of reconciliation and even consensus need be the only implication that one can draw from a resistance to the menace of consilience. For although analogical and metaphorical relationality are not equivalent to identitarian homogenization, they do provide meaningful and suggestive ways to overcome, or at least work pragmatically within, the limits of human cognitive power. Dissensus as a normative goal does not seem to me any more self-evidently liberating than consensus, or always jumping apart necessarily healthier than trying to jump together. Force fields, after all, work through attraction as well as repulsion, and disciplines can surely learn from their permeability to energies from without, which help create new productive constellations. The antidote to the implosion of collapse and the blurring of genres is not the explosion of incommensurability, even accompanied by respect for difference. For as Dominick LaCapra has noted with reference to Readings’s evocation of Lyotard’s notion of a radically incommensurable “differend,” “it suppresses an internal distinction within that very category: the

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differend as nonnegotiable difference that marks a total standoff or an aporia and the differend as a difference for which there is no metalanguage or higher order normative system but that still allows for translation between positions in a manner analogous to the process, involving both losses and gains, that takes place between natural languages like English and French.”18 There is, in fact, no sweeping formula that will capture the state of disciplinarity today, let alone one that will serve as a normative model for the disciplines or interdisciplinarity of the future. Prophets of consilience may come and go and devotees of radical dissensus will arise to put them in their place, but the drama of negotiating and renegotiating the sometime fragile, sometimes resilient boundaries of those cultural practices we call disciplines will continue as long as finite, creaturely human beings struggle both to make and to make sense of their bewildering world. Even those of us who wander into no-man’sland have to retire to the home front every so often to replenish our supplies. Even those of us who yearn to fly above the fray have every so often to land on familiar territory. And perhaps most pertinent of all at this moment, even those of us who dive into the sea of infinite metaphoricity have to put an end to their analogizing and move on to another topic in the essay that follows.

Can There Be National Philosophies in a Transnational World?

In June of 2000, the Times Literary Supplement published an anguished commentary by the Polish philosopher Adam J. Chmielewski entitled “Looking Westward: The Submissiveness of Polish Philosophy.”1 Reflecting on the demise of Marxism as a universalist lingua franca for Polish intellectuals, indeed for all of their counterparts in Eastern Europe, he noted that since 1989, they have been frantically searching for a new guiding paradigm, a new way to orient themselves in an unfamiliar global intellectual landscape. Without a reigning Weltanschauung they have felt spiritually bereft. Inevitably, he lamented, they have turned to the West for answers, for no original Polish projects are on the horizon. “The Polish philosophical condition is some kind of disease,” Chmielewski ruefully observed, “an illness of mind which is incapable of originality, because it is scared of any independent thought, though the fear is now of a different character: it is the fear of being old-fashioned, outmoded, not au courant.”2 Instead of generating their own ideas or reviving native traditions, they slavishly recycle fads from abroad, especially English-language countries. “It is apparent,” he sarcastically concluded, “that the more affluent a country is, the more truthcontaining it is thought to be.” Symptomatic of the disease, “Polish journals and books are plagued by more or less randomly selected writings of Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Donald Davidson, Martin Jay, etc.”3 Now, as you can imagine, I was stopped short reading that final sentence, which was arresting for several obvious reasons. First, I had never been accused before of contributing to a plague of any kind, let alone one that was subverting the integrity and originality of an entire national philosophical tradition. To be credited with that kind of malevolent power provided, I have to confess, a rush of

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excitement. Second, I was both flattered and amused to find myself listed alongside three figures who are among the most significant voices in American philosophy of our time, clearly a dual category mistake both in terms of academic discipline and level of eminence. Jorge Luis Borges would have chuckled at the resemblance to his fictitious Chinese encyclopedia list of incongruent categories made famous by Foucault in The Order of Things. But third and most important, I was taken with the irony that a European intellectual like Chimielewski would feel threatened by an American scholar whose entire work has been dedicated to introducing and interpreting European ideas to English-speaking audiences. That is, unlike Rorty, Davidson, or Putnam, I am a humble intellectual historian, not a credentialed philosopher, and my role has always been that of a not-sosecret agent bringing foreign ideas to our own shores. To be accused of representing the imperialism of American thought was thus a delicious irony for someone whose work has dealt almost exclusively with intellectuals like Horkheimer, Adorno, Foucault, Habermas, Bataille, Lukács, Kracauer, Sartre, and MerleauPonty, who either never made it here or usually hurried home as soon as they decently could after having arrived. More interesting, however, than the ill-conceived inclusion of my name in a dishonor roll of intellectual imperialists undermining the integrity of Polish philosophy is the very assumption underlying the accusation that such an integrity ever existed, which could then be undermined. For after all, one of the most persistent assumptions of the Western philosophical traditions, indeed a founding assumption of philosophy tout court, is that ideas transcend the contexts of their generation or reception. To add a contextualizing adjective like the name of a nation or culture to the noun “philosophy” is thus inherently oxymoronic in a way that, say, attaching one to a cuisine or even a body of poetry is not. Socrates’ contemptuous rebuke to Phaedrus is typical: “For you apparently it makes a difference who the speaker is, and what country he comes from: you don’t merely ask whether what he says is true or false.”4 Even if we may now speak of ancient Greek philosophy, Plato did not think his Forms stopped being ideal once you sailed passed the Aegean, or Aristotle believe that his syllogisms were only valid within the city-states of the Hellenic world. Even when Sophists like Protagoras argued that “man was the measure of all things,” they didn’t assume that such a man had to speak Greek and wear a toga; even barbarians outside the pale might measure up. Likewise, later figures like Descartes never doubted that anyone could hold clear and distinct ideas in their minds no matter where his or her extended body might be located, and Kant had no trouble

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believing that the categorical imperative bound moral men wherever they might hear the call of duty. As Derrida noted in one of the seminars he devoted to “philosophical nationality” in the 1980s, “no cultural identity presents itself as the opaque body of an untranslatable idiom, but always, on the contrary, as the irreplaceable inscription of the universal in the singular, the unique testimony to the human essence and to what is proper to man.”5 The perennial struggle against what became known in the nineteenth century as “psychologism,” a struggle that we associate in particular with Gottlob Frege and Edmund Husserl, has been waged ever since Plato denounced the Sophists for relativizing truth. Protagoras was wrong, the philosophers argued, for making man the measure of all things rather than recognizing the independent validity of truth no matter who held it. Directed as much at sociological or even anthropological reductionism as at its individual psychological counterpart, the argument was that Mind should never be reduced to the specific contents of the distinct minds whose contingent status was irrelevant to the more fundamental questions addressed by philosophers. The claim that local contexts, national or otherwise, could determine the validity of ideas, that judgments were dependent on the qualities of those who held them, was anathema to the inherently transcendental, universalist, and ahistorical assumptions of traditional philosophy, whatever its more idiosyncratic ontological commitments may be. Logic and mathematics became the model for all rigorous philosophical thought, as the law of the excluded middle or the numerical equivalent of pi were valid in themselves and for all time. Even ethical and aesthetic values, some critics of psychologism like Heinrich Rickert and T. E. Hulme came to argue, could be understood apart from the mere convictions of their defenders. They too could at least aspire to eternal and transcendent status. The same universalist premises underlay many other nonphilosophical discourses, especially ones deriving from the monotheological musings of those who worshiped the jealous God of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths of Abraham. Although anthropologists of religion might rest content with comparing variations on the theme of the sacred, those invested in the one true God had no compunction about asserting absolute validity for their beliefs. And of course, modern science also came zealously to promote the idea that experimental testing is replicable no matter the local context where the test takes place. Water, it seems, will boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level in Madagascar and Siberia as well as in Munich. Or at least so goes the received wisdom about the scientific method.

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That wisdom, to be sure, has itself come under increased scrutiny by sociologists of science, who have unearthed the concrete practical limitations on the credentialed communities who have the legitimacy to conduct the tests and disseminate the results. Thus, for example, Steven Shapin in A Social History of Truth has pointed out that gentlemanly codes of conduct in seventeenth-century England helped to determine whose accounts were credible and whose were not, even during the scientific revolution associated with figures like Robert Boyle.6 Civility and decorum rather than the sheer persuasiveness of the better argument often bestowed the power to win assent. As Foucault had noted—and Shapin explicitly draws on his legacy—knowledge and power are not strangers to each other. Still, one might argue that although violated in practice, the ideal of disinterested knowledge unbeholden to the status of those who produce or defend it remains the operative norm in scientific inquiry. If the public sphere model made familiar by Jürgen Habermas can be said to approach its counterfactual state of full realization anywhere, it would be in scientific discourse. But philosophy too has generally sought to defend its methods in similar terms, resisting the cultural relativism of those who would tie it too firmly to contexts of generation or reception. Even those philosophers who espouse such a perspectivalist relativism or reduce ideas to mere worldviews rarely avoid the performative contradiction involved when making general pronouncements about all ideas being only relatively valid. Is it then itself a form of performative contradiction and therefore philosophically illegitimate to worry about the threat to a specifically Polish philosophy or any national tradition in philosophy for that matter? Is it simply bad philosophy ever to apply limiting adjectives of this kind? And if we do decide to abandon universalist assumptions, why assume that national culture provides the relevant context to explain and delimit the more local contexts that matter? What about those diasporic traditions that have a history of wandering from one to the other, following the pattern that became known as “traveling theory” since the celebrated essay by Edward Said of that name in the 1980s?7 Although not without their national inflections, they often learn to speak new tongues, or at least with new accents, as they move restlessly from one context to another. Speaking in tongues, however, is usually considered a virtue for certain kinds of religious adepts, but not for philosophers. A neutral metalanguage beyond or above vernacular idiosyncrasy has long fascinated those who see mathematics or symbolic logic as the ideal toward which rigorous thought should aspire. Insofar


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as carefully defined concepts are understood to be the building blocks of the philosophical discourse that shares this aspiration, the other dimensions of language that we can roughly call the rhetorical have been marginalized or neutralized. Rigorous, shared definitions were demanded to overcome the messiness of everyday usage. Or so it seemed until a century or so ago. For after what became famous as the linguistic turn in philosophy, what was marginal became central and what seemed neutralized returned with a vengeance. Metaphor, whether living or dead, gained new respect as an inevitable vehicle of meaning, which may well outstrip the attempts of rigorous conceptualists to still its potential for polysemic play. All of this is, of course, well known, and does not warrant belaboring. But what does merit underlining is the extent to which the medium of language—or more accurately, the many concrete languages—in which philosophy is expressed may inflect the content of that expression. Indeed, ever since Descartes abandoned Latin for his native vernacular and began writing in French, even the most universalist philosophers have tacitly acknowledged that it makes a difference how what is being said is said. The alleged opposition between philosophy and poetry is undermined, or at least relativized, if we acknowledge that both are written in a particular idiom, however much they may seek to transcend it. Thus it hasn’t been missed, at least by Jacques Derrida, that in their famous debate on the absolute prohibition of lying, Immanuel Kant could refer to Benjamin Constant as simply der französische Philosoph and was called in return un philosophe allemande, “as if this debate about lying were also a conflict between philosophical nationalities.”8 For a while, of course, it was possible to claim that some languages were more inherently suited for general philosophical expression than others, some intrinsically clearer than others, even closer to the text of nature. French itself was famously defended in this way by Antoine de Rivarol in his 1784 Berlin Academy Prize treatise, “De l’universalité de la langue française.” According to Rivarol, the order of French syntax mirrored the order of the rational mind, an assumption that those among us who had to learn it as a second language may find improbable. “Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français”—“What is not clear is not French,” he famously asserted, which may seem an even more remarkable claim in the era of Lacan, Derrida, and Deleuze. A generation after Rivarol, the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte made comparable claims for German as the most suitable language for philosophical expression.9 Arguing that French had become a dead language, mired in formulaic clichés and no longer connected with the living community out of

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which it emerged, he asserted the vitality of German as the language of freedom, capable of binding together the cultural nation that was at the forefront of the human struggle for emancipation. Here it was not so much clarity that was a virtue as purity, the purity of a natural tongue that escaped corruption by neighboring languages. There was originally an Ursprache, a language spoken by our ancestors, which was closest to nature (Fichte was not a conventionalist when it came to sign systems: “language,” he insisted, “is not an arbitrary means of communication, but breaks forth out of the life of understanding as an immediate force of nature”).10 German, he famously claimed in his 1808 Reden an die deutschen Nation, was closest to it in his day. Unlike other people who had common ancestors but no longer lived in their native lands, they had “retained and developed the original language of the ancestral stock.”11 The link between their sensuous experiences and supersensuous ideas was still intact. Its contemporary speakers thus had the potential to realize the metaphysical task of liberation somehow latent in their language, which they could do if they acted as an organic community to bring it about. Whether or not Fichte was an ethnic, perhaps even racist, nationalist or just a linguistic one has been debated ever since, but what is important for our purposes is his argument that the German language had a special mission that set it apart from its competitors, especially French. The philosophical dimension of that mission remained potent well into the twentieth century, in thinkers as disparate as Heidegger and Adorno, who continued to believe with Hegel in their good luck to be native speakers of “an idiom that is originally speculative.”12 Both insisted that German with its convoluted word order and wealth of interchangeable suffixes and prefixes provided an especially rich expressive medium for the presentation of their respective philosophies, whether ontological or dialectical. Both distrusted the pretension to linguistic clarity and univocality assumed by the Cartesian tradition, which they saw as complicit with a tacit privileging of the ocularcentric bias of the technological worldview. Both understood the aesthetic and rhetorical moment in the language of philosophy, which should not strive to emulate the bland neutrality of scientific denotation. But they differed over a crucial question: the value of maintaining the purity of German, with Adorno explicitly repudiating Heidegger’s fetish of etymological origins and disdain for words of foreign, especially Latinate, extraction. Although in his 1955 essay, “On the Question ‘What is German?,’ ” he explained his return after the war as a homecoming to a language that “has a special elec-


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tive affinity with philosophy and particularly with its speculative element,”13 Adorno never forgot his positive lessons as an exile from his national linguistic home.14 What he called the “jargon of authenticity” enveloped certain words in an auratic nimbus that lent them an unearned profundity. Adorno, mindful of the links between Heidegger’s thought and his politics, saw the jargon as ominously paralleling ethnic cleansing of a more sinister kind. For purists, he argued, “German words of foreign derivation were the Jews of language.”15 For all their debts to Heidegger, many recent French poststructuralists share Adorno’s admiration for macaronic linguistic hybridity, rejecting the search for either a neutral metalanguage or a vernacular purified of intrusions from the outside. Like the eighteenth-century German enemy of Kantian transcendentalism, J. G. Hamann, they have often deliberately mixed words from many languages, dead and living, in an effort to disrupt the apparently direct expression of ideas, making us attend instead to their inevitable refraction through the linguistic media that convey them. Whether universalist assumptions about philosophy are challenged by the belief that one specific language is better than others or that a delirium of different languages is necessary to make up for the inadequacy of each, the linguistic turn has helped undermine the hope that a neutral metalanguage above the Babel of different vernacular tongues might provide a foundation for philosophical expression. Whether considered a prison-house, in Nietzsche’s famous metaphor, or a more benign house of being in Heidegger’s, language, or more accurately, languages have come to be recognized as inevitable mediators of thought, perhaps even their tacit generative matrix. It might, of course, be argued in response that such considerations rarely inhibit the migration of ideas across linguistic boundaries or make impossible the transfer of content from culture to culture, nation to nation. What defenders of this more optimistic conclusion dismissively call “the myth of the framework”— the title of a famous essay by Karl Popper16—means that however much conceptual thought is mediated by the languages in which it is expressed, no insuperable barriers exist to communication of common thoughts across linguistic frontiers. It may be the case, as the linguist Harald Weinrich has argued, that although isolated words and even concepts in one language may defy perfect translation into another, full texts can more easily surmount linguistic barriers. “No word is translatable,” he writes. “But we don’t ever have to translate words. We translate sentences and texts. It doesn’t matter that the lexical meanings of words don’t usually correspond exactly from one language to another. The issue in the text is

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really the textual meanings, and we can handle these adequately—just by making the context correspond. In principle, therefore, texts are translatable.”17 Although this claim may appear a bit too rosy for those who worry that contexts are themselves not always so easy to commensurate, theories, as we know, do easily travel, sometimes even returning home having been broadened by the experience. Nor is it so obvious that a shared language produces a shared philosophy, as anyone familiar with the Austrian as opposed to German philosophical tradition in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can well attest. Whereas the latter tended to be idealist, antipositivist, and historicist, the former was often inclined toward realist, positivist, and antihistoricist positions. In complicated ways that we can’t address now, the different religious traditions and national histories of each country had as much as if not more impact than their common language. It is not surprising that an essentially Protestant Germany optimistic about its national future would philosophize in a different mood from a Catholic Austria uneasy about the survival of a delicate compromise with other nationalities in the moribund Habsburg Empire. Perhaps a more fruitful approach to the specificity of national traditions in philosophy would focus more on concrete institutions and practices than linguistically shaped worldviews or conceptual frameworks. Rather than relying on the residually Romantic notion of a latent national spirit or organic language community, it may be more prudent to examine empirically the concrete conditions in which philosophy is carried out in different settings. As Paulin Hountondji argued in his 1980 book, Sur la “philosophie africaine,” rather than an “ethnophilosophical” inquiry based on a problematic belief in the essence of African philosophy, it is wiser to investigate philosophy in Africa.18 In a recent essay entitled “Is There Such a Thing as ‘French Philosophy’? or, Why do We Read the French so Badly,” Alan D. Schrift seeks to answer the question he poses precisely in this way.19 Noting that previous attempts to discern a specifically French tradition, such as those of Victor Delbos during World War I and Léon Brunschvicg shortly after it, sought an answer in substantive terms—in an alleged French partiality for clarity and cultivating the human spirit absent from the philosophy born across the Rhine—he argues that the real answer lies in “certain institutional practices unique to the French academic world.”20 These produced a highly centralized philosophical culture in which personal relations were often as critical as intellectual power. In particular, he points to the crucial role of the École normale supérieure on the rue d’Ulm in Paris until at least the 1960s in training virtually all important French philosophers (three excep-


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tions that prove the rule being Jean-François Lyotard, Paul Ricoeur, and Gilles Deleuze), providing a highly competitive, personally charged atmosphere for philosophical inquiry and debate. Most of the ENS’s students had, moreover, already bonded when they attended one of two famous lycées in the Latin Quarter: Louis-le-Grand and Henri IV. In later years, prestigious positions in places like the Collège de France or the École des hautes études would often be determined by the connections and alliances made at a very early age. In addition, the peculiarly French competitive examination, established in 1766 by Louis XV, called the agrégation, meant that anyone wanting to teach at the secondary level or above must prepare in the same way for a national test whose consequences for their future career are formidable. In 1809, Napoleon decreed that a year of philosophy had to be taught in all French lycées, which involved uniform instruction throughout the empire. Because it is known in advance which philosophers will be among those whose legacy will be examined in any particular year, all the potential competitors are forced to read the same texts and are presumably influenced by the same ideas. Thus, Schrift speculates, the inclusion of Nietzsche in the syllabus for the agrégation in 1958, the first time in three decades that he was included in the programme, may help explain why the generation that came of age after 1968 was so besotted with his ideas. Another recent account of the uniqueness of French philosophy, Tamara Chaplin’s Turning on the Mind, also takes into account the importance of an institution in distinguishing French from other traditions.21 In her case, however, it is not the academic organization of the discipline but its extraordinary exposure on French television in the second half of the twentieth century on shows like Lectures pour Tous, Apostrophes, and Océaniques, giving it a popular appeal unlike in any other country. She points out that the power of philosophy on television was itself rooted in earlier French traditions: “a penchant for clarity (with its attendant stepchild, vulgarization); a richly diverse literary style; a proclivity towards autobiography; and a sustained interest in practical morality. Each of these attributes ultimately influenced the development of philosophical television in France.”22 In France, philosophical ideas and the personality and values of the philosopher were always intimately intertwined with debates often having ad hominem qualities, a characteristic that was only exacerbated by the celebrity culture spawned by televised shows on ideas and those who espoused them. The old role of the moraliste dispensing lessons in practical wisdom, associated with Montaigne, Pascal, and other giants of French thought, continued well into the current era.

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There is a lot to be said for this more institutional approach, elaborating the enabling conditions of specific traditions, but a question immediately arises about the Frenchness of French philosophy raised by Schrift’s example of the 1968 syllabus. That is, if the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche became so powerful an influence for whatever institutional reason, isn’t there something odd about calling the results quintessentially French? Ironically, the same Victor Delbos who introduced a patriotic course on French philosophy at the Sorbonne during World War I was known as the author of the first book in his language on Husserl’s phenomenology. How French, we might wonder, was his own worldview? This issue is skillfully treated in a recent book by Ethan Kleinberg called Generation Existential, which deals with the reception of Heidegger’s thought in France from 1927 to 1961.23 He also acknowledges the institutional influences on French philosophy based on the jury d’agrégation’s power to set the curriculum for all of France. He even goes further than Schrift by claiming that there was a fit between the type of rationalist idealism, neo-Kantian in origin but very much influenced by the positivism of Auguste Comte, imposed on the system by Brunschvicg during the 1920s and 1930s, and the ideology promulgated by the Third Republic. “Under Brunschvicg’s reign,” he writes, “students studied Plato, Descartes, and Kant, in that order, presented as the logical progression of philosophy. For authors whom Brunschvicg and the French neo-Kantians rejected, such as Aristotle and Hegel, only a cursory refutation was required. . . . As a philosophy that upholds the primacy of formal reason and the unlimited development of rational humanity, Brunschvicg’s neo-Kantianism was an ideal match for the Third Republic that held these same issues dear.”24 But that fit began to be challenged, Kleinberg goes on to tell us, by the generation that came of intellectual age in the years before World War II, when the Third Republic was already perceived by many to be moribund and corrupt. Although there was an indigenous resource in the spiritualist vitalism of Henri Bergson that might have been tapped to challenge the hegemony of the neo-Kantians and neopositivists, his star was waning at the same time, partly because there wasn’t much élan vital obvious in French culture in the interwar years and partly because his long-awaited work on religion proved an anticlimactic disappointment. Inspiration had to come from elsewhere, and in fact it came from outside the rigid straitjacket provided by French philosophical institutions. The reception of phenomenology, initially Husserl’s version and then, with increasing power, Heidegger’s, was enabled by the efforts of figures like


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Emmanuel Levinas, Alexandre Koyré, Alexandre Kojève, Georges Gurwitch, and Bernard Groethuysen, all, in Kleinberg’s words, “foreign intellectuals who made themselves ‘at home’ in post-World War I France. The arrival of figures fleeing Russia in 1917 via Germany infused French intellectual life with scholars raised on Russian literature, exposed to Marxist doctrine, and schooled in modern German philosophy. German-Jewish intellectuals fleeing anti-Semitism in German universities represented a later wave of intellectuals coming to France. Levinas brought a new way of reading philosophy; Alexandre Koyré and Kojève imported interpretations of Hegel.”25 Although they were initially on the margins of the philosophical establishment, the “strange defeat” of the Third Republic, to adopt Marc Bloch’s famous phrase, let them come to the center.26 The reception of foreign ideas, and we can add those of thinkers like Kierkegaard and Nicholas Berdyaev to Hegel’s and Heidegger’s, was, to be sure, uneven and often resisted. For political and other reasons, there was a succession of efforts to discredit and expel Heidegger’s version of phenomenology in particular, beginning almost immediately after its introduction and continuing into our own day. “The very process of rooting Heidegger’s work in that country has been tense and often violent,” writes Kleinberg, “as exemplified by the numerous Heidegger Affairs that continually resurface. The process of amnesia and rediscovery of the ‘insidious,’ ‘foreign,’ ‘totalitarian,’ and ‘hostile’ nature of Heidegger’s work is indicative of a larger French trend toward appropriating and then disowning academic traditions.”27 One can find a similar pattern of assimilation and expulsion, domestication and alienation, with other nonindigenous figures who had a powerful impact on French philosophy, such as Nietzsche, Spinoza, Marx, and Freud. The result is that anything that might be called “French philosophy” cannot be fathomed without taking into account the troubled introjection of impulses that were by no means native. Although, to be sure, they were subjected to powerful and creative misreadings that meant they were not simply duplications of the original—even Brunschvicg’s neo-Kantianism was a far cry from that developed in the Germany of Heinrich Rickert and Wilhelm Windelband—their presence precluded any meaningful upholding of rigid national boundaries in philosophical discourse. At first glance, “French philosophy” may seem a solid monolith from the outside, a bit like American philosophy might appear to a Polish intellectual feeling threatened by its imperialist penetration of the local culture, but from within, it proves to be as porous and polluted as any other national tradition. It is wise, in other words, to remember, as Pierre Machery

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has pointed out in his own answer to the question, “Y a-t-il une philosophie française?,” that the great founding father of the native tradition, René Descartes, spent a good deal of his time in exile in Holland and Sweden developing his ideas.28 The difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of deciding what is inside or outside a body of thought or cultural formation is itself an issue that has been the subject of theoretical inquiry. In an insightful essay called “Why Is Theory Foreign?,” published in 1990 during what used to be called the “theory wars” in the American academy, Bill Readings pondered the implications of the threat posed to traditional styles of literary criticism by the incursion of poststructuralist theory. He noted that resistance to theory often takes the form of accusing it of being an alien intruder. “The foreignness of theory, the casting of the theorist as a foreign invader,” he writes, “is itself the product of a theory of interpretation, which goes unrecognized as such in that it is normally classified as the description of reading. This theory of interpretation identifies the text and its reading in terms of a hierarchically ordered division of inside and outside. As reading enters the text from the outside, so critical theory, in the private demonologies of many English professors, enters the cozy hearth of the English Department, where reading is practiced, from the outside.”29 Although the habit of stigmatizing foreign theories can be discerned as early as Dryden, who damned the French esprit de finesse as superficial and ornamental, the quintessential twentieth-century figure was F. R. Leavis, who understood reading in terms of participatory immersion in a text rather than subjecting it to a general categorical explanation or contextual reduction. The foreign theorist is construed as an agent of disembedded abstraction, the snake who introduces the self-conscious reflexivity that disrupts the serenity of the interpretive garden. In contrast, native readers are comfortable in their culture, never needing a road map to find their way home, always familiar with the concrete particulars of their environment. Their own subjectivity is mirrored in that of the texts they read, which allows their interpretations to be understood not as impositions from without but rather as “enactments of a mimetic interpretative justice.”30 As might be expected of a devotee of French theory, Readings distrusts the binary opposition implied by this dichotomy of inside and outside with its implied scapegoating of the alien theorist, who is placed on the side of hermeneutic injustice. “The answer to the question of why theory is foreign is thus because it is only by casting theory as foreign that we can suggest reading is native: a reading that would not be French, would be respectful of,


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would correspond to, the interiority of the text. Theory is demonized as foreign in order to hide the foreignness that inhabits the very heart of reading.”31 Conversely, theory cannot itself be understood as immanent to itself, self-sufficient in a way that makes the texts it interprets entirely external. It too is haunted by the irreducible presence of its apparent opposite. Readings’ focus is on literary criticism, but the same point might be made about the defense of native philosophical traditions against the menace of alien pollution. Here too, as we have seen in the case of the French debt to a welter of foreign influences, foreignness also inhabits the very heart of philosophy, which is always already displaced. As we have seen in the case of the variable French assimilation of and resistance to Heidegger discussed by Kleinberg, the host culture is often uneasy with a guest who stays too long or begins to take over the living room. Traveling theory often has to keep its bags packed and move on to the next welcoming inn, when that unease turns to outright hostility. There is an inevitable power dimension to the relationship, which creates friction when compromise turns sour. But whatever the power dynamics or uneven distribution of resources and rewards, the goal of full purification of a philosophical tradition, perhaps of any cultural formation striving to police its borders, will inevitably be frustrated. The result, however, is not a homogenous smoothing over of all differences and the creation of that universalist, utterly transcendental philosophizing so often sought in the Western tradition. It might be tempting to call it cosmopolitan instead, to use a term that has come once again into vogue, suggesting that philosophers are citizens of the world rather than individual nation-states. But doing so might lull us into thinking all the implications of linguistic and institutional difference were really nugatory. It would be best, therefore, it seems to me, to think of philosophy in the modern world, indeed much intellectual endeavor, as transnational rather than national, universal or cosmopolitan. That it, it is located not primarily within the national state nor in the interstices between them, let alone on a supranational, metalinguistic level, but rather in a fluid and multidirectional negotiation among communities, discursive and institutional, that themselves lie both within and without their national borders at the same time. And as such, it performatively instantiates one of the most powerful ethical imperatives philosophy so often defends: tolerance for, even positive embrace of, the plurality of differences in the human condition that resist being subsumed under one overarching transcendental model of universal human nature. A recent publishing venture called Keywords: For a Different Kind of Globaliza-

national philosophies in a transnational world?   


tion, edited by Nadia Tazi, illustrates the kind of transnational exchange I mean.32 It was launched by the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation and realized by the Alliance of Independent Publishers, which includes the Shanghai Cultural Publishers in China, La Découverte in France, Double Storey Books in South Africa, Le Centre Cultural Arabe in Morocco and Lebanon, Sage Publications in India, and Other Press in the United States. Rather than imitating the British literary critic Raymond Williams’s earlier Keywords, which provided short entries for many important words, all written by one author, Tazi chose six authors from different parts of the world and asked them to write long philosophical essays on the meaning and history of terms in their own cultural contexts. So far the words chosen have been “identity,” “truth,” “experience,” “gender,” and “nature.” In each case, scholars from Africa, Europe, the Arab World, China, India, and America were asked to provide commentaries on these keywords, which were then published simultaneously in English, Chinese, Arabic, and French translations. The working assumption of the series is that each culture has a unique perspective, which emerges from their linguistic and institutional histories, but on a common theme. The editor understood the project as experimental and gave only the most general and flexible guidelines to the authors (I say this, as it were, from experience, as I was asked to contribute the essay on the American concept of experience). As Tazi noted in the preface to the series, “in this plural space that has no center, in which the suggestions may intersect or be ignored or excluded, the confrontation can only hold surprises. The map of problems, their formulation, the development of ideas, the range of preoccupations, the levels of historicity and abstraction, and the degree of intensity necessarily fluctuate. Hybridizations are not always recognized and identity fixations are not always where one expects to find them. Gaps of temporality run through the various societies themselves (and not just across borders) by crystallizing other forms of discontinuity. The unspoken is at least as significant as what is presented.”33 Inevitably, there are inconsistencies and lacunae, and it will doubtless seem unfair to some that all the entries for Europe were written by French scholars and Latin America is conspicuous by its absence. Even plural spaces sometimes have discrepancies in the ways in which they are configured; the force fields of power in which they operate do not produce grids that are perfectly isotopic. But as an exercise in transnational philosophical reflection, the set of volumes is a remarkably suggestive achievement. As the subtitle of the series indicates, it strives for a new kind of globalization, one in which there is no hegemonic center, no imperative to strive for universal meaning, and cultural differences


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are acknowledged. And yet, translation between and among those cultures is optimistically fostered as a goal worth attaining. Perhaps at times, the result is even that happy fusion of horizons posited by hermeneuticians like Hans-Georg Gadamer, who believe in the possibility of an ever-expanding consciousness that can harmonize alternatives worldviews and come to a higher level synthesis. At others, to be sure, the dialectic remains negative, caught in a tense field of forces that repel as much as attract, and no harmonious sublation is achieved. Here theory remains inevitably foreign in Readings’s sense of it as reflexively outside of a cozy community of native readers, but not threatening as such because, pace Fichte and his progeny, there is no indigenous tribe to be subverted by invasions from without. Here perennial philosophical questions and possible answers circulate in a never-ending shuffling of the deck, with cards that both reflect local origins and inevitably transcend them. Here even Polish philosophers anxious about their submersion in a sea of translations from abroad might find some solace in the realization that it is translation all the way down.

1990 Straddling a Watershed?

Of all the phenomena that register the distance between history as lived experience and history as written record, nothing is more emphatic than the concept of a historical period. When we live through the happenings that constitute our lives, we are never able to know for sure if we inhabit a meaningful epoch of historical time, for without terminal closure and the crossing of a threshold no epoch is yet defined. We cannot see beyond our current horizon to know what the future landscape will look like. Even the apparently mechanical and uniform temporality of centuries, which so often seems to give retrospective meaning to the narratives we tell, can be flexible, as the current talk of the “long nineteenth century” (1789–1914) and the “short twentieth” (1914–89) suggests. The congruence between personal narratives and those of the larger community, however we define it, is thus never perfect. Moreover, no one is simply a representative of his or her era, no one just a typical instance of a larger pattern, no one merely a symptomatic case study of a meaningful totality. For those sensitive to their own lives as the ultimate stuff of history, being consigned to the role of mere exemplar is always an affront. We feel ourselves as more than just average members, whether of a social class, an ethnic group, or an historical era. We cringe at the reduction of our precious uniqueness to nothing more than a familiar stereotype, with all of the idiosyncrasies that define us smoothed over. Built into that reduction is the anonymity against which we often rail. And yet, of course, it is precisely anonymity to which history inevitably consigns the vast majority of humankind, just as it cannot avoid making sense of the past by filtering it through the lens of retrospective periodization. Indeed,


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ever since mythical time was measured in terms of epochs of metal and the days of creation in the Hebrew Bible became extrapolated to mundane history, the past has been rendered comprehensible through the imposition of a sequence of temporal eras that give spatial form to the formlessness of everyday sequential happening. Without periodization, history descends into mere chronicle, the dreary sequence of “one damned thing after another.” Whether based on the succession of ruling dynasties, the rise and fall of empires, the arrival of religious messiahs, or the succession of modes of production, written history has been articulated through periodizing topoi. No nominalist skepticism has ever sufficed to undercut our dependence on such organizing principles, which were given added weight with the academic professionalization of history writing. No historian can now avoid being trained as an expert in one or another period, even if he or she has the courage to try to master more than one. If anything, as specialization increases, historians become more and more loath to stray outside their narrowly defined periods. Someone who is an antebellum American historian seldom wanders back into the early national period or the colonial era. Experts in the Weimar Republic are often strangers to Wilhelmian history or even the twelve years of the “thousand-year Reich.” A student of the Third Republic is unlikely to write about the Second Empire. For all our investment in periods as a way to organize the past and define our professional identities, we also find self-critical metalevel discussions about their conceptualization inescapable. In fact, a great deal of interpretive energy is expended in contesting the limiting contours of periods, as well as the substantive basis for their distinction. As Reinhart Koselleck has noted, “the vast majority of epochal doctrines do not . . . draw on temporal determinants, but rather assume their specificity as given epochs on the basis of substantial, material, or personal determinants.”1 Debates usually focus on four issues: the starting and ending points of epochs, the relative uniformity or analogical coherence of an epoch across all fields of human endeavor, the applicability of epochal categories to more than one culture or civilization, and the struggle over the naming of epochs once it is decided they actually existed. All narratives have to begin and end somewhere, even if the shape of their telling may be more or less formally coherent. Some seem to start arbitrarily and then just stop or peter out, rather than culminating or closing in an aesthetically satisfactory way. But when it comes to periods, serious attention has to be paid to the rationale for beginnings and endings to mark the thresholds that have to be crossed in both directions. As demonstrated by the endless debates



about when, say, the Renaissance or modernity began, it is very hard to arrive at a consensus when the periods involved are sufficiently large and amorphous. No decisive peace treaty ended the Middle Ages in the way a war is often ended; no death of a single sovereign or fall of a dynasty marked the break between the early modern era and modernity. Although we may choose to assign a specific date—Virginia Woolf ’s famous “on or about December 1910, human nature changed” being a self-parodical example—it is clear that pages in history never turn as decisively as they do in the books that we write about it. Even with smaller periods, the difficulty of pinpointing transitions is never overcome. As I tried to show a few years ago in an essay called “When Did the Holocaust End?,”2 it is by no means clear that the fall of the Third Reich really brought the Holocaust to complete closure. Not only did many liberated from the camps die after they were let out from their physical and mental debilitation— suicides were higher than in the normal population—but the trauma of going through the experience left wounds that festered in the survivors for a long time to come. In many cases, the perpetrators as well as victims could never put the horror behind them, unable to “master the past,” in the phrase made famous by the psychologists Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich. As a living presence in their lives, the Holocaust was not yet fully over. What the philosopher of hermeneutics Hans-Georg Gadamer has called a Wirkungsgeschichte or “history of effects” means that the reception of a text is part of its intrinsic meaning.3 The same might be said of more general historical phenomena, whose afterlives means they linger for a long time after their supposed end. Derrida’s stress on spectral traces, what he calls “hauntology” as opposed to “ontology,”4 means that no period, no moment within that period, escapes the echo of a past that is not entirely dead or avoids a premonition of possible futures that have not yet, indeed may never happen. Repetition and displacement, not progressive development and orderly succession, characterize the way in which the nontotalizable dialectic of history and memory operates. And yet, having recognized the permeability and arbitrary quality of our threshold dates and events, having acknowledged the possibility of reversion and repetition, having conceded that traces of the past remain effective into the present, we nonetheless cannot function as historians without some conventionally agreed-upon period terms to give order to the temporal chaos. But a second problem then arises when we consider the internal coherence and homogeneity of a period whose boundaries are thus conventionally established. Can we assume, for example, that “interwar Europe,” the twenty-one years between the


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Armistice in 1918 and the German invasion of Poland in 1939, formed a unified era in which all aspects of human endeavor worked in lockstep fashion? Is there a unidirectional causation, such as that once promoted by vulgar Marxists with their notion of base and superstructure, that allows us to select one level of the social whole and see it as determining all the others? Is there an interwar popular culture that is congruent with interwar politics, which is somehow in lockstep with trends in the interwar economy? That the answer is obviously no is nowhere better demonstrated than in the symptomatic appearance during that very same interwar era of Ernst Bloch’s notion of “noncontemporaneity” or “nonsynchronicity” to define the multiple and often competing temporalities of history.5 The “now” contains the residues of an unfinished past, including its unrealized hopes, as well as anticipations of futures that may never arrive. Unlike the Hegelian dialectic, this totality of contradictions has no guarantee of ultimate coherence, no certainty that it is all part of a single meaningful narrative. By registering the disturbing rise of a fascist politics that confounded Hegelian and Hegelian-Marxist notions of a progressive rationalization of history, Bloch was acknowledging that his “period” was really more a welter of random juxtapositions than a system of coherent contradictions, juxtapositions of times that were, in the famous phrase from Hamlet later reprised by Derrida, “out of joint.” Residues of a past not yet finished and seeds of an emergent future not yet realized (indeed, perhaps never to be realized) were juxtaposed with hegemonic structures of meaning, patterns of behavior, and institutional arrangements. Narratives on one level were not congruent with narratives on another; each had its own starting point and ending point, each its own temporal rhythm and formal shape. And yet here too, the exceptions never overwhelm the rule, the nonsynchronous remained fettered to the overwhelming power of the Now, which made them all somehow moments in a period that could be differentiated from what preceded and what followed. Interwar Europe, to stay with that example, did not yet have the knowledge that the Great War was merely World War I, or that an iron curtain would divide Europe into great power zones for two generations after the next cataclysm had passed. Even times out of joint do not dissolve into incoherent, random aggregates of unrelated data. The concept of anachronism is not easy to abandon; the notorious clock that strikes three in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is still not a technology for telling the hours that would have been possible in first-century bc Rome. Another way to make this point is to borrow a concept from paleontology



and talk of history as a whole as a “punctuated equilibrium,” that is, as a series of relatively steady-state periods interrupted by abrupt and radical change.6 If we see those periods as maintained not by homogeneity and harmony but by a force field of contesting and countervailing impulses all in a tense equilibrium, then we can understand their nonsynchrononous moments as capable of producing relative stability over time. That is, a balance can be maintained among powerful residues of the past and equally potent anticipations of a potential future, which produces an equilibrium, at least for a while. Ultimately, to be sure, the tense constellation of forces tips in one direction or another, and the punctuation occurs that we call a transition to a new period. But if periods, however internally fractured and nonsynchronous, are still indispensable ways for us to make sense of the flow of history, can they be easily extrapolated from one culture to another? Is it possible, for example, to apply the narrative sequence of Western European history—the ancient, medieval, early modern, modern periods—to, say, the Far East? Marx’s underdeveloped idea of an “Asiatic mode of production” and his model of an ahistorical “Oriental despotism” betrayed the limits of his ambitious attempt to apply the periodization of “historical materialism” in a universal way.7 Although efforts have been made to see feudalism in Japan after the decline of the emperor’s power in the eleventh century and the rise of a chivalric warrior code of conduct called Bushido, a perfect match between the two systems is problematic. The Japanese samurai, for example, did not run their estates directly, and Pure Land Buddhism, the major religion of the period, never had the power of the medieval Christian church, being challenged by True Pure Land Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. The Roman legacy in Europe shaped a legal system very different from the one in Japan ultimately derived from Chinese Confucianism. And if the two allegedly medieval periods are imperfect mapped onto each, others are even less easily congruent. It may be best to think of such large and amorphous period terms as “medieval” or “classical” or “modern” as comparable to what linguists call “shifters” (for example, “I” or “we”), which refer to different people, depending on the context of their use. Thus, even a somewhat more precise term like “the Renaissance” can refer either to an era in early modern European history, most closely identified with Jacob Burckhardt’s depiction of the Italian city-states of the Quattrocento, or to a period in nineteenth-century American cultural history. Sometimes the comparison is made in a synchronous way—medieval England refers to a chronological era that maps more or less onto that of medieval France—but sometimes it refers to a phase in a developmental scheme that allegedly can be


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applied cross-culturally, but not at the same chronological moment. Although we have learned to be suspicious of universalizing evolutionary schemes—and devolutionary ones as well8—it has been difficult to free our periodizing nomenclature from their residual power. Indeed, with the rise of a globalized modernization, it has become very tempting to search for a common denominator that transcends cultural differences. As the incorporation of more and more cultures into a global network—economic, technological, and in many ways also cultural—has occurred, historians have had to acknowledge the assimilation of difference into sameness, for good or for ill. Whether or not the model has privileged the Western road to modernization and sees other cultures “catching up” or has sought to equalize what one commentator calls “alternative modernities” without a normative version,9 it has become conventional wisdom that the globe or a very large portion of it now increasingly lives in what future historians may call a single period. But here too a countervailing position has gained considerable currency, which denies the uniformity of the process. Broadly speaking, what came to be called postmodernism in the 1970s and 1980s reinforced the nagging doubts about allegedly synchronous, cross-cultural periodizations that have never been satisfactorily stilled. Jean-François Lyotard’s frequently cited claim that “grand narratives” were now things of the past, combined with Jürgen Habermas’s acknowledgment that we were living in an era of the “new unsurveyability,” expressed a more widespread doubt that coherence could be wrested from the flux of multiple temporalities and disparate spatialities in the contemporary world.10 Indeed, the very concept of “postmodernism” expressed that uncertainty, containing as it did a tacit recognition that the new period was defined not positively by what it was but rather negatively by what it was no longer. But ironically, the claim that thinking in terms of grand narratives was “a thing of the past” reintroduced the same sense of irreversible temporality that characterized modernity, thus risking a tacit performative contradiction. If, as some of its defenders liked to say, playing with Arthur Rimbaud’s famous injunction about being modern, “il faut absolument être post-moderne,” the same imperative to belong to an irreversible period was the premise of their argument. Although the debate over the meaning of postmodernism has now cooled down, it is not at all clear that the result is a consensus about the nature of the (incoherently) coherent period we are now in or about to enter. Even as globalization has seemed to tie us all together in one common destiny, centrifugal forces have conspired to introduce profound doubts about the cross-cultural validity of periods themselves.


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With all this as a background, it may well seem impossible to speak with any confidence about the usefulness of periodization in historical analysis, let alone in personal experience. If, however, we acknowledge that all representations of the past, no matter how fine-grained and particular they seek to be, cannot do justice to its infinite variety and contextual undecidability—every “fact” or “event” can be situated in an endless number of relevant contexts—we can relax a bit and concede that however contested and imperfect they are, periods are with us to stay as tools of historical analysis and presentation. What then becomes interesting is their interface with the lived experience of those who inhabit them, or cross what is a felt threshold from one to another.

The year 1990 was in many respects just such a threshold, a punctuation in the equilibrium of forces, at least for significant numbers of people in Europe and Asia. On February 7, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, responding to a variety of pressures and adopting the reformist platform of Mikhail Gorbachev, voluntarily abandoned the monopoly of power it had enjoyed since the October Revolution. The USSR’s constituent republics, starting with the Baltic nations, declared their national sovereignty over Moscow, abrogating all-union legislation in favor of local laws. A process began that survived the failed coup of the following August and led to the end of the Soviet experiment and the largely nonviolent dissolution of its empire in 1991. Also in October of 1990, Germany overcame its Cold War division and was reunited on essentially West German terms. For those who lived through the changes, the experience of crossing a threshold into a new period, an era that could only provisionally be defined as postcommunist, must have been very powerful. Combining hope and fear, the largely passive masses of ordinary people must have felt that something radically new had just happened, especially after the failed coup and the rise of Boris Yeltsin to power meant that there was no turning back to the Soviet regime, which was officially dissolved in December 1991. I will leave to those better versed than I in Russian history and current events to narrate and analyze the uneven and eventful process that followed. Suffice it to say that it must have seemed to many who went through it that their personal experience was fundamentally touched by the larger and most unexpected events that were so rapidly transpiring round them. But precisely what threshold had been crossed became a question that was soon hard to avoid posing. For those who were aware of the potential parallels

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with the fall of the other main example of what had come to be called totalitarianism, Nazi Germany, whose end was far more violent and cataclysmic, it must have seemed like a very soft landing indeed. However traumatic it may have been for those still invested in the fading Soviet model, it could not compare with the German’s “inability to mourn”11 their lost ideal after World War II. Nor could the need to efface all traces of that past, the need to begin with a “Stunde Null” or “zero hour,” be quite as compelling. If in fact one of the characteristics of totalitarianism was a cavalier attitude to a past that could be effaced by fiat, like Trotsky’s face from pictures of early Bolshevik leaders, it was much harder to argue for a total rupture with the previous era. Significantly, the past refused to disappear entirely, but often seemed to stage an uncanny return to haunt the present.12 Like the persistence of the ancien régime in Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic account of the French Revolution, the Soviet old order was not completely obliterated by its putative collapse. Moreover, before those who experienced the seemingly epochal change signified by 1990 could fully acclimatize themselves to the new historical landscape in which they were now situated, history played a trick on them and introduced a complicating new temporality. Without almost anyone fully expecting it, the seeds were being sown for what may be a new period in world history. For while the Soviet Union was collapsing, in another part of the world, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to the first Gulf War the following January and a period of turmoil whose end is far from clear at this writing. From this perspective, the ill-fated Soviet invasion of Afghanistan could be reinscribed in another narrative besides the collapse of communism or even a new chapter in the geopolitical “Great Game” that had been played by the European powers in centuries past. Instead of a new period identified with the end of totalitarianism and the spread of liberal democracy or the collapse of socialism and the triumph of capitalist globalization or the reunification of Europe and the end of the distinction between First and Second Worlds—all potential candidates for naming the period after the Cold War—1990 may really have ushered in an unforeseen “civilizational” conflict between Islam and the West or an endless war on terror. These are, alas, all too plausible candidates for the era we seem to have entered, however much we may dislike their implications. They now seem, in fact, far more plausible than the optimistic claim heard in some quarters in 1990 that we were witnessing the dawning of a “New World Order” and the second “American Century.” Only later historians, of course, will have the ultimate word on what to call


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the period that began around 1990, if indeed they feel that a new one actually can be traced to that hinge moment. For those who lived through the transition, experiencing their own personal narratives as only roughly congruent with any larger epochal framework, if at all, there is no way to know which of the potential period concepts will prevail. It may not perhaps even matter much in influencing how we cope with the challenges history presents us. Or rather it may only matter to the extent that we absorb the lesson that those who write history and those who make it (or more precisely, in most cases, suffer through it) are never able to share a common vision of its meaning. No fusion of horizons may be possible. But rather than a source of discontent, this impossibility might be seen as a sign of hope. To act is paradoxically to know that we cannot know what our actions ultimately mean. We are more than mere exemplars of the periods that posterity will insert us into. We all live in a perpetual 1990, on the transitional threshold of a new era that will never fully arrive.

Allons enfants de l’humanité The French and Human Rights

There can be fewer more appalling signs of our increasingly appalling times than the imprisonment without legal redress or terminal sentence of six hundred or so “enemy combatants” in the Guantánamo Bay prison run by the American government. Outside the legal jurisdiction of any country, not even that of the one doing the imprisoning, they are in what can rightfully be called a dystopian nonterritory, where there is no semblance of the human rights whose virtues America so often preaches to the world. National security, we are told, trumps any other considerations in the time of war, even when that war is undeclared and potentially interminable. It would, however, be too easy to attribute their plight to simple hypocrisy, although there is enough of that to go around. The recent disclosure of Henry Kissinger’s cynical absolution granted to the Chilean and Argentine generals engaged in the violent suppression of dissent in the 1970s, for example, only confirms what we already knew all too well about the lip service paid to ideals by the practitioners of Realpolitik. No one, in fact, will be surprised by the selective application of human rights principles even by the country that claims to be their foremost champion. But what is much more unsettling, and will be the focus of this essay, is the suspicion that the rationale for human rights may itself be problematic enough to make its unreflective evocation no easy matter. That is, however much we feel a strong bias toward the positive good that evoking human rights may do, close scrutiny makes it hard to ignore the internal contradictions, unintended consequences, and poorly defended premises that have always dogged the history of their propagation. Although it is clear that human rights have been part of what

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Michael Ignatieff has called “a wider reordering of the normative order of postwar international relations, designed to create firewalls against barbarism,”1 the basis on which they have been defended has always defied easy justification. Ignatieff himself concedes that any attempt to find a solid ground for them as innate and universal leads into metaphysical swamps that are best avoided. It is far more productive, he concludes in frustration, “to forgo these kinds of foundational arguments altogether and seek to build support for human rights on the basis of what such rights actually do for human beings.”2 This may seem a strategy that comes uncomfortably close to the advocacy of useful myths espoused by theorists like Georges Sorel, but it candidly acknowledges the difficulty of cashing out the claims that are so often glibly made for the self-evidence of human rights. The difficulty of coming up with a serious defense of human rights became evident to me a few years ago, ironically in the context of reading through the first few volumes of the promising series of translations of recent French liberal theoreticians published by Princeton University Press and edited by Mark Lilla and Thomas Pavel.3 In his introductory essay to the inaugural collection of that series, New French Thought: Political Philosophy, an essay titled “The Legitimacy of the Liberal Age,” Lilla stressed the importance of the return to human rights discourse after a generation or more of neglect produced by the hegemony of historicizing Marxist and relativizing poststructuralist modes of thought in France.4 The volume itself has three short essays on the subject by Luc Ferry, Blandine Kriegel, and Stéphane Rials. Later volumes in the series by several of the authors—notably Pierre Manent and Kriegel—elaborated on the theme.5 But what became quickly apparent to me was the lack of any meaningful consensus about the philosophical justification for human rights and agreement about the priority of some rights over others. One of the authors, more indebted to the theories of Leo Strauss than to anything normally labeled liberal, even went so far as to bemoan the American fetish of human rights as itself problematic. According to Pierre Manent, “On the tabula rasa of the continent, the appeal to rights gets carried away and loses patience; bursts of strident indignation disperse the already thin topsoil of human tradition; and from one side to the other, all elements of the human world are attacked in the name of human rights.”6 Manent also then went on to argue that all modern defenses of human rights, not merely those on our shores, are grounded in a dubious desire for self-preservation, which grows out of an animal fear and defensiveness rather than anything more ennobling. Even the idea of respecting the individual, he


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charged, is still “only a refined and superior form of fear; a person is intimidated by what he respects.”7 Others in the series, to be sure, were friendlier to the tradition. Blandine Kriegel, for example, in a sustained discussion in The State and the Rule of Law, sought to establish the origin of human rights in the early modern period, well before their codification during the French Revolution. Indeed, it was possible to derive at least one aspect of human rights, the belief in the ultimate value of human beings as such, from the Bible and the classical philosophical tradition. But there was a crucial difference, she argued, between those rights that she called status libertatis, which involved liberty, security, and the right to life, and status civilitatis, which dealt with issues of political rights, citizenship, and civil liberties. Without rehearsing her complicated argument, which I attempted to do in my earlier piece, I would only highlight now that she grounded the former in natural law and the latter in the voluntarist contractualism, itself dependent on a Cartesian notion of the subject, that was first affirmed with the emergence of the modern liberal state, the constitutional Rechtstaat based on positive laws. Thus, some human rights have a provenance before the modern state and others are dependent on its coming into existence. Some are based on an appeal to nature, others on an appeal to human will. Kriegel’s disarticulation of human rights into two separate traditions still left the question unanswered, is there a persuasive universal ground for asserting rights—assuming that we can agree which ones we are talking about—that can be defended against the positive laws of a specific state? For other recent French commentators on the subject such as Luc Ferry and Alain Renault, it was imperative to establish that ground before going further. Their solution was to follow Kant and Fichte in situating the center of gravity of the human not in previous traditions, biblical or classical, or in a dubious metaphysical essence of the human, but rather in the regulative ideal of man as a potentially moral being. Thus, rather than premising rights on humans as they are, and assuming they are valuable in themselves, it is best to ground them in a regulative ideal, man as “Homo noumenon,” a moral being to be made, rather than “Homo phenomenon,” a desiring, hedonistic seeker of happiness in the here and now. In the place of a discredited conceptual notion of the human, it is best to posit a normative notion of what he or she can become. Only in so doing, they conclude, can we avoid smuggling in precisely the heteronomous assumptions that underlie any appeal to nature or to divine sanction, and that would be fatal to the ideal of human rights as based on dignity, freedom, and autonomy. In so doing, however, they tacitly reverse the order suggested by Manent and

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Kriegel, in which security and the right to life are the highest human rights, substituting for them autonomy defined in terms of the acceptance of self-imposed laws. And perhaps even more problematic, they create the possibility, which defenders of the bourgeois notion of human rights have always warned against in connection with their Marxist counterpart, of discounting today’s imperfect human being and his or her well-being in the name of a future, morally autonomous human still to be realized. Even in the present, they tacitly uphold the problematic distinction between some of us who are already truly “human” and those of us who are not quite there yet, a distinction that continues the hegemonic imposition of Western values on the rest of the world, which is itself an echo of the pretensions to universality in the Christian tradition.8 To complicate matters still further, the emphasis on rights being a function of a willing acceptance of a self-given law comes up against the claim made by Stéphane Rials that the nominalist demolition of real universals in the late Middle Ages unleashed an unchecked voluntarism that led to the excesses of the Revolution. For Rials, the juridical tradition that included Hobbes and Rousseau ended with “the triumph of the will,” which meant that inevitably “natural right will be transmuted into positive right and then into civil rights, nature into will, human rights into laws of citizens.”9 Here the fear is that without a contrasting naturalist metaphysics, the grounding of human rights in will means that any democratic polity can suppress them in the name of sovereignty. Or to put it differently, allegedly inalienable human rights will be vulnerable to suspension by the fiat of majoritarian rule. Such an anxiety becomes even harder to contain once it is acknowledged, as Marcel Gauchet among others has done, that before the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was a list of rights, it was a proclamation of their existence.10 That is, it was an illocutionary speech act that brought them into being, not a discovery of something already existing. The American Declaration of Independence tacitly had a similar basis, as shown by the fact that it contains the phrase “we hold these truths to be self-evident” before it lists them, a concession that the truths need to be held in someone’s mind rather than simply revealed. And in both cases, of course, the issue of who the “we” is cries out for sustained analysis to see if it is possible to wrest a transcendental collective subject from a finite historical one. For, as Quentin Skinner and others have reminded us, illocutionary acts need to be contextualized in the discursive fields in which they were performed, not abstracted into neutral statements of eternal, constative truth. In fact, so Jean-François Lyotard argued, a “differend” or incommensurable


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language game fractures the 1789 Declaration because the preamble legitimates itself by acknowledging that “the representatives of the French people,” that is, a particular community with a proper name, authorizes a plea to mankind as a whole, on whose behalf it then presumes to speak.11 Furthermore, in so doing, it presupposes the very authority it asserts in Article 3, which states that the source of sovereignty “rests essentially in the nation.” This embarrassment is awkwardly met by declaring itself “under the auspices of the Supreme Being,” which suggests that the nation isn’t entirely sovereign, after all. But, so Lyotard concludes, the equivocation of the declarative phrase which evokes at once a philosophical and a historical-political universe is not really resolved because “there is no Supreme Being to reconcile these two authorizations.”12 Another way to frame this dilemma has been suggested by Dick Howard,13 who notes the challenge of legitimating a new regime, whose sovereignty needed to be defended at the same time as the eternal rights of man were asserted. In the ancien régime, he points out, an ancient constitution based on customary law could act as a break on the tyrannical impulses of the actual monarch, a division that corresponded to the medieval notion of the king’s two bodies. Natural law was invoked to play the role of the ancient constitution, whereas the place of the monarch was now filled by the Nation, whose general will was a collective expression of popular sovereignty. The vertical and unidirectional priority of the old order was replaced by a horizontal and reciprocal alternative. But the problem generated by that solution was that the abstract individual “man” whose rights were declared as eternal and transcendent was himself entirely immanent in the Nation, whose legitimacy was based on what Howard calls an “originary politics” acknowledging nothing prior to its constitution. A unified nation acting with a general will was paradoxically made up of individuals with rights allegedly anterior to that will. Moreover, once they actively vied over the claim to embody that will, the splits within the supposedly integral nation were quickly apparent (as, for example, in the heroic but vain attempt by the feminist Olympe de Gouges to promulgate a Declaration of Rights for the women who were not yet really equal to their male counterparts in the new order). In fact, as historians like Keith Baker have shown, the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen of August 26, 1789, combined from the beginning a complex, overlapping and sometimes contradictory mélange of different goals and targets: the restoration of allegedly usurped traditional rights and liberties, the assertion of proto-liberal notions of individual freedom against despotism, and

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the claims of communal sovereignty supporting the legitimacy of the new general will against the discredited ancien régime.14 As a result, it never overcame an implicit tension between two alternative foundational grounds, nature (or sometimes the recovery of customary rights from time immemorial) and will, a tension clearly reflected in the dual character of its very title. For democratic citizenship entails membership in a finite and limited political community, performatively created by a tacit contract, which has the power and arguably the legitimacy to override individual rights granted to individuals by God or nature. In the liberal, antitotalitarian climate of the 1980s and early 1990s in France, this threat seemed greater than the promise of communal solidarity suggested by rights ensuing from the general will, and therefore subject to the consent of the governed. What Rials called a “legicentric” version of rights paid too much attention to their source in laws promulgated by that will, famously expressed in the Rousseauist sixth article of the declaration, and not enough in their prior ground in nature or the sacred, which meant prior to anyone’s fickle consent. As Manent put it in his volume in New French Thought, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, “renouncing the ‘pagan’ idea that nature is naturally legislative, or that the good orders what it gives, the modern project envisages a rigorous separation between nature and the law that cannot be maintained, since it is contradictory, but that can always be desired.”15 For those unconvinced by Manent’s Straussian solution, what was construed as the American or English traditions of rights, more often than not Lockean in inspiration, served as the defense against the Republicanism that seemed to overwhelm them in a France that could move so easily from 1789 to the Terror a few years later. In Tony Judt’s influential Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944– 1956, published in 1992, the same anxiety was introduced into the American discussion: In the course of the Revolution, the language of rights underwent a rapid, if subtle change; from a device with which to defend the individual person against the overpowerful ruler, it emerged as the basis for advancing the claims of the whole against the interest of the parts. Far from protecting the citizen against the caprice of authority, rights became enshrined as the basis for legitimizing the actions and caprices of that authority against the very citizens for whom and in whose name it exercised power.16 From Judt’s liberal perspective, the problem was the triumph of the contingent rights of the citizen over the absolute rights of man: “abstract or natural rights


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were displaced in favor of positive and concrete rights that depended upon membership of [sic] a formal community and that could be forfeited in the event of a citizen’s failure to perform the tasks assigned him in that community.”17 This critique, however, introduced a further irony. For Judt’s claim that the substitution of positive and concrete rights for abstract and natural ones had caused political abuses meant that he inadvertently condemned precisely what had been the basis of Edmund Burke’s celebrated defense of concrete English liberties against the abstractions of the Jacobins. That is, whereas Burke had blamed the Terror on the abstractions of natural rights theory, posttotalitarian liberals blamed it instead on the priority of concrete, contingent, particular, historically grounded rights based on citizenship. Only, it seems, when those concrete liberties were French and based on the will of the demos rather than English and an entailed inheritance from the past was there a problem. Was there in fact a specifically French notion of freedom that contradicted the universalist claims of at least part of the declaration, a notion that was more dangerous than its American or English—let’s call it Lockean—counterpart? If so, it was not on the basis of ethnic communalism, a belief that Frenchness was somehow a natural marker of privileged exclusivity, but rather on the inclusive extension of citizenship to members of the French state. Perhaps the most valuable recent collection of essays on the 1789 Declaration, edited by Dale Van Kley in 1994, does in fact call itself The French Idea of Freedom, with a conscious nod to the celebrated exploration of its German counterpart a generation earlier by Leonard Krieger.18 In that collection, a less black-and-white version of the conflict between the rights of man and the rights of the citizen, nature and will, was defended against post-totalitarian French liberals like Kriegel, Gauchet, and Rials and their American counterparts like Judt.19 Virtually all of the essays stressed the unresolved conflicts and ambiguities of the 1789 Declaration rather than the triumph of one version of rights over another, of citizen over nature, or republican over liberal. Moreover, they concluded that rather than being a drawback, these very tensions produced the peculiarly French idea of freedom. As Van Kley put it, Anglo-Saxon “liberty”—English and American—has specialized in the defensive protection of the concrete rights of individuals, groups, and regions from public authority; and The German Idea of Freedom as memorably described by Leonard Krieger has consoled itself with an inner or higher moral autonomy for the individual while leaving the realization of concrete or ma-

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terial rights to the “prince” or state; the French idea of freedom has somehow tended to do both at once.20 Acknowledging the productive quality of these tensions, he goes on, allows us to make sense of the actual history of France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, “for France did not after all turn into some kind of proto-totalitarian state, or one in which authority invariably got the better of liberty.”21 Ironically, in the Anglo-American discussion of human rights, it is I think fair to say that the opposition between man and citizen has not often been as starkly put as in the posttotalitarian liberal discussion in France. Take, for example, Allen Gewirth’s influential arguments in Reason and Morality and The Community of Rights, where he seeks to overcome the abstract dichotomy between individualist and communitarian notions of rights and reestablish the legitimacy of the social and economic rights promulgated in the United Nations Declaration of 1948.22 For Gewirth, the claim to hold rights is at the same time the claim to uphold them for others, which means that we cannot isolate one from the other. Rights therefore dialectically entail duties, as in fact the preamble to the 1789 Declaration explicitly acknowledges. What he calls the “principle of generic consistency” means that you should “act in accord with the generic rights of your recipients as well as of yourself.”23 Insofar as the fundamental aim of rights in Gewirth’s account is the fostering of agency, it is incumbent on us to maximize the conditions that will provide it for all. As he optimistically puts it, Because this principle of human rights entails the requirement of mutual respect (and of mutual aid when needed and practicable), it is a principle of social solidarity, as against exclusive preoccupation with personal interest. This solidarity requires institutions whereby hitherto deprived groups can be brought nearer to equality. By the effective recognition of the mutuality entailed by human rights, the society becomes a community. So the antithesis between rights and community is bridged.24 Gewirth makes the powerful point against anticommunitarian liberals that negative freedom is necessarily dependent on the ability to realize it in concrete circumstances, which means that institutional impediments to equality must be challenged before it is possible to speak of rights being realizable. In other words, no individual rights without a community of rights. Here, to be sure, liberals might respond that if we ground individual natural rights in communities, there is always the danger that the consent of the com-


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munity might be withdrawn, that will might trump nature. Gewirth tries to assuage this concern by arguing that “the method of consent operates within the state, but not as grounding the state. That there is to be a minimal state with coercive laws to protect against criminals is not itself subject to person’s optional choices or consents. (This is one of the errors of contractualist theories of political obligation). For the existence of such a state is required by the principle of human rights as morally necessary.”25 The function of constitutional guarantees of rights is precisely to shelter them against the threat of capricious consent, or, to put it in the framework of the French debate, against Rousseau’s sovereign general will. This solution might, however, seem a bit too easy, insofar as it overcomes what often is a very real tension between specific communities, inevitably particular, and rights that are held to be universal. That is, the community posited by Gewirth’s reciprocal notion of rights and duties works only if there is perfect symmetry between individual and community, one in which the boundaries of the latter are equivalent to mankind as a collective entity. But what happens when citizenship in specific, particular, local communities is the only real collective identity that one has in a meaningful sense? In other words, a nonreciprocity can easily emerge when membership in a particular, concrete community is more important than membership in humankind as a universal community in generating respect for rights. The prisoners in Guantánamo Bay mentioned at the beginning of this essay are a case in point. Lacking American citizenship and stripped of the protection of their home countries, they have no foundation on which to demand their rights against perpetual incarceration without trial. As Hannah Arendt among others pointed out long ago, “the Rights of Man, supposedly inalienable, proved to be unenforceable—even in countries whose constitutions were based upon them—whenever people appeared who were no longer citizens of any sovereign state.”26 The human “as such” supposedly protected by an appeal to his natural or sacred rights could not survive isolation from a specific community protecting him against their abrogation. That is, no amount of abstract justification based on Gewirth’s principle of generic reciprocity will overcome the isolation of the individual human who is not also a citizen of a particular community as well as a mere “man.” One way to make this clearer is to return to the lessons of the 1789 French Declaration, which, as Van Kley and his colleagues have persuasively argued against the unbalanced critique of French neoliberals, spawned a tradition in

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which totalitarian democracy has successfully been kept at bay. What is significant to note is precisely the mixed and even contradictory nature of the declaration, whose very title deliberately balanced natural human rights alongside those of the citizen in a political community. Rather than pit one against the other or subsume one under the other, it kept both in a kind of unsublated dialectic with no priority, arranged horizontally rather than vertically. Rather than assume that nature can be defended without the collective will to do so, the declaration acknowledges that consent must ultimately ratify any appeal to prepolitical rights, as well as enforce their observance. But per contra, it also understands that community and consent, in even the most democratic of polities, sometimes need to be checked by precisely those rights that survive any attempt to reduce them to nothing but a function of majoritarian consent in a local, circumscribed community. As Claude Lefort has noted, the very idea of democracy “prevents each person from being at once purely the patriot, purely the citizen, purely the individual, and which, as the other side of this impossibility, allows man to come out. Democracy gives form to a community of an unprecedented kind that could not be confined definitely within its borders but instead opens upon the horizons of a humanity of which there can be no established figure.”27 That is, human rights transcend the attempt to represent or incarnate in a positive way the sovereign republican community, no matter how democratic it is in securing consensus. What should therefore be acknowledged, despite neo-liberal notions of negative freedom, is that we are more than abstract, disembedded individuals able to rely on rights given to us by nature or God, but rather always inhabitants of overlapping and sometimes englobing communities. The thinner one, to which Lefort alludes in the remarks above, is species wide—or perhaps can be identified with the ideal of cosmopolitan identity—and has a weaker claim on our allegiance; the other is more proximate and derived from our will, consent and active participation. But neither one should be allowed to trump the other for very long. As Dick Howard has noted, the duality encountered in the fundamental concepts by which the Revolution sought to overcome itself need not be overcome. That duality is a contradiction only insofar as it is assumed that politics seeks to restore a unity in which the representative relation realizes the unilinear and vertical correspondence claimed by the Old Regime. Within the immanence of modern history originated by the French Revolution, representative and represented


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are constantly changing places; sometimes the accent is on the process by which norms are generated; other times it is the norms that demand realization. . . . [T]he reversibility of the normative and the genetic is no vice.28 Indeed, it may in fact serve as a virtue in situations where the old claims to complete state sovereignty are eroding but no legitimate metacommunity, cosmopolitan or universal, with the power to back up has yet emerged, if indeed it ever will. It is also by acknowledging this unsublatable dialectic that we can begin to address the no less thorny problem of which rights are to be considered among those that can be called “human.” For when we honestly confront the extraordinary welter of different candidates for that honor—the social rights to work or have health coverage, the right of communities to ethnic self-determination or to return home from exile, the right of the individual to exit a group as well as be part of it, the right to practice religion and the right to be exempt from its coercions, the right to hospitality for strangers and the right to protect one’s home against invasion; the list can be endlessly expanded—we have to recognize that no universal formula will give us much help in sorting them all out. Indeed, even the most fervent defenders of human rights have had to acknowledge this fact. Gewirth, for example, concedes that “few if any rights are absolute,”29 while Ignatieff argues against an “idolatrous” version of human rights that transfers the mantle of the sacred to the secular realm. “Rights conflicts and their adjudication,” he admits, “involve intensely difficult trade-offs and compromises. This is precisely why rights are not sacred, nor are those who hold them. To be a rightsbearer is not to hold some sacred inviolability but to commit oneself to live in a community where rights conflicts are adjudicated through persuasion, rather than violence.”30 It may be, to return to our point of departure, precisely the denial of full membership in such a particular community that more than anything else marks the terrible danger of our internment policy in Guantánamo Bay. For paradoxically, perhaps the most fundamental human right of all is the right to be a citizen, able to engage in the public processes that produce consent and express will. It is the right not only to have rights, but also to participate in their promulgation and defense. It may well be true that some of those incarcerated deliberately chose to alienate themselves from such a community by resorting to the violent means that abruptly silence the ongoing process of debate and discussion, although we cannot know this in advance of the juridical procedures that would

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test the merit of the government’s case against them. But whatever the outcome of such a process, it is certainly no victory for the rest of us if they are prevented in advance from rejoining that community by a banishment that makes them permanent outcasts without appeal, utterly abstracted “men” with no means to argue their case in public against the evidence presented against them. For to be merely “human” is not enough in a world in which generic reciprocity, to recall Gewirth’s formula, remains a desideratum, not a fact of life. We need to guard the productive tension between man and citizen, rather than privilege one over the other or seek a perfect reconciliation between them. Otherwise, we are all potentially “enemy combatants” cast out of the communities, both particular and universal, that protect us against the rule of might over right, which is the sinister mark of the very barbarism that the invocation of human rights, with all its manifest flaws, is designed to thwart.

Intellectual Family Values William Phillips, Hannah Arendt, and the Partisan Review

With the death on September 12, 2002, of William Phillips and the subsequent suspension of the Partisan Review, the publication he had edited since its founding in 1934, an era in American intellectual life, it has widely been acknowledged, came to a close. The quintessential engaged “little magazine,” whose circulation never passed fifteen thousand, was no longer viable in today’s cultural marketplace, where cutting-edge ideas are more likely to be expressed in the specialized jargon of esoteric academics than in the conversational prose of public intellectuals. The face-to-face interaction of friends and former friends, often entangled in webs of personal intrigue, has been replaced by a far-flung network of interlocutors who meet in cyberspace or at conference hotels rather than in the living rooms of their intimates. Whatever was left of that mid-twentieth-century community of the mind that came to be called “the New York intellectuals” was laid to rest with the twin deaths of Phillips and PR. Fittingly, the journal’s last issue—volume 70, no. 2—was given over in large measure to elegiac tributes to Phillips, many from the most celebrated intellectuals of our day. Or perhaps better put, often of a somewhat earlier day. For it was no secret that PR’s moment had long since passed, perhaps as early as the 1960s, when it began to be outflanked politically by the New Left and culturally by the rise of postmodernism. From that time on, it increasingly voiced an aging generation’s disapproval of the follies of its successors. Not surprisingly, it took refuge in its last years, after leaving the still New Yorkish ambit of Rutgers in a cloud of acrimony, at Boston University, whose autocratic president John Silber gave it his personal blessing. From being the avant-garde of intellectual life in the 1940s and 1950s, PR turned into a forum for those who felt little real affinity

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with the Geist of the new Zeit. While never lurching as far to the right as other organs of New York intellectual life such as Commentary, it shared with them a disdain for the trends of academia that could neatly, if reductively, be grouped under the rubric of “political correctness.” As so often was the case with former leftist militants, the end of the road turned out to be a splenetic neoconservative scorn for the various idols that had replaced all the earlier gods that had failed.1 Even Silber came to understand when he thought about keeping the magazine going that “the general consensus was that Partisan Review was a reliquary. That was the word more than one person used.”2 There is no reason, however, to dwell on the final years of an intellectual enterprise that deserves serious recognition for the vital role it played during so many earlier ones. Nor can one fail to acknowledge the positive contributions made by William Phillips to American intellectual life in the twentieth century. Without himself ever producing a major work of scholarship, he provided the kind of engaged editorial guidance for many others that allowed the journal to prosper for far longer than is normally the case with enterprises of its kind. And as a model of what followed, he was also enormously influential. As one of the contributors to his memorial symposium, Morris Dickstein, put it, “Try to imagine The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, Salmagundi, or The New Criterion, different as they are, without the example of Partisan Review and the contributors who first appeared in its pages.”3 There have been many testimonies to the ways in which Phillips presided over the intellectual life of his feisty community, both before and after his break with the other co-founder of PR, Philip Rahv.4 I’m not sure I have much to add to them, but perhaps one episode is worth recounting from my own fleeting interaction with the journal. It concerns one of the most powerful members of the New York intellectual world, whose relations with Phillips were not without their strains, Hannah Arendt. In what follows, I want to revisit the controversy surrounding an essay I contributed to Partisan Review more than a quarter century ago. In so doing, I hope to cast some light on the ways in which Phillips played his role as intellectual middleman. Having previously contributed a short piece in 1971 to the journal titled “The Politics of Terror”—the New Left’s, not the variants that came into prominence later—I had already faintly appeared on Phillips’s radar. In October 1974 he asked me to review a new book by Margaret Canovan, which might serve as a “springboard for writing about Hannah Arendt herself.”5 It was, in fact, the first sustained book-length treatment of Arendt’s oeuvre, and having only been ex-


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posed to parts of it, I was anxious to see how it all came together. Although I had admired what I had read, and in fact had drawn on Arendt’s ideas in one of the earliest pieces I had written about Herbert Marcuse, I found the theoretical underpinnings of her position perplexing. Canovan’s book was, however, a disappointment.6 Situating Arendt entirely in the context of eighteenth-century Republicanism, Canovan never probed the more proximate German roots of her thought. Neither Jaspers nor Heidegger, for example, merited a mention. As a student of the intellectual migration from Nazi Germany, I sensed the necessity of situating Arendt in a European context. My only personal encounter with her came, in fact, in 1971 at a conference at the New School on the theme of the intellectual legacy of the Weimar Republic.7 Ironically, Arendt herself had written about the importance of Existenz philosophy in an essay she published in 1946 in the pages of the Partisan Review.8 Using this essay as a jumping-off point, I attempted to show the roots of her ideas about politics in a “tender” rather than “tough” version of the existentialism she had absorbed from her German teachers, producing her defense of the relative autonomy of the political from ethical, social, and philosophical constraints. This categorization put her in the uncomfortable company of figures like Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger, whose explicit political commitments were far more dubious than hers, and I attempted to head off the inevitable accusations of guilt by association and acknowledge the strengths of her position as well as the weaknesses. Still, it would be fair to say that the essay was more of a critique than I had anticipated writing when accepting the assignment. The bite of the essay had been sharpened by conversations I had had with very different critics of Arendt, whose vehemence had surprised and, I guess, emboldened me. Herbert Marcuse from the left and Isaiah Berlin from the center had both voiced very serious reservations about Arendt’s work, the former for her impoverished reading of Marx and disdain for Frankfurt School Critical Theory, the latter for her hostility to Zionism and controversial claim in Eichmann in Jerusalem about the role of the Jewish Councils in enabling the Holocaust.9 Whatever the stimulus, my initial effort to strike the right note did not leave Phillips satisfied. On June 18, 1975, he wrote to me that although “much of the piece is of course on a very high level . . . somehow the balance and tone are not right,” and invited me to dinner in New York to discuss how to fix them. Late that summer I spent a very cordial evening with Phillips, his wife, Edna, and Steven Marcus and his wife, Gertrude Lenzer, during which their objections were thoroughly aired. A second, more nuanced version was written, but the response

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was the same. “Your piece has given me more agony than any in years. As you can imagine, Steven and I have talked about it a lot,” Phillips wrote on October 30. “It is difficult to sum up quickly what I feel. But I do feel the piece isn’t right. You have made it a little more balanced but it still strikes me as being quite onesided for, while you do acknowledge some of her intellectual assets and achievements, the emphasis of your piece is largely negative.” Then, after repeating his qualms about my critique of her limited reading of Marx and antihistoricism, he added, “Again, as I said to you, since we’ve already had one very damning piece about Hannah Arendt (incidentally, the only one, as I recall) it would look as though we’re out to destroy her. And this impression would be particularly reinforced by the fact that all kinds of people with big reputations have not been taken down in PR.” I was at the time only dimly aware of the earlier “damning piece” and its repercussions, but years later, when Phillips published his autobiography, Partisan View, it became clear that I had entered a minefield. After describing their meeting in the 1940s at a party given by Schocken Books, where she worked, and detailing her initial difficulties with English, qualities of mind, old-fashioned personal habits, and some of her ideas (“a coalition of opposites”), Phillips turned to his personal relations with her, which he characterized as “warm and friendly if not intimate, except for one interlude of several years, when each of us acted out the role of the hurt and misunderstood victim.”10 In 1963, when Eichmann in Jerusalem appeared, Lionel Abel had requested the chance to do a review, which turned out to be a far more strident attack than Phillips had anticipated—or so he later claimed. “I felt it was in many ways a put-down,” he recalled, “though some of the things he said were true and certainly fell into the area of legitimate criticism. And there were also personal considerations since both Arendt and Abel were friends. In situations like this there are no satisfactory solutions.”11 Abel in his own later recollection of the incident had a different memory of its genesis: “They must have been expecting a piece that would be very critical of Arendt. I had already criticized her in print, and very sharply, and had defended that criticism against Irving Kristol’s challenge in an exchange of letters in New Politics.”12 Whatever his expectations, Phillips then showed the piece to Arendt before it was published; apparently, she was upset enough to advise him against running it. He also sought Dwight Macdonald’s advice, and the latter surprisingly concurred with Arendt, sending to Phillips a letter, later printed in Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s biography of Arendt, in which he reported that “[she said the review showed] a lack of respect for me as a per-


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son and as a serious writer, and is much the worst that has happened, far worse than the Times review—after all, they don’t owe me any consideration. She also asked me to tell you not to call her or to write her, that she doesn’t want to have anything more to do with PR or you or Philip [Rahv].”13 There was no turning back, however, as Rahv, then still co-editing the magazine, insisted the essay be run. When attempts to make Abel temper his criticism failed, Phillips hit on the idea of publishing a symposium on his essay in two subsequent issues, which included commentaries by Mary McCarthy, Marie Syrkin, Robert Lowell, Harold Weisberg, Macdonald, and Phillips himself, with Abel responding. The bitterness was not assuaged by a subsequent public meeting, sponsored, it turns out, by Irvine Howe’s Dissent rather than PR, in which Abel and some of his critics loudly and passionately debated the issues.14 As Phillips remembered it, “The only tangible result of the whole controversy was that Hannah and I did not speak to each other for a few years. Hannah felt betrayed by me. And though I tried to explain that my conduct was the only proper one for an editor of a magazine that prided itself on being open to any serious view, and that you could not just kill things that had been commissioned, I understood her reaction.” He then ruefully concluded in retrospect that “our little world was deficient in friendship and loyalty, and that objectivity often has been a mask for competitiveness, malice, and polemical zeal—for banal evils.”15 Although ultimately they made up, it was clear that the experience left deep scars on Phillips. In an open letter he wrote to Mary McCarthy in 1964, he reflected on the sorry outcome of the whole bitter debate about Arendt’s book on Eichmann: “A historical disaster has been transformed, I am sorry to say, into a journalistic occasion, because people have been talking not so much about the meaning of those awful events as about what other people were saying about them. And some people seemed to think that what was being said was more awful than the events themselves.”16 And years later, he could still huffily remark to John Silber, “Who does she think she is? Aristotle?”17 Although my own essay did not revisit the debate over Eichmann in Jerusalem, which by then had played itself out, it is clear that it must have seemed to Phillips like the return of the repressed. His response, as in the case of Abel’s essay, was first to try to persuade me to moderate my critique and then to commission another essay, as he put it in his letter of October 30, 1975, “more favorable to Hannah Arendt alongside yours.” I answered in a long letter three weeks later, arguing about some of the substantive and tonal issues, and expressing my agreement with the plan to solicit a rebuttal, even offering some possible candidates.

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But then on December 4, 1975, Hannah Arendt suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-nine. In January, Phillips wrote to confirm what I had also immediately taken for granted: “I assume that Hannah Arendt’s death has led to second thoughts about publishing your piece now. Obviously, it would be in very poor taste both for you and for us to publish at this time a piece about Hannah Arendt as critical as yours. Perhaps a little later we could put several pieces about her, one of which would be yours, as both a tribute and an analysis of her work.”18 “A little later,” however, turned out to be a bit longer than expected, as Phillips continued to feel very ambivalent about publishing the paper. Not for nothing did his stepson later remember him as “one of the truly great Worriers of the World.”19 After a year passed, I inquired about how things were going with the symposium, and he responded on February 10, 1977, “You will recall that we agreed it would not be appropriate either for you or for us to print your piece as it was. We also agreed that we should publish your piece in conjunction with another taking a more sympathetic approach. I haven’t pursued this so far, but I’ll do that now if you want me to.” Another year then went by without any word of a resolution. Frustrated by the interminable delay and mindful of the mounting new material on Arendt that would have to be taken into account in any updated version of the paper, I wrote to Phillips telling him that another journal, Alvin Gouldner’s Theory and Society, would be happy to bring it out if he didn’t want it. On March 10, 1978, he responded with considerable irritation, insisting that it still belonged to Partisan Review: “We have invested a lot of time in your piece, including discussions at editorial meetings and efforts to get another piece to go along with it—a lot more time than anyone else could have.” To shorten what is already probably getting to be too long a tale, the essay did finally appear in PR later in 1978 along with a rebuttal whose author I only learned when it was published: Leon Botstein, by chance an old friend from my high school days (his older sister being in my class at Bronx Science). He was an appropriate choice because of Arendt’s close relations to Bard College, whose presidency Botstein had just assumed. Her second husband, Heinrich Blücher, had taken up a teaching position there in 1952, and her ashes were buried on its ground. Rather than my original title, “The Political Existentialism of Hannah Arendt,” my paper was turned into merely half of “Hannah Arendt: Opposing Views” and all my notes were dropped.20 Botstein and I went through another round in a subsequent issue, and then the controversy died a natural death.21 This is not the time to thrash out the issues dividing us again or reply to the

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other critiques made by subsequent readers of the essay, which generated more controversy than virtually anything I have written.22 Phillips had in fact been right that the essay was a provocation, and with hindsight and in the light of some of Arendt’s posthumous publications, I think I would modify a few of its formulations. But I also can’t suppress a certain feeling of satisfaction at the fact that it contains perhaps the first serious attempt to situate Arendt in the context of German Existenzphilosophie, putting the spotlight on her profound debt to Heidegger. Only later, with the publication of Young-Bruehl’s biography and the letters between Arendt and her teacher/lover, was the full depth of their bond, emotional as well as intellectual, revealed.23 By now that relationship has become itself one of the most widely discussed in twentieth-century philosophy, with even a play dedicated to it called Hannah and Martin by Kate Fodor, which was produced at the Epic Theater in New York several years ago. Some of the commentary has, in fact, amplified the qualms I expressed back in the seventies.24 But at the time the depth of their involvement was unknown, and indeed had been deliberately occluded when Arendt composed her apologetic eightieth birthday tribute to Heidegger.25 Rather than dwell on my own attempt to come to grips with Arendt’s legacy, to which I have returned on a number of subsequent occasions with considerable ambivalence,26 I want to focus on what this little episode has to tell us about the way in which PR under Phillips operated. What is obvious about the context into which my essay was placed was that it was already highly charged by prior events over which I had little knowledge and less responsibility. Although all intellectual fields are inevitably prestructured, that of the New York intellectuals was especially replete with the residues of previous conflicts, personal as well as intellectual, which made it impossible to enter without setting off hidden landmines. Perhaps because it was located by and large outside the university system in nonacademic magazines like PR, the insecurities of a less settled existence intensified the rivalries for prestige and power that are part of any cultural field. In any case, the results were both positive and negative. On the positive side of the ledger was the sense that it all seriously mattered, that ideas and judgments and positions could have an impact on the world, even if they initially circulated only within a mandarin avant-garde elite. A publication in PR was not simply another career-building line in a CV, a dutiful contribution to a “refereed journal” read only by professionals in a narrowly defined field. It was meant to be an intervention in a general debate that resounded outside the walls of the academy. Like the celebrated petites revues that set the tone throughout twentieth-

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century French history—La Nouvelle Revue Française, Les Temps Modernes, Tel Quel—Partisan Review represented a moment when the now much abused notion of the universal intellectual had not yet lost its luster. In France, if Régis Debray is right, those journals thrived during what he called “the publishing cycle” (1920–1960), which came after “the university cycle” (1880–1930) and before the “media cycle” (1968–the present).27 In our context, it would be perhaps more accurate to say that the university cycle really only came into its own after World War II and, unlike in France, few intellectuals have had any impact on the mass media. But the idea of a transient moment when little magazines were in the forefront of intellectual life holds true here as well. The passing of that moment has, of course, been the subject of considerable lament by those who see academicization as equivalent to the inevitable dulling of the critical spirit.28 But it too had its negative side, as aspects of the episode recounted above suggest. Writing for a journal like Partisan Review entailed assuming the baggage of its previous history, which meant that contributions represented not merely the opinions of the writer but also to a greater or lesser degree the general line of the journal. Rather than having sovereign control over his words, the contributor was in danger of becoming a bit like a scriptwriter in the Hollywood cinema production process. It also meant that personal as well as substantive considerations could inflect the reception of a piece. Ironically, behind the façade of the public intellectual lurked extremely exigent personal interests. One of the most striking impressions of Phillips’s autobiography is the astonishing number of celebrity intellectuals he encountered during his career, ranging from the abiding giants of his age—Sartre, Camus, Orwell, Bellow, Lowell, Schapiro, and, of course, Arendt herself—to the innumerable smaller fry whose names have now begun to fade. Although it would be disingenuous to deny a small frisson of excitement in being only a few degrees of separation from that heady company, it is also hard to avoid acknowledging the danger of a kind of cronyism that can result from too intimate an acquaintance with the often demanding and unforgiving prima donnas of the vita contemplativa. When Phillips showed Arendt Abel’s attack before it was published and then agonized over her demand it be rejected, he violated the normal rules of disinterested scholarly debate. And when she lamented that his contrary decision showed “lack of respect for her as a person and as a serious writer,” especially because the journal owed her “consideration,” it was clear that for all her vaunted celebration of agonistic discourse in the public realm, Arendt was not prepared to let the better argument win without pulling a few strings behind the scene.


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It would, of course, be naive to deny that conflict in the realm of ideas is any less riven with personal dimensions, often petty and self-serving, than it is elsewhere, but New York intellectual culture exacerbated their impact. The macho posturing that was so much a part of the world of abstract expressionist painting during the heyday of Jackson Pollock was no less prevalent in the literarypolitical world that thrived in the pages of the Partisan Review. As Phillips himself came to recognize, “In the thirties, when New York literary manners were developed, we were a brawling community, everyone trying to impose his views on everyone else by sheer force of logic and rhetoric, which was often merciless. We had not yet learned the academic mode of ignoring or accommodating to ideas we found repugnant.”29 Although I’m not sure academic culture always hovers that high above the fray, the intensely personalized and internecine warfare whose repercussions could still be felt even by a latecomer as hors de combat as myself did set the hothouse Partisan Review world apart. That world is clearly on the wane, even if magazines like Salmagundi carry on many of its most laudable features. But it would be wrong to identify its fading with that of intellectual vigor itself. Partisanship and scholarship are not inherently opposing values, nor are the protocols of academic life necessarily inimical to those of free-floating intellectuals. The twenty-first century is, moreover, busy inventing new modes of intellectual life that may well eclipse those we have inherited from the past. Perhaps everyone can now be a public intellectual via the Internet, whose democratization of access makes the gatekeeper role played so skillfully by Phillips less possible, and perhaps even unnecessary. Although the result may well be a debasement of standards and a free-for-all of unvetted opinions, at least the velocity of their appearance and the likelihood of their being no less quickly challenged will make the agony of waiting for “truly great Worriers of the World” to make up their minds a little less severe.

Still Sleeping Rough Colin Wilson’s The Outsider at Fifty

The fiftieth anniversary of one of the most—albeit ephemerally—acclaimed books of the twentieth century, Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, came and went without much notice or fanfare, at least in the United States. In Britain, where it had stirred a generation and gave its twenty-five-year-old author instant celebrity, it did only a bit better, with reissues of biographies and a handful of interviews and talks, all of which are dutifully noted on the website devoted to keeping Wilson’s flame burning.1 But the general pattern of ignoring Colin Wilson and his legacy remains in force. Although he has written more than one hundred books, fiction and nonfiction, and countless articles and reviews since The Outsider was published, he remains a marginal, forgotten figure, given little attention outside the coterie of his faithful fans. When the book originally appeared, however, Wilson was applauded on a decibel level that first-book authors earn only in their wildest fantasies. Edith Sitwell gave it a prepublication blurb, and two of the leading intellectual lions of the time, Cyril Connolly and Philip Toynbee, hailed it in the Sunday Times and the Observer. Raves soon followed in such prestigious places as the Listener and the Tatler, as well as many national daily newspapers. Along with John Osborne, John Braine, John Wain, and Kingsley Amis, Wilson was briefly, if inaccurately, hailed as one of the Angry Young Men who were roiling the waters in postwar Britain—a country struggling to redefine itself in the wake of the Suez fiasco— and preparing the way for the cultural cum political upheavals we now identify with something called “the sixties.” He shared with them a modest working-class background, which enhanced his image as a bold intruder into that still exclusive club that Noel Annan had identified only year earlier in his now classic essay


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on the intellectual aristocracy. Born in Leicester and staying in school only until he was sixteen, Wilson had the aura of the rebellious antiestablishment figure who presented both a class and generational challenge to the status quo, as well as repudiation of the parochial, inward-looking world of English letters for the headier climes of Continental thought. In fact, according to a later observer, Martin Green, “it became obvious almost immediately that Wilson had nothing in common with the Angry Young Men, despite his proletarian ambiance. He was in fact a purveyor of modernism for England, and was saluted as such by Connolly and Toynbee.”2 As meteoric as the ascent was the rapidity of the decline. In his recent magisterial overview of British intellectuals, Absent Minds, Stefan Collini devotes seven disdainful pages to the Wilson phenomenon in a chapter he wryly titles “Outsider Studies: The Glamour of Dissent.” “Before May 1956,” he writes, “no one had heard of Wilson, and by the end of 1957 it was almost true that no one wanted to hear of him again. If he was, briefly, British ‘philosophy’s’ greatest star, he was, in a longer perspective, one of British culture’s greatest mistakes.”3 Within a short time of The Outsider’s publication, more sober commentators like A. J. Ayer and Raymond Williams were pointing out flaws of evidence, citation, and reasoning, and commenting cynically on how reputation was a function of media hype rather than intrinsic value. Revelations about unsavory aspects of Wilson’s personal life and his penchant for making off-the-wall remarks to the press on subjects about which he knew little eroded his image. Although Wilson has continued to churn out book after book, so Collini disdainfully concludes, “reviewers avert their eyes in embarrassment, like well-meaning shoppers trying to notice the once-decorated war hero who has turned to drink.”4 Having never read another of Wilson’s books, I am not in a position to refute this judgment, but it would be disingenuous to deny that I was myself once under the spell of The Outsider. I read it somewhat after the brief moment of its celebrity, when I would have been too young to make much out of it, in 1964, during my junior year abroad at the London School of Economics, when I was still a few months shy of my twentieth birthday. I remember its being recommended not by a professor at the LSE but rather by a scruffy hitchhiker encountered in a youth hostel in Kilkenny while I was myself thumbing around Ireland during the long spring vacation. Wilson, he told me with awe in his voice, had “slept rough” on Hampstead Heath while completing his research at the British Museum, an image that conjured up grit and integrity, as well as the self-sacrifice of the dedicated intellectual. I still have my weathered copy of the book, pub-

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lished in paperback by Pan Books for five shillings, which proudly trumpets the same biographical fact on the back cover and adds the tidbit that before its publication he lived in London and Paris (presumably no less “down and out” than Orwell had been), “reading, writing and meeting authors.” The Outsider was, as you can imagine, a book that insisted that the life of the intellectual and the ideas he espoused should be intimately intertwined. Wilson packaged himself as no less of an outsider—or rather Outsider, as he portentously called him—than the heroes of his narrative. To be comfortably inside an institution, whether cultural, political, or religious, meant to sell out, as all institutions were compromises with power and authority. His narrative careens from philosophers like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard to novelists like Dostoevsky and Hesse, fictional figures like Sartre’s Roquentin and Camus’s Mersault to real artists like Van Gogh and Blake. Both T. E.’s, Lawrence and Hulme, get their due, and so do visionary religious adepts like Ramakrishna, Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. Occasionally an unexpected figure like H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, or Ernest Hemingway looms large in the argument, although more obvious ones like Heidegger are ignored. Disdaining the idea that the outsider is merely a social or literary problem or that psychological therapy can treat his malaise—Freud is conspicuously absent from the book, although later Wilson was to get excited by Abraham Maslow’s “peak experiences”—he concludes that “the sickness of mankind in the mid-twentieth century” is fundamentally an existentialist crisis. The only possible solution, he opines, is a religious one, although not provided by any religion in its traditional form. That is why Nietzsche, Wilson’s central figure, is best understood as ultimately “a religious man” seeking some sort of “salvation,” and Hulme is right to have longed for “a new religious age.” “The individual begins that long effort as an Outsider,” the book concludes, “he may finish it as a saint.”5 From even this short summary, it is easy to see why serious intellectual opinion-makers would leave the book behind in embarrassment, agreeing with one critic cited by Collini that it was little more than “grandiose blethering.” Looking at it again after all these years, I would have no defense of its value as a serious philosophical contribution to any of the issues it treats; indeed, I would add that its implicit politics, elitist, authoritarian, antirational, are deeply disturbing. As in the case of Heidegger’s parallel claim that “only a God will save us now,” I remain deeply skeptical of desperate calls for divine grace as a way out of human dilemmas. And yet, it would be dishonest to deny that The Outsider served in my own intellectual formation as a powerful catalyst, despite or perhaps because of


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its flaws. By refusing to condescend to it now, I hope to avoid condescending to the teenager who once found it stimulating. What were its qualities that stirred me so much? Why can a “bad book” have had so much more impact than a score of “good” ones that left much less of a mark? To understand its power, it is necessary first of all to acknowledge the ambivalent lure of what is normally scorned as autodidacticism. Wilson was a classic example of the breed of self-taught intellectuals, unconstrained by disciplinary formation, unschooled in any tradition, beholden to no master, uncredentialed by any institution. Often the autodidact is belittled by more conventionally trained—think of the implications of that word!—academics as a dilettante or crank, prone to unsteady enthusiasms and peddling untested or untestable nostrums. For those who believe in the importance of methods and the mastery of canons, the autodidact is a scandal of eclectic improvisation and uncertain judgment. His learning is too uneven and idiosyncratic to be considered erudition; his beliefs too dicey to be taken seriously by “informed opinion.” Even heterodox thinkers outside the mainstream often distance themselves from the implication that they are entirely self-taught; think of the dubious figure in Sartre’s Nausea known only as “the Autodidact,” foolishly educating himself by working his way through the library alphabetically. Well before he is revealed as a sexual pervert, the reader is disgusted by his shuffling of other people’s ideas from the texts he has randomly digested. It can, however, be argued that autodidacts inadvertently reveal the blind spots in the mainstream official culture they lack the symbolic capital to enter. As a result, they are not entirely free from its gravitational pull. As Pierre Bourdieu notes in Distinction: it presents no paradox to see the autodidact’s relation to culture, and the autodidact himself, as products of the educational system, the sole agency empowered to transmit the hierarchical body of aptitudes and knowledge which constitutes legitimate culture, and to consecrate arrival at a given level of initiation, by means of examinations and certificates. Because he has not acquired his culture in the legitimate order established by the educational system, the autodidact constantly betrays, by his very anxiety about the right classification, the arbitrariness of his classifications and therefore of his knowledge—a collection of unstrung pearls, accumulated in the course of an uncharted exploration, unchecked by the institutionalized, standardized stages and obstacles, the curricula and progressions which make scho-

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lastic culture a ranked and ranking set of interdependent levels and forms of knowledge. The absences, lacunae and arbitrary classifications of the autodidact’s culture only exist in relation to a scholastic culture which has the power to induce misrecognition of its arbitrariness and recognition of a necessity which includes its lacunae.6 That is, the artificial and contrived categories of the autodidact’s culture are the parodic double of the no less concocted categories of official culture, which is unaware of the extent of its naturalization of what is culturally produced. To the extent that the autodidact’s uncomfortable existence challenges that misrecognition of the—at least somewhat—arbitrary quality of the official culture’s knowledge structure, it serves to denaturalize what is so often taken for granted by those who are its defenders and beneficiaries. In addition, we should recall that the class, racial, or gender exclusions that impede access to the institutions of mainstream culture are often the source of the need to be self-taught in the first place. Not only do working-class autodidacts like the journalist William Cobbett, feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, and black intellectuals like Malcolm X demonstrate the creativity that can emerge without the legitimacy of credentialed training. They also make clear the often hidden nonintellectual, nonmeritocratic features of the credentialing system itself. We have, it is fair to say, made enormous progress in increasing the inclusivity of that system, even since the time of Wilson’s book. But it is nonetheless true that access is still hampered in many contexts by constraints that have nothing to do with merit. So the autodidact almost always has a critical distance from the institutional constraints of the system, even if he or she envies the learning that it fosters. Being more or less outside the system does not, to be sure, translate into a disembodied “view from nowhere,” capable of having a God’s-eye perspective on the whole. As the Dutch sociologist Dick Pels has noted in his study, The Intellectual as Stranger, “Not a ‘nowhere (wo)man or universal subject, but not a firmly-rooted and particularized subject either, the ‘outsider within’ holds a place between places and embodies an interest that mediates other interests.”7 Whether or not those other interests feel comfortable granting the spokesman role to outsiders is, of course, another question, but at least at times they function to overcome entrenched intellectual positions in a seemingly settled field of discourse. Autodidacticism is also invariably infused with a love of ideas that is free of


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careerist motivations. As such, it can risk offending received opinion and challenging canonical truths. It can express the kind of naive enthusiasms and weakness for asking big questions that are fatal to a professionally ambitious scholar (and which you can sometimes still see in gifted undergraduates who are not yet socialized into the world of learned societies and annual meetings and refereed journals). Sometimes, to be sure, the autodidact’s rhapsodic vitality turns into self-righteous ressentiment against institutional success, as if its lack were an irrefutable mark of uncorrupted virtue. But at its best, it can be a bracing tonic against the self-satisfaction of those who consider that success as a reward sufficient unto itself. Is it really possible to avoid some sense of guilty recognition in Kierkegaard’s scorn for the professional academic in his Journals, to which he appends a marginal note: And even if ‘the professor’ happened to read this, it would not stop him, it would not prick his conscience—no, he would lecture on this too. And even if the professor happened to read this remark, it would not stop him either—no, he would lecture on this too. For the professor is even longer than the tapeworm which a woman was delivered of recently (200 feet according to her husband . . . )—a professor is even longer than that—and if a man has this tapeworm ‘the professor’ in him, no human being can deliver him of it; only God can do it if the man himself is willing.8 For all his sloppiness and grandiosity, for all his inflated rhetoric and religious fellow-traveling, Colin Wilson is at least not a professorial parasite. I cannot, of course, claim the same exemption, but have always shared at least some of Kierkegaard’s distaste for pedantry and academic self-importance. In retrospect it seems not by chance that the dissertation I chose to write as my credential for insiderness focused on figures who in certain ways embodied the values and played the role of the outsider, even if they disdained Wilson’s Nietzschean politics and pseudo-religious posturing. The radical intellectuals gathered at the Institute of Social Research, who became known as the Frankfurt School, were not entirely marginal figures. Most of them came from relatively privileged backgrounds and never had to “live rough” in Frankfurt’s Palmengarten or anywhere else for that matter, although in his last miserable years in Paris, Walter Benjamin did fall on pretty desperate times. While not strictly following the straightforward pattern Peter Gay discerned in Weimar culture—“the outsider as insider”9—they did manage to create a sheltered enclave in the university system of their day. Even in forced exile, they had the good fortune and

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personal skills to associate themselves with prestigious institutions like Columbia University, and when it was time to return to Germany, they were given positions of genuine power in the rebuilding of academic life. But the Critical Theory they developed shared some of the best features of autodidactic outsiderness: disdain for disciplinary boundaries, a willingness to ask the large questions eschewed by specialists, an eclectic contempt for orthodoxies of any kind (including the Marxism whose tenets they broadly upheld), and an identification with those excluded from positions of power and prestige. Not surprisingly, they often shared some of that respect for marginality that Collini perhaps too quickly dismisses as “the glamour of dissent.” Take, for example, Leo Lowenthal’s praise for outsider figures in Cervantes’ Don Quixote in his collection Literature and the Image of Man: All these marginal creatures, the beggars, the crooks, the gypsies, the insane, constitute “overheads” of society, to which they are either unwilling to belong or from which they are forcibly cast out. But while they are accused, indicted, and confined, they themselves in turn are accusers. Their very existence denounces a world they never made. . . . The marginal figures not only serve the negative function of indicting the social order; they also positively demonstrate the idea of man. They all serve to show the possibilities of Utopia, where everyone has the freedom to be his own deviant case—with the result that the very phenomenon of deviance disappears.10 Many years later, in his autobiographical reflections, Lowenthal would spell out the enduring importance of this argument: “We were consciously on the periphery of established power. Even now . . . this position on the periphery, this marginality, remains for me in my work, and perhaps even in my own perception of life, the most important category.”11 The Frankfurt School was not, however, automatically on the side of the outsider in a simplistic way. In Minima Moralia, his “reflections from damaged life,” Theodor W. Adorno devoted an aphorism to this theme, “Inside and Outside.”12 With his characteristic sensitivity to the costs of either side of an apparent opposition, he acknowledged that both academic and what he called “extra-academic” intellectuals can lose their critical edge. Whereas the former feel compelled to adhere to the stifling standards of “salaried profundity,” the latter can wander into dangerously unstable territory beyond the professional pale: “The life-style of belated bohemianism forced on the non-academic philosopher is itself enough to give him a fatal affinity to the world of arts-and-crafts, crackpot religion and

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essays from the edge

half-educated sectarianism.” Although legitimately resisting the pretensions of scientism, intellectual outsiders can fall prey to dubious ideas that a community of rigorous thinkers would challenge: “Instead of comprehending the facts behind which the others are entrenched, [extra-academic thinking] snatches those it can reach in its haste and makes off to play so uncritically with apocryphal knowledge, with a few isolated and hypostatized categories, and with itself, that simple reference to unyielding facts is enough to defeat it. It is precisely the critical element that is wanting in ostensibly independent thought.” And yet, the antidote to the follies of crackpot autodidacticism is not a rappel à l’ordre restoring the authority of the intellectual insider and his institutions: “a gaze averted from the beaten track, a hatred of brutality, a search for fresh concepts not yet encompassed by the general patter, is the last hope for thought. In an intellectual hierarchy which constantly makes everyone answerable, unanswerability alone can call the hierarchy directly by its name. . . . He who offers for sale something unique that no-one wants to buy, represents, even against his will, freedom from exchange.” Wilson may well have turned his outsiderness into a fungible commodity, at least for a while, showing yet again how the dialectic of bourgeois and bohemian is never a simple opposition.13 Perhaps one reason posterity has been so harsh about his book is the embarrassment produced by the misplaced enthusiasm of its initial reception. Those who bought at its height were happy to sell when the price plummeted. And yet, when all is said and done, it must be acknowledged that The Outsider, unlike countless other “better” but less stimulating works, had the power to transcend its moment and reach at least one impressionable teenager at a point in his life when it mattered. It primed him for a much more substantial engagement with the figures who had the intellectual depth to maximize the virtues of the outsider role without succumbing to its vices. Even “bad” books, if they function in that way, are gifts that need never be returned.


introduction The epigraph to this chapter is from Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London, 1970), 207. 1. Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena: Kleinephilosophische Schriften; Sämtliche Werke, vol. 4 (Frankfurt, 1986). The „Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit“ (Aphorisms on Practical Wisdom) were of particular importance in making the book a success. 2. Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). The French original came out in 1978. 3. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. J. H. Bernard (New York: Hafner Publishing Co., 1951), 61–62; Derrida, The Truth in Painting, 53ff. 4. The implications of this pressure are discussed in Craig Owens, “Detachment: From the Parergon,” in Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture, ed. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tillman, and Jane Weinstock, 31–39 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992). 5. Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 262–324. 6. Ibid., 365. 7. Martin Jay, Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993). 8. Variously published as “Det uaegetes Stigma: Adornos Kritik af Autenticiten,” Kritik (Copenhagen) 165 (2003); “Taking on the Stigma of Inauthenticity: Adorno’s Critique of Genuineness,” New German Critique 97 (Winter 2006); in Theory as Variation, ed. R. Radhakrishnan et al. (Delhi: Pencraft International, 2007); and in Kätkettyjä Hahmoja: Tekstejä Theodor W. Adornosta, ed. Olli-Pekka Moisio (Helsinki: Minerva, 2008). 9. Variously published as “Onko kokemus edeleen kriisissa? Ajatuksia Franfurtin koulun kainosta,” in Kritikin Lupaus, ed. Olli-Pekka Moisio (Helsinki: Sophi, 1999); “Is Experience Still in Crisis? Reflections on a Frankfurt School Lament,” Kriterion: Revista de Filosofia (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) 100 (July–December 1999); in Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects, ed. PeterUwe Hohendahl and Jaimey Fischer (New York: Berghahn Press, 2002); in The Cambridge Com-


notes to pages 3–6

panion to Adorno, ed. Tom Huhn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); and in French in X-Alta 5 (October 2001). 10. “Mourning a Metaphor: The Revolution Is Over,” Parallax 9, no. 2 (2003); also published in Rethinking Modernity, ed. Stantosh Gupta, Prafulla C. Kar, and Parul Dave Mukherji (Delhi, 2005). 11. Martin Jay, Fin-de-Siècle Socialism and Other Essays (New York: Routledge, 1989). 12. Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993). 13. Martin Jay, “Cultural Relativism and the Visual Turn,” Journal of Visual Culture 1, no. 3 (December 2002); reprinted in Images: A Reader, ed. Sunil Manghani, Arthur Piper, and Jon Simons (London: Sage, 2006). 14. “Scopic Regimes of Modernity,” in Visions and Visuality: Discussions in Contemporary Culture, no. 2, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1988); expanded version in Modernity and Identity, ed. Scott Lash and Jonathan Friedman, 178–95 (London: Verso, 1992); German translation in Leviathan (Berlin) 20, no. 2 (1992); Polish translation in Przestrzen, filosofia i architektura, ed. Ewa Rewars (Poznan, 1999). 15. The conference volume is Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision, ed. Dianne Harris and D. Fairchild Ruggles (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). Before it was published there, my essay appeared in the festschrift for my friend Prafulla C. Kar, Reflections on Literature, Criticism and Theory, ed. Sura P. Rath, Kailash C. Baral, and D. Venkat Rao (Delhi, 2004). 16. Martin Jay, Refractions of Violence (New York: Routledge, 2003). 17. Michele Cometa and Salvo Vaccaro, eds., Lo sguardo di Foucault (Rome: Meltemi, 2007). The essay was published in English in A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy, ed. James J. Bono, Tim Dean, and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010). 18. Martin Jay, “The Kremlin of Modernism,” Salmagundi 148–49 (Fall 2005–Winter 2006). 19. Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004). 20. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A. Wrathall, eds., A Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006). 21. “Aesthetic Experience and Historical Experience: A 21st-Century Constellation,” in Ahistoric Occasions: Artists Making History, ed. Nato Thompson (North Adams, MA: MASS MoCA Editions, 2006). 22. Martin Jay, “Still Waiting to Hear from Derrida,” Salmagundi 150–51 (Spring–Summer 2006). 23. Jacques Derrida, On Touching—Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Christine Irizarry (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005). After generously calling the book “invaluable,” he writes, “I feel particularly close to what the latter wrote on the score of ‘phallogocularcentrism,’ although, in this rather unstable logic, which is prone to reversals, a deconstructive thinking of spacing just as regularly has to call on the visible against a certain interpretation of the audible” (341). 24. The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010). 25. Pheng Cheah and Suzanne Guerlac, eds., Derrida and the Time of the Political (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

notes to pages 6–10   


26. Martin Jay, “The Menace of Consilience: Keeping the Disciplines Unreconciled,” in The University, Globalization, Central Europe, ed. Marek Kwiek (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2003). 27. Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie (New Literary Review, Moscow) 83 (2007); Salmagundi, 160–61 (Fall–Winter 2008–9). 28. The conference was called “Liberalism’s Return: French Social Thought Since 1968” and took place in 2004. My earlier essay was “Lafayette’s Children: The American Reception of French Theory,” SubStance 31, no. 1 (2002), reprinted in my Refractions of Violence. 29. Martin Jay, “Intellectual Family Values: William Phillips, Hannah Arendt and the Partisan Review,” Salmagundi 143 (Summer 2004); idem, “Still Sleeping Rough: Colin Wilson’s The Outsider at Fifty,” Salmagundi 155–56 (Summer–Fall 2007).

taking on the stigma of inauthenticity This essay originally appeared in New German Critique 97, no. 1 (Winter 2006). Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Duke University Press. The epigraph to this chapter is from Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism, 2nd rev. ed. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 214. 1. Marshall Berman, The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society (New York: Athenaeum, 1972), xix. 2. Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), 156. A few years earlier, albeit with somewhat more skepticism, Philip Rieff had noted in his influential Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1961) that “Freud’s ethic resembles Sartre’s existentialism, which offers a related criterion, authenticity, as a way of judging what is good in human action” (352). For a later discussion, see Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991). 3. Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity, 158. 4. See Ann Fulton, Apostles of Sartre: Existentialism in America, 1945–1963 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999), 74–76. 5. Alexander Nehamas, Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999); Geoffrey Hartman, Scars of the Spirit: The Struggle Against Inauthenticity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). Nahamas, it should be noted, does not endorse the Platonic notion of authentic forms, but he nonetheless concludes that “Plato remains, if I may use these terms here, the perfect model of a genuine philosopher, the authentic standard by which philosophy, including especially the philosophy of today, must measure itself ” (xxxv). For an even more recent discussion of the issue, which links it to contemporary popular culture, see Charles Guignon, On Being Authentic (New York: Routledge, 2004). 6. Theodor W. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will (London: Routledge, 1973). The original Jargon der Eigentlichkeit: Zur deutschen Ideologie was published in Frankfurt in 1964 but had no impact on the American discussion. 7. Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974), 152–55. 8. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969). 9. Theodor W. Adorno, Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic, trans and ed. Robert HullotKentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989). The debts of this work to Benjamin are themselves strong, one commentator going so far as to call it little more than the application


notes to pages 10–12

of The Origin of German Tragic Drama to Kierkegaard. See Peter Fenves, “Image and Chatter: Adorno’s Construction of Kierkegaard,” Diacritics 22, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 110. For an analysis of Benjamin’s distance from Heidegger’s notion of authentic time in this work and in an earlier fragment of 1916 called “Tragedy and Trauerspiel,” see Howard Caygill, “Benjamin, Heidegger and the Destruction of Tradition,” in Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience, ed. Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (London: Routledge, 1994). He argues that for Benjamin, “Tragic time is authentic, and marks a present which is redeemed and completed by gathering the past to itself, while time for the Trauerspiel is inauthentic: the past ruining the present and making it entirely in vain. . . . The fragmentary and elliptical form of the essay resists the temptation present in Heidegger’s treatise to restore authenticity by any move towards dialectical resolution” (9). 10. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 146. For an analysis of his use of the term, see the entry “Authenticity and Inauthenticity” in Michael Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999). 11. See, in particular, his lengthy letter of March 16, 1936, to Benjamin, which details his qualms. In Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, The Complete Correspondence, 1928–1940, ed. Heinz Lonitz, trans. Nicholas Walker (Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 1999), 127–32. 12. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 311. 13. Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 222. A decade earlier, in The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 1977), Benjamin had raised the question of origin and authenticity in ways that suggest he had not yet arrived at the position defended in this essay. See, for example, such statements in the “Epistemo-critical Prologue” as the following: “Origin [Ursprung], although an entirely historical category, has, nevertheless, nothing to do with genesis [Entstehung]. The term origin is not intended to describe the process by which the existent came into being, but rather that which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance. Origin is an eddy in the stream of becoming, and in its current it swallows the material involved in the process of genesis. . . . The authentic—the hallmark of origin in phenomena—is the object of discovery, a discovery which is connected in a unique way with the process of recognition” (45–46). For a subtle account of the neo-Platonic, neo-Leibnizian use of “origin” in this work, see John Pizer, Toward a Theory of Radical Origin: Essays on Modern German Thought (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), chap. 2. 14. Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 226. 15. Ibid., 246. 16. Ibid., 223. 17. Ibid., 226. 18. Ibid., 245. 19. Eva Geulen, “Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,’” in Benjamin’s Ghosts: Interventions in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory, ed. Gerhard Richter (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 135. 20. There are still earlier expressions of his debts to Benjamin on this question. For example, in his 1932 essay “The Idea of Natural History,” he acknowledged the importance of the theory of allegory in The Origin of German Tragic Drama as an antidote to the myth of Urgeschichte. See “Die Idee der Naturgeschichte,” in Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophische Frühschriften, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973), 357–60. In the same year he wrote a

notes to pages 12–15   


short piece entitled “The Primal” (“Der Ur”), which anticipated the critique of the Nazi use of the argument from origins in the aphorism in Minima Moralia discussed in this essay. See Gesammelte Schriften, 20:2 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1986), 562–64. 21. It should be noted that the international gold standard for currencies was itself terminated only during the Depression, with the United States’ decision to abandon it in 1933 serving as the last straw. For a classic discussion of the implications of its abandonment as a symptom of the crisis of liberal capitalism, see Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965). It is worth mentioning that this book was written in 1944, also by a leftist exile from fascism. 22. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 152. Benjamin’s strategies for resisting the idea of an integral, unified, substantial self are sensitively explored in Gerhard Richter, Walter Benjamin and the Corpus of Autobiography (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000). 23. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 153. 24. Benjamin’s most important discussions come in his essays of 1933 “Doctrine of the Similar” and “On the Mimetic Faculty,” in Selected Writings, vol. 2, ed. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith, trans. Rodney Livingstone et al. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999). There is an extensive literature on Adorno’s use of mimesis; for relevant texts and my own interpretation, see Martin Jay, “Mimesis and Mimetology: Adorno and Lacoue-Labarthe,” in Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). 25. There were, to be sure, less beneficial variants of mimicry and repetition, for example what psychoanalysis had called “identification with the aggressor,” which Adorno along with Horkheimer criticized in Dialectic of Enlightenment and elsewhere. 26. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea (London, 1950), 358, cited by Adorno in Minima Moralia, 153. 27. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 153–54. 28. Ibid., 154. 29. Ibid., 155. 30. Ibid. 31. Ibid. Adorno’s critique of those who tried to find authenticity in Bach appeared in his “Bach Defended against His Devotees,” Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber (London, 1967). It might be noted, as John Pizer has pointed out, that Adorno’s distrust of the “false origins” of modern jazz in African music also reflects his suspicion of any prioritizing of the earliest as the most authentic. See Pizer, Toward a Theory of Radical Origin, 93. This study has many shrewd things to say about Adorno’s critique of the simple idea of Ursprung. 32. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 155. 33. Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, trans. Ann G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster (New York: Continuum, 1973), 139–40. 34. Theodor W. Adorno, Against Epistemology: A Metacritique, trans. Willis Domingo (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), 34. 35. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, 4. 36. Ibid., 3. The possibility that Kracauer was the friend is suggested by his 1925 critique of the Buber-Rosenzweig translation of the Hebrew Bible, which was motivated in part by his skepticism about their ability to revive the authenticity of the divine word in current language. For my attempt to sort out the implications of the dispute, see my “Politics of Translation: Siegfried


notes to pages 16–21

Kracauer and Walter Benjamin on the Buber-Rosenzweig Bible,” in Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to American (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985). For a more recent treatment that stresses important differences between Rosenzweig and Buber, see Leora Batnitsky, Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 135–41. 37. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, 9–10. 38. Ibid., 70. 39. Ibid., 115. Another Marxist critique of the same reification can be found in C. B. McPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), which traces it back to early liberal political thought and the nascent market economy. 40. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, 123. 41. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York, 1973), 183. 42. Adorno, Jargon of Authenticity, 125 (emended translation). 43. Personal communication, April 18, 2003. As elsewhere, Adorno was eager to disrupt the “native” origin of words by using their “foreign” equivalents. 44. Adorno, “Bach Defended against His Devotees,” 143. 45. See Nicholas Kenyon, ed., Authenticity and Early Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). 46. Theodor W. Adorno, “Reaktion und Fortschritt,” in Theodor W. Adorno and Ernst Krenek, Briefwechsel, ed. Wolfgang Rogge (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1974), 179. This is cited in Max Paddison, Adorno’s Aesthetics of Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 91. See also his very helpful “Authenticity and Failure in Adorno’s Aesthetics of Music,” in The Cambridge Companion to Adorno, ed. Tom Huhn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 47. Theodor W. Adorno, “Jene zwanziger Jahre,” in Eingriffe, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1977), 10 (pt. 2): 506. 48. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 23. 49. Douglas Kellner, “Adorno and the Dialectics of Mass Culture,” Adorno: A Critical Reader, ed. Nigel Gibson and Andrew Rubin (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 105. 50. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 311. 51. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 154. 52. Paddison, “Authenticity and Failure in Adorno’s Aesthetics of Music.” 53. For another example in Minima Moralia, see aphorism 33, “Out of Firing Line,” where Adorno writes that World War II “[is] as totally divorced from experience as is the functioning of a machine from the movement of the body, which only begins to resemble it in pathological states. . . . Life has changed into a timeless succession of shocks, interspersed with empty, paralyzed intervals. . . . The total obliteration of the war by information, propaganda commentaries, with cameramen in the first tanks and war reporters dying heroic deaths, the mishmash of enlightened manipulation of public opinion and oblivious activity: all this is another expression for the withering of experience, the vacuum between men and their fate, in which their real fate lies” (54–55). This passage duplicates without any attribution exactly what Benjamin had said about World War I in his essay of 1936, “The Storyteller,” Illuminations, 83–84. 54. Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno: Ein letzes Genie (Frankfurt, 2003). The issue of what constitutes a genius is, to be sure, a highly complicated one, and cannot be dealt with fully here. One place to begin would be Kant’s Critique of Judgment, trans. J. B. Bernard (New York: Hafner Publishing Co., 1951), where Kant argues that the genius produces “an example, not to be imi-

notes to pages 21–25   


tated (for then that which in it is genius and constitutes the spirit of the work would be lost), but to be followed by another genius, whom it awakens to a feeling of his own originality” (162). One might well argue that Adorno, despite the imitations discussed in this essay, was inspired to his own originality by Benjamin’s example. 55. Those whose ideas Adorno may have borrowed were not always as generous in their reading of his mimetic impulse. In the unpublished memorandum Siegfried Kracauer wrote in 1960 after a meeting they had to discuss the forthcoming Negative Dialectics, Kracauer described a moment in their interaction in the following terms: “At this point, I believe, Teddie was at the end of his rope. I am sure, however, he will not admit this to himself but immediately manage to believe that all my thoughts are really his own, annex these thoughts, which he already considers his property, to his ‘system’ and pass them off as the natural outgrowth of the latter. As Benjamin said: he grabs everything he is told, digests it and its consequences and then takes over.” This passage is cited and discussed in my essay “Adorno and Kracauer: Notes on a Troubled Friendship,” in Permanent Exiles, 229. Whether or not either Benjamin or Kracauer can themselves be seen as utterly “original” thinkers is another issue, which cannot be addressed here.

is experience still in crisis? This essay originally appeared in Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects, ed. Peter-Uwe Hohendahl and Jaimey Fisher (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001). 1. Theodor W. Adorno, “The Position of the Narrator in the Contemporary Novel,” in Notes to Literature, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 2:31. 2. Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974), 54–55. 3. Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Work of Nikolai Leskov,” in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1968), 84. 4. There is, in fact, a considerable discussion in German of Adorno’s concept of experience. See, for example, Hans-Hartmut Kappner, Die Bildungstheorie Adornos als Theorie der Erfarhung von Kultur und Kunst (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1984); Peter Kalkowski, Adornos Erfahrung: Zur Kritik der Kritischen Theorie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1988); Anke Thyen, Negative Dialektik und Erfahrung: Zur Rationalität des Nichtidentischen bei Adorno (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989). 5. Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1997), 31. 6. Theodor W. Adorno, “Presuppositions: On the Occasion of a Reading by Hans G. Helms,” in Notes to Literature, 2:101. 7. Theodor W. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will (Evanston, IL: Northwestern U. Press, 1973), 99. Whether or not Adorno was accurate in characterizing Heidegger’s notion of experience in these terms is debatable. 8. Theodor W. Adorno, “Charmed Language: On the Poetry of Rudolf Borchardt,” Notes to Literature, 2:205. 9. Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience (London: Routledge, 1998). For references to earlier literature on the question and my own attempt to make some sense of it, see “Experience without a Subject: Walter Benjamin and the Novel,” in Martin Jay, Cultural Semantics: Keywords of the Age (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). 10. The relevant essays are now available in Benjamin, Selected Writings, vol. 1, 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996). 11. Caygill, Walter Benjamin, 23.


notes to pages 25–31

12. Benjamin, “A Child’s View of Color,” Selected Writings, 50. 13. Caygill, Walter Benjamin, 8. 14. Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, 1973), 495. 15. The relevant section is translated as Martin Heidegger, Hegel’s Concept of Experience (New York: Harper and Row, 1970). For a suggestive commentary, see Robert Bernasconi, The Question of Language in Heidegger’s History of Being (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1986), chap. 6. 16. All of Benjamin’s recorded reactions to Heidegger were critical; Heidegger seems to have been unaware of Benjamin’s work. Nonetheless, similarities between Heidegger and Benjamin were first stressed by Hannah Arendt in her controversial introduction to Benjamin, Illuminations. For more recent attempts to see parallels, as well as some distinctions, see Howard Caygill, “Benjamin, Heidegger and the Destruction of Tradition,” and Andrew Benjamin, “Time and Task: Benjamin and Heidegger Showing the Present,” in Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience, ed. Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osbourne (London: Routledge, 1994). For discussions of the differences between the two, see Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption, 2nd ed. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), 102, and Beatrice Hanssen, Walter Benjamin’s Other History: Of Stones, Animals, Human Beings, and Angels (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), 2. 17. Heidegger, Hegel’s Concept of Experience, 112. 18. Ibid., 114. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid., 119. 21. Ibid., 120–21. 22. Ibid., 139. 23. Ibid., 143. 24. Bernasconi, The Question of Language in Heidegger’s History of Being, 83–85. 25. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Crossroad, 1986), 318–19. 26. Theodor W. Adorno, Hegel: Three Studies, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), 53. 27. Ibid., 61. 28. Cited in ibid., 76. 29. Ibid., 87. 30. Theodor W. Adorno, “Skoteinos, or How to Read Hegel,” in Hegel: Three Studies. 31. Ibid., 138. 32. Ibid., 144. 33. Adorno, “The Essay as Form,” in Notes to Literature, 1:10. 34. Ibid., 1:21. 35. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Robert HullotKentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 335; John Dewey, Art as Experience (New York: Minton Balch, 1934). 36. Hans Robert Jauss, Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 13–22. 37. For helpful recent discussions, see Shierry Weber Nicholsen, Exact Imagination, Late Work: On Adorno’s Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), and Thomas Huhn and Lam-

notes to pages 31–38   


bert Zuidervaart, eds., The Semblance of Subjectivity: Essays on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997). 38. Adorno, “On an Imaginary Feuilleton,” in Notes to Literature, 2:33. In Aesthetic Theory, he makes a similar point: “no particular aesthetic experience occurs in isolation, independently of the continuity of experiencing consciousness. . . . The continuity of aesthetic experience is colored by all other experience and all knowledge, though, of course, it is only confirmed and corrected in the actual confrontation with the phenomenon” (268–69). 39. Adorno, “On Proust,” in Notes to Literature, 2:317. 40. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 373. 41. I have attempted to explore some of the implications of mimesis in his work in “Mimesis and Mimetology: Adorno and Lacoue-Labarthe,” in Huhn and Zuidervaart, The Semblance of Subjectivity. 42. Adorno, Minima Moralia, 247. 43. Kalkowski, Adorno’s Erfahrung, 110–11. 44. Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History: Essays on the Destruction of Experience, trans. Liz Heron (London: Verso, 1993), 42. 45. Ibid, 53. 46. Albrecht Wellmer, The Persistence of Modernity: Essays on Aesthetics, Ethics, and Postmodernism, trans. David Midgely (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), 12. 47. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 191. 48. Ibid., 374. 49. Bernstein, “Why Rescue Semblance? Metaphysical Experience and the Possibility of Ethics,” in Huhn and Zuidervaart, Semblance of Subjectivity, 203.

mourning a metaphor This essay originally appeared in Parallax 9, no. 2 (April–June, 2003). Reprinted by permission of the publisher ( 1. See the discussion in Melvin J. Lasky, Utopia and Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), chaps. 5 and 6. Although a rambling, often sloppily argued ideological tract, this book provides a wealth of material about the metaphoric origins of the term on which I draw in what follows. 2. Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense,” in The Portable Nietzsche Reader, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking Press, 1968), 47. 3. For one useful account of and critique of such attempts, see Rod Aya, Rethinking Revolutions and Collective Violence: Studies on Concept, Theory, and Method (Amsterdam: Spinhuis, 1990). 4. On the coinage and dissemination of the idea of a “scientific revolution,” see I. Bernard Cohen, “The Eighteenth-Century Origins of the Concept of Scientific Revolution,” Journal of the History of Ideas 37, no. 2 (April–June 1976). For its economic counterpart, see Arnold Toynbee, The Industrial Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, [1884] 1956). He was the uncle of the famous metahistorian Arnold J. Toynbee. 5. John Foran, “Introduction,” in Theorizing Revolutions (London: Routledge, 1997), 1. He adduces the examples of the West Bank and Gaza, Algeria, Chiapas, and Peru, none of which has yet led to anything comparable to the great upheavals in the classical age of revolutions. 6. Hans Blumenberg, “Prospect for a Theory of Nonconceptuality,” in Shipwreck with Spec-


notes to pages 39–43

tator: Paradigm of a Metaphor for Existence, trans. Steven Rendell (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 94. 7. For an analysis of this aspect of Marx’s work, see Jeffrey Mehlman, Revolution and Repetition: Marx/Hugo/Balzac (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977). 8. See the title essay in my Fin-de-Siècle Socialism and Other Essays (New York: Routledge, 1989).

cultural relativism and the visual turn This essay originally appeared in Journal of Visual Culture 1, no. 3 (December 2002): 267–78. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications Ltd / SAGE Publications, Inc., All rights reserved. © 2002. 1. Hal Foster, ed., Vision and Visuality (Seattle: Bay Press, 1988). 2. W. J. T. Mitchell, “The Pictorial Turn,” in Picture Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). 3. Chris Jenks, ed., Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1995); Ian Heywood and Barry Sandywell, Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual (London: Routledge, 1999); Steven Melville and Bill Readings, eds., Vision and Textuality (Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Beate Allert, ed., Languages of Visuality: Crossings between Science, Art, Politics, and Literature (Detroit: Kritik, 1996); David Michael Levin, ed., Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993); Teresa Brennan and Martin Jay, eds., Vision in Context: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Sight (New York: Routledge, 1996); Nicholas Mirzoeff, ed., The Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 1998). 4.”Visual Culture Questionnaire,” October 77 (Summer 1996). 5. Foster, Vision and Visuality, ix. 6. Martin Jay, “Scopic Regimes of Modernity,” in Vision and Visuality, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1988). 7. Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988). 8. W. J. T. Mitchell, “Nature and Convention: Gombrich’s Illusions,” in Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 74. 9. The history of the vexed concept of mimesis shows, of course, how multifarious this assumption might be. See G. Gebauer and C. Wulf, Mimesis: Art-Culture-Society, trans. Don Reneau (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995). 10. Mitchell, “Nature and Convention,” 79. 11. Others, such as Marx Wartofsky and Robert Romanyshyn, have also defended a strong culturalist position on vision. See the extensive reference to their work in my Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993). 12. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 88. 13. Mitchell, “Nature and Convention,” 90. 14. John T. Kirby, “Classical Greek Origins of Western Aesthetic Theory,” in Languages of Visuality, ed. B. Allert (Detroit: Kritik, 1996), 36. 15. John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (London: Macmillan, 1988), 4.

notes to pages 43–50   


16. Umberto Eco, “Critique of the Image,” in Thinking Photography, ed. Victor Burgin (London: Macmillan, 1982), 34. 17. Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 12. 18. Jean-Louis Comolli, “Machines of the Visible,” in The Cinematic Apparatus, ed. Teresa de Lauretis and Stephen Heath (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1985), 122. 19. Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990); J. Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations,” in Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988); Régis Debray, Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms, trans. Eric Rauth (London: Verso, 1996), 171. 20. Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994), 24. 21. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image (New York: Harper and Row, 1961). 22. W. J. T. Mitchell, ed., The Languages of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). 23. Mitchell, Iconology, 38. 24. For useful recent discussions of culture and cultural relativism, see Geoffrey H. Hartman, The Fateful Question of Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); Francis Mulhern, Culture/Metaculture (London: Routledge, 2000); Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). For a concise and insightful investigation of the concept of culture itself, see Gyorgy Markus, “Culture: The Making and the Make-up of a Concept (An Essay in Historical Semantics),” Dialectical Anthropology 18 (1993). 25. For one discussion of its efficacy, see my “The Debate over Performative Contradiction: Habermas and the Post-Structuralists,” in Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993). 26. Sebastiano Timpanaro, On Materialism, trans. Lawrence Garner (London: Humanities Press, 1975); Kate Soper, What Is Nature? (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995); Eagleton, The Idea of Culture. 27. Eagleton, The Idea of Culture, 92–93. 28. James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 273. 29. Thomas Dacosta Kaufmann, “Response to the Visual Culture Questionnaire.” October 1996:48. 30. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). 31. Ibid., 113. 32. Debray, Media Manifestos, 152. 33. David MacDougall, Transcultural Cinema, ed. Lucien Taylor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 73. 34. Ibid., 262. 35. Jacqueline Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986); Brennan and Jay, Vision in Context, 1996. 36. Debray, Media Manifestos, 153. 37. Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Knopf, 1998).


notes to pages 51–56

scopic regimes of modernity revisited This essay appears in Handbook of Visual Culture, ed. Barry Sandywell and Ian Heywood (London: Berg, forthcoming). 1. See the website When the same question was asked of Yahoo! Answers on November 9, 2008, by a student who needed to know for a class in cultural studies, the answer was the same example. question/index?qid=20081109202323AAW0eaJ. 2. Hal Foster, ed., Vision and Visuality (New York: New Press, 1997). 3. Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper and Row, 1977). Weltbild implies more of a scientific view of the world, whereas Weltanschauung can also refer to prescientific intuitions. The term had been introduced by Wilhelm Dilthey. See the discussion in Rudolf A. Makkreel, Dilthey: Philosopher of the Human Sciences (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 349–54. He thought it was more strictly cognitive than a Weltanschauung. 4. Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James Strachey (New York: Norton, 1964), 158. 5. Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” 129. For an account of Heidegger’s use of the word, see the entry on it in Michael Inwood, ed., A Heidegger Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996). 6. Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” 130. 7. Ibid., 134. 8. Ibid., 131. 9. Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in 20th-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 21–33. 10. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979). 11. Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper and Row, 2008). 12. Foster, Vision and Visuality, 24. 13. Svetlana Alpers, The Dutch Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity, trans. Patrick Camiller (New York: Sage, 1994). 14. Jacqueline Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986), 233. 15. It was first published in Scott Lash and Jonathan Friedman, eds., Modernity and Identity (London: Blackwell, 1992), and then in Martin Jay, Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993). 16. Martin Jay, “Skyscapes of Modernity,” Salmagundi (Spring–Summer 2008): 158–59. 17. Tony Green, review of Vision and Visuality, and Steven Benson, Blue Book, M/E/A/N/ I/N/G 37 (May 1989). For an attempt to do just that, see Karen Jacobs, The Mind’s Eye: Literary Modernism and Visual Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001). 18. Margaret Atherton, “How to Write the History of Vision: Understanding the Relationship between Berkeley and Descartes,” in Sites of Vision: The Discursive Construction of Sight in the History of Philosophy, ed. David Michael Levin (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 140. In an essay in the same volume, “Discourse of Vision in 17th-century Metaphysics,” Catherine Wilson

notes to pages 56–59   


also argues that seventeenth-century metaphysicians had a more nuanced understanding of vision than is implied by the term “Cartesian perspectivalism.” 19. Atherton, “How to Write the History of Vision,” 148. 20. Christopher Braider, Baroque Self-Invention and Historical Truth: Hercules at the Crossroads (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004), 42. 21. Ibid., 67. 22. Ibid., 69. 23. At the 2003 annual meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, there was a panel titled “Visual Containment of Cultural Forms: An Examination of Epistemologies and Scopic Regimes.” In September 2007, the 24th International Conference of Society of Architectural Historians Australla and New Zealand was devoted to the theme, “Paradise: Scopic Regimes in Architectural and Urban History and Theory.” At the University of Amsterdam in 2008–9, there was an MA theme seminar on the topic “Scopic Regimes of Virtuality.” 24. For an attempt to wrestle with the vexed question of historical periodization in general, see “1990: Straddling a Watershed?” reprinted in this volume. 25. It has, however, been noted that perspective in the early modern period was itself ambiguous, sometimes implying a single transcendental subject, sometimes a plurality of different subjects. See Antonio Somaini, “On the ‘Scopic Regime,’ ” Leitmotif 5 (2005–6): 38. 26. David Darts, Kevin Tavin, Robert W. Sweeny, and John Derby, “Scopic Regime Change: The War on Terror, Visual Culture, and Art Education,” Studies in Art Education, April 1, 2008; Sarah Stanbury, “Regimes of the Visual in Premodern England: Gaze, Body, and Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale,” New Literary History 28 (1997): 2; Boreth Ly, “Devastated Vision(s): The Khmer Rouge Scopic Regime in Cambodia,” Art Journal, March 22, 2003. 27. Holly A. Getch Clarke, “Land-scopic Regimes: Exploring Perspectival Representation beyond the ‘Pictorial’ Project,” Landscape Journal 21 (2005): 1–5. 28. Timon Screech, Sex and the Floating World: Erotic Images in Japan 1700–1820 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004). 29. Pasi Falk, “The Scopic Regimes of Shopping,” in The Shopping Experience, ed. Pasi Falk and Colin B. Campbell (New York: Sage, 1997); Klaus Hentschel, Mapping the Spectrum: Techniques of Visual Representation in Research and Teaching (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 434. 30. Javier Sanjinés, “Subalternity within the ‘Mestizaje Ideal’: Negotiating the ‘Lettered Project’ with the Visual Arts,” Nepantla: Views from the South 1, no. 2 (2000); Christopher Pinney, “Notes from the Surface of the Image: Photographic Postcolonialism and Vernacular Modernism,” in Photography’s Other Histories, ed. Christopher Pinney and Nicolas Peterson (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Derek Gregory, “Emperors of the Gaze: Photographic Practices and Productions of Space in Egypt, 1839–1914,” in Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination, ed. Joan M. Schwartz and James R. Ryan (London: I. B. Tauris, 2003), 224. 31. Stanbury, “Regimes of the Visual in Premodern England”; Stamtine Dimakopoulou, “The Poetics of Vision and the Redemption of the Subject in John Ashbery’s ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,’” Poetics of the Subject 2, no. 2. (2004). 32. The show at the Keith Talent Gallery in London from February to April 2009, was titled “Baroque Reason,” which it explained in these terms: “This is a neo-baroque reflecting the dy-


notes to pages 59–64

namics of hybridity and difference. These artists celebrate the dazzling, the disorientating, and revel in baroque’s fascination with opacity, unreadability and the indecipherability of the reality they depict. This collection of paintings present a conception of reality in which the instability of forms in movement creates a duality; an enchanted illusion and a disenchanted world. The title of the exhibition is taken from the French philosopher Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s book on the aesthetics of modernity. Buci-Glucksmann claims, ‘If one had to single out a scopic regime that has finally come into its own in our time, it would be the madness of vision identified with the baroque.’ ” 33. Christina Degli-Eposti, “Sally Potter’s Orlando and the Neo-Baroque Scopic Regime,” Cinema Journal 36, no. 1 (Autumn 1996); idem, “The Neo-Baroque Scopic Regime in Postmodern Cinema: Metamorphoses and Morphogeneses: The Case of Peter Greenaway’s Encyclopedic Cinema,” Cinefocus 4 (1996). 34. Pinney, “Notes from the Surface of the Image.” 35. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001). 36. Patrick Singy, “Huber’s Eyes: The Art of Scientific Observation before the Emergence of Positivism,” Representations 95 (Summer 2006). 37. Leo Strauss. What Is Political Philosophy? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), 34. 38. Kathryn E. Kramer, “Myth, Invisibility, and Politics in the Late Work of Paul Klee,” in Languages of Visuality: Crossings between Science, Art, Politics, and Literature, ed. Beate Allert (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996), 182. 39. For an account, see my Downcast Eyes, chap. 8. 40. Marcelin Pleynet and Jean Thibaudeau, “Ëconomique, idéologique, formel,” Cinéthique 3 (1969): 10. 41. See the website 42. Moira Roth, with commentary by Jonathan D. Katz, Difference/Indifference: Musings on Postmodernism, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage (London: Routledge, 1998), 58. 43. See the website 44. As Hans-Georg Gadamer notes, scopi or perspective was a metaphor implying partial knowledge in rhetoric ever since the time of Melanchthon. See his Reason in the Age of Science, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), 125. 45. Chris Otter, The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain 1800–1910 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). 46. See, for example, Constance Classen, Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and across Cultures (London: Routledge, 1993).

no state of grace This essay originally appeared as “No State of Grace: Violence in the Garden” in Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision, ed. Dianne Harris and D. Fairchild Ruggles, © 2007. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. 1. It should be noted that the shift is not universal. Take, for example, the contrasting discussions of oxalis in two different gardening manuals in my library: “You have real trouble if this weed is in your lawn. It resists 2,4-D (although repeated applications may get it). It seems to have roots all along its stems, so that pulling is next to impossible. It has been discouraged by heavy applications of ammonious sulfate, removing source of shade

notes to pages 64–68   


that it needs to survive, and by digging plants out early and burning them. Force lawn grasses to smother it” (Sunset Western Gardening Book [Menlo Park, CA, 1957], 113). “These are among the best of the indoor bulb plants. Not only are they easy to find and easy to grow, they have a long bloom period and come in a variety of colors. . . . The bulbs will have produced a pot full of small bulblets, and even the tiniest of them—no larger than the head of a corsage pin—will produce a small plant and some flowers. Eventually all the little bulbs will grow to full size. So sift through the soil carefully, plant up all the bulbs, and you’ll never have to buy another oxalis bulb” (James Underwood Crockett, Crockett’s Indoor Garden [Boston: Little, Brown, 1973], 224–25). Context is all. 2. W. J. T. Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” in Landscape and Power, 2nd ed., ed. W. J. T. Mitchell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 29–30. 3. John Barrell, The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting, 1730–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). 4. For a general assessment of his work, see Peter Beilharz, Zygmunt Bauman: Dialectic of Modernity (London: Sage, 2000). 5. Ernst Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 50–52. 6. Zygmunt Bauman, Legislators and Interpreters: On Modernity, Post-modernity and Intellectuals (Oxford: Polity Press, 1987), chap. 4. 7. Ibid., 52. 8. Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), 70. 9. Bauman, Legislators and Interpreters, 51. 10. R. W. Darré, “Marriage Laws and the Principles of Breeding,” in Nazi Ideology before 1933, ed. Barbara Miller Lane and Leila J. Rupp (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1978), cited in Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 27. 11. Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence, 29. 12. See, for example, Amir Weiner, “Nature, Nurture, and Memory in a Socialist Utopia: Delineating the Soviet Socio-Ethnic Body in the Age of Socialism,” American Historical Review 104, no. 4 (October 1999): 1116, and Peter Holquist, “ ‘Information Is the Alpha and Omega of Our Work’: Bolshevik Surveillance in Its Pan-European Context,” Journal of Modern History 69, no. 3 (September 1997): 417. 13. See, for example, Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), chap. 4. 14. Michael Crozier, “Inter putatorem et vastitatem: The Ambivalence of the Garden Metaphor in Modernity,” in The Left in Search of a Center, ed. Michael Crozier and Peter Murphy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 72. 15. Cited in D. G. Charlton, New Images of the Natural in France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 31. For a more extensive critique, see Chandra Mukerji, “Reading and Writing with Nature: Social Claims and the French Formal Garden,” Theory and Society 19, no. 6 (December 1990). For a discussion of Cartesian perspectivalism, see Martin Jay, “Scopic Regimes of Modernity,” in Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993). 16. J. Mordaunt Crook, “Between Art and Nature: Landscape as a Metaphor of Mind,” Times


notes to pages 68–71

Literary Supplement, July 5, 1991, 15 (review of Monique Mosser and Georges Teyssot, eds., The History of Garden Design [London, 1991]). 17. Yi-Fu Tuan, Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall, 1984), 19–21. 18. Robert B. Riley, “Flowers, Power and Sex,” in The Meaning of Gardens: Idea, Place and Action, ed. Mark Francis and Randolph T. Hester Jr. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 62. 19. See John Dixon Hunt and Peter Willis, eds., The Genius of Place: The English Landscape Garden, 1620–1820 (New York: Norton, 1932). The French were later to pick up the trend, but it can be discerned in the last third of the eighteenth century there too. See Charlton, New Images of the Natural in France, chap. 2. 20. For a discussion of the interplay between landscape design and pictorial representations of gardens, see Roy Strong, The Artist and the Garden (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000). 21. Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (London: Chatto and Windus, 1973). 22. Arthur O. Lovejoy, “The Chinese Origin of a Romanticism,” Essays in the History of Ideas (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1960). He argues that the Chinese style of natural gardening was championed as early as the 1680s and the writings of Sir William Temple, but that it only came into its own in the late eighteenth century. Ironically, its popularity was undermined by the excessive enthusiasm of Sir William Chambers, who claimed it went beyond imitating nature in its wild and imaginative irregularities. The later history of the Western interpretation of the Chinese garden is traced by Craig Clunas in “Nature and Ideology in Western Descriptions of the Chinese Garden,” in Nature and Ideology: Natural Garden Design in the Twentieth Century, ed. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1997). He shows that by the 1820s, Chinese gardens came to be attacked as the essence of artificiality, but then a century later, they were once again regarded as close to nature! 23. John Constable’s Correspondence, ed. R. B. Beckett (Suffolk Recs. Soc. 1962–68), vi, 98. Cited in Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: A History of the Modern Sensibility (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983), 266. 24. Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Knopf, 1995), 521. 25. See Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 254–69. 26. Ann Bermingham, “System, Order and Abstraction: The Politics of English Landscape Drawing around 1795,” in Mitchell, Landscape and Power, and idem, Landscape and Ideology: The English Rustic Tradition, 1740–1860 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986). 27. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. J.G.A. Pocock (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), 152. 28. Schama, Landscape and Memory, chap. 3 29. The gamekeeper model contrasted by Bauman with modernist gardening was, of course, itself open to precisely this charge, as it involved a crucial distinction between those who were given the right to hunt and those prohibited from poaching. 30. Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 31. Mitchell, “Imperial Landscapes,” 9. 32. Willy Lange, Gartengestaltung der Neuzeit (Leipzig, 1907). His first essays appeared in 1900 and 1901 in the journal Gartenwelt. 33. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn and Gert Groening, “The Ideology of the Nature Garden: Nationalistic Trends in Garden Design in Germany during the Early Twentieth Century,” Journal

notes to pages 71–75   


of Garden History 12, no. 1 (1992); Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, “The ‘Wild Garden’ and the ‘Nature Garden’: Aspects of the Garden Ideology of William Robinson and Willy Lange,” Journal of Garden History 12, no. 3 (1992); Gert Groening and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, “Some Notes on the Mania for Native Plants in Germany,” Landscape Journal 11, no. 2 (Fall 1992); Gert Groening, “The Idea of Land Embellishment,” Journal of Garden History 12, no. 3 (1992); Joachim WolschkeBulmahn, “The Nationalization of Nature and the Naturalization of the German Nation: ‘Teutonic’ Trends in Early Twentieth-Century Landscape Design,” in Wolschke-Bulmahn, Nature and Ideology; Gert Groening, “Ideological Aspects of Nature Garden Concepts in Late TwentiethCentury Germany,” in Wolschke-Bulmahn, Nature and Ideology; and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn and Gert Groening, “The National Socialist Garden and Landscaping Ideal: Bodenständigkeit (Rootedness in the Soil),” in Art, Culture and Media under the Third Reich, ed. Richard A. Etlin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). 34. See, for example, Hans-Günter Zmarzlik, “Social Darwinism in Germany, Seen as a Historical Problem,” in Republic to Reich: The Making of the Nazi Revolution, ed. Hajo Holborn (New York: Pantheon, 1972). 35. For a lucid and sympathetic discussion of the role of Lichtung in Heidegger, see Hubert L. Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” Division I (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), chap. 9. 36. Cited in Wolschke-Bulmahn and Groening, “The National Socialist Garden and Landscape Ideal,” 82. 37. Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947), 257–63. 38. Robert N. Proctor, The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999). 39. Jim Robbins, “Native Grounds,” New York Times Magazine, May 16, 2004. 40. Kim Sorvig, “Natives and Nazis: An Imaginary Conspiracy in Ecological Design: Commentary on G. Groening and J. Wolschke-Bulmahn’s ‘Some Notes on the Mania for Native Plants in Germany,’ ” Landscape Journal 13, no. 1 (Spring 1994). Their unrepentant response is in the same issue: “If the Shoe Fits, Wear It.” 41. Sorvig, “Natives and Nazis,” 59 42. W. J. T. Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” 10. 43. Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984). 44. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics, Spring 1986. 45. Yi-Fu Tuan repeats the familiar association when he claims that the landscape painting and gardening were “forms of art that emphasized sight over the other senses. Sight commanded space—panoramic views and regions. One could envisage a potentate, most likely male, standing on a hill and casting his proprietary gaze over a large and handsomely landscaped domain.” “Introduction: Cosmos Versus Hearth,” in Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies, ed. Paul C. Adams, Steven Hoelscher, and Karen E. Till (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 321. 46. Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture,” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper and Row, 1977). 47. The complicated and multifaceted battle between “place” and “space” is vividly brought out in Edward S. Casey’s learned and subtle history, The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History


notes to pages 75–81

(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997). Among his topics is the crucial role of place in Heidegger’s philosophy. See also his rumination, “Body, Self, and Landscape: A Geophilosophical Inquiry into the Place-World,” in Adams, Hoelscher, and Till, Textures of Place, and Kenneth R. Olwig, “Landscape as a Contested Topos of Place, Community, and Self,” ibid. 48. Marc Treib, “Power Plays: The Garden as Pet,” in Francis and Hester, The Meaning of Gardens, 93. 49. Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 256. 50. For a brilliant analysis of all the dimensions of this painting, see Louis Marin, “Toward a Theory of Reading in the Visual Arts: Poussin’s The Arcadian Shepherds,” in Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France, ed. Norman Bryson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). 51. Hannah Arendt, “On Violence,” in Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1972). 52. Ibid, 144.

visual parrhesia? This essay originally appeared in A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy, ed. James J. Bono, Tim Dean, and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). Reprinted by permission of the publisher. The epigraph to this chapter is from Michel Foucault, “The Concern for Truth,” in Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977–1984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman (New York, 1988), 267. 1. Hubert Damisch, Huit theses pour (ou contre?) une sémiologie de la peinture (Paris: Hermann, 1978); Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). 2. Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993). 3. John Rajchman, “Foucault’s Art of Seeing,” October 44 (Spring 1988). 4. David Michael Levin, “Keeping Foucault and Derrida in Sight: Panopticism and the Politics of Subversion,” in Sites of Vision: The Discursive Construction of Sight in the History of Philosophy, ed. David Michael Levin (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997); Thomas R. Flynn, “The Eclipse of Vision?,” in Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason: A Poststructuralist Mapping of History, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); and Gary Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision: Foucault and Nietzsche on Seeing and Saying (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). 5. Flynn, “The Eclipse of Vision,” 85. 6. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision, 10. 7. Ibid., 294. 8. Jay, Downcast Eyes, 414. 9. Michel Foucault, “History of Systems of Thought,” in Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. Donald F. Bouchard, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 202. 10. Michel Foucault, “A Preface to Transgression,” in Language, Counter-memory, Practice, 45. 11. Ibid., 41. 12. Michel Foucault, “Truth and Power,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 118.

notes to pages 82–88   


13. Foucault, “Afterword,” in Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 252. 14. The motto was based on following lines from Horace: “. . . nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, / quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes” (Horace, Epistles I.i, 14–15) (My words are not owned by any master, where the winds [of reason] lead me, there I find home). 15. Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech, ed. Joseph Pearson (Los Angeles: Seimiotext(e), 2001). 16. Ibid., 12. 17. Ibid., 19. 18. Michel Foucault, The Use of Pleasure, vol. 2 of The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon, 1985); idem, The Care of the Self, vol. 3 of The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon, 1988). 19. Foucault, Fearless Speech, 170. 20. Michel Foucault, “Structuralism and Poststructuralism,” in Essential Works, 2:444. 21. Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault, trans. Betsy Wing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 254. 22. Foucault, Fearless Speech, 14. 23. Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. A. M. Sheridan (London: Tavistock, 1976), xiii. 24. Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). 25. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, 39. 26. Ibid., 120. 27. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Sean Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 49–50. The term “heautonomy” is taken from Kant’s Third Critique, where it is introduced to signify a law given reflectively by judgment, a law that does not apply to objects in nature but only to subjective processes of judgment themselves. In contrast to autonomy, it does not involve finding an objective law to follow. 28. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision, 250. 29. Deleuze, Foucault, 82. 30. Ibid., 121. 31. Michel de Certeau, “Micro-techniques and Panoptic Discourse: A Quid Pro Quo,” Humanities in Society 5, nos. 3/4 (Summer–Fall 1982), 264. 32. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision, 310. 33. Ibid., 312. 34. Martin Jay, “Scopic Regimes of Modernity,” Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993). 35. Michel Foucault, This Is Not a Pipe, trans. James Harkness (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), 20. 36. Ibid., 43. 37. Ibid., 44. 38. Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision, 369. 39. Ibid., 247.


notes to pages 89–94

the kremlin of modernism This essay originally appeared in Salmagundi 148–49 (Fall 2005–Winter 2006). Reprinted by permission of Salmagundi Magazine. 1. Bernard Smith, Modernism’s History: A Study in Twentieth-Century Art and Ideas (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998). 2. Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976). The title essay, originally from a MoMA lecture in 1968, was directed against Clement Greenberg’s “Modernist Painting” of 1965. It argues for the transformation of the flat, vertically hung picture plane in favor of the more capacious, often horizontal “flatbed” canvas. 3. Rosalind E. Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985). The expanded field included architecture and landscape, which relativized the purity of sculpture as an aesthetic realm entirely unto itself. 4. The epic saga of how Greenberg and Fried were challenged as critical icons has been told in many places; for Fried’s own recollection of his losing struggle, see the lengthy introduction to Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), which contains the seminal essay with that same name of 1967. For a still more recent reexamination, see the essays in Refracting Vision: Essays on the Writings of Michael Fried, ed. Jill Beaulieu, Mary Roberts, and Toni Ross (Sydney: Power Publications, 2000). 5. The challenge to the hegemony of the disembodied eye in a context broader than that of the art of this era is discussed in my Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993). 6. Irving Sandler, The Triumph of American Painting (New York: Praeger, 1970). The most potent attack was leveled by Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). 7. Hal Foster, Prosthetic Gods (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), chap. 7. He points out that early appreciations of the change were already evident in the reading of Jackson Pollock’s work as bodily performance by critics such as Harold Rosenberg and Allen Kaprow, against the efforts of Greenberg and Fried to recuperate his dripped canvases for pure opticality. He adds, however, that the simple opposition between the two alternatives fails to do justice to much of the work done in the period by artists like Rauschenberg and Johns. 8. The term, taken from Benjamin, was, as it were, fleshed out by Rosalind E. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993). 9. Martha Rosler, “Lookers, Buyers, Dealers, and Makers: Thoughts on the Audience,” in Art after Modernism: Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis (New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1988), 324. 10. Joseph Kossuth, Art after Philosophy and After: Collected Writings, 1966–1990, ed. Gabriele Buercio (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 197. The remark comes in an essay attacking the glorification of Picasso, who was often pitted against Duchamp in the battle between modernism and postmodernism. 11. Douglas Crimp, On the Museum’s Ruins, with photographs by Louise Lawler (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993). Varnadoe’s continuing adherence to the more traditional view is evidenced

notes to pages 94–99   


in his genial history of modernism, A Fine Disregard: What Makes Modern Art Modern (New York: Abrams, 1994), where Duchamp’s name is not even mentioned. In his selection of objects for a 1996 rehanging, Varnadoe brought Duchamp out of the shadows. 12. Ibid., 87. 13. Arthur Danto, “The Rebirth of the Modern,” Nation, January 31, 2005, 34. The second part of that sentence, however, notes the impact of watching other people move through the galleries, which introduces an animation that evokes the temporality of minimalism. Another expression Danto praises of the new museum’s tacit move away from orthodox formalesque modernism is its opening the building to the outside world, the hustle and bustle of New York, through literal windows that mingle art and life. 14. John C. Welchman, Invisible Colors: A Visual History of Titles (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997). The practice began with Paul Signac in 1887. Welchman also notes the use of abstract musical metaphors and elaborate, absurdist titles by other modernists. 15. Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting , trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). In the Third Critique, Kant had called the parergon all that was inessential and merely ornamental in art, for example, the frame on a painting, the costume on a statue, or the colonnades on a building. 16. Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” in Styles of Radical Will (New York: Farrar, Strauss, 1970), 16. 17. Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner, “Red-Hot MoMA,” New York Review of Books, 52, 1 (January 13, 2005); Hal Foster, “It’s Modern But Is It Contemporary?,” London Review of Books, December 16, 2004. For other examples of the more critical response, see the selection of reviews in Artforum 43, no. 6 (February 2005), especially those by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh and Yves-Alain Bois. Buchloh recalls Martha Rosler’s crack about the “Kremlin of modernism” and calls her absence from the museum and others like her descended from the Dadaist John Heartfield “a scandal.” 18. Indeed, in all its multiple forms, it is thriving as never before, as is the chatter about it. See Randolph Starn, “A Historian’s Brief Guide to New Museum Studies,” American Historical Review 110, no. 1 (February 2005). He also gives many examples of the “return of the object” in curatorial practices. We may perhaps even live in “an age of museums,” if the lively Salmagundi symposium in the 139–140 (Summer–Fall 2003) issue is any indication. 19. Craig Owens, Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, Culture, ed. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tillman, and Jane Weinstock (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 271. 20. T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from the History of Modernism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), chap. 7. 21. See “A Powerful Collector Changes Course: Saatchi, Patron of Outrageous Art, Proclaims the Rebirth of Painting,” New York Times, January 30, 2005.

phenomenology and lived experience This essay originally appeared as “The Lifeworld and Lived Experience” in A Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism, ed. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark Wrathall (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006). Reprinted by permission of the publisher. 1. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 60.


notes to pages 99–103

2. Ibid., 61–62. Derrida’s critique of phenomenological notions of experience was likely reinforced by the connection between Husserl’s notion of evidence and the privileging of sight, for example in Cartesian Meditations, trans. Dorion Cairns (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960), where he writes, “Evidence is, in an extremely broad sense, an ‘experiencing’ of something that is, and is thus; it is precisely a mental seeing of something itself ” (52, italics in original). For a discussion of Derrida’s complicated response to ocularcentrism, see my Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), chap. 9. For an analysis of his claims about presence in Husserl, see Rudolf Bernet, “Is the Present ever Present? Phenomenology and the Metaphysics of Presence,” in Husserl and Contemporary Thought, ed. John Sallis (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1983). 3. Jacques Derrida, Positions, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 30. 4. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Routledge, 1973), 326. 5. Michel Foucault, “How an ‘Experience-Book’ Is Born,” in Remarks on Marx: Conversations with Duccio Trombadori, trans. R. James Goldstein and James Cascaito (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991), 31 (trans. emended). 6. Ibid., 31–32. 7. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Sean Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 109 8. Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 45–46. Later he would link the idea of experience in twentieth-century phenomenology to its predecessor in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (88). 9. Jean-François Lyotard, “Discussions, or Phrasing ‘after Auschwitz,’ ” in The Lyotard Reader, ed. Andrew Benjamin (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), 364. 10. Husserl’s earlier work, Philosophie der Arithmetik (1894), was itself castigated as psychologistic by Gottlob Frege, but he soon absorbed this lesson and resolutely attacked it wherever it appeared. For a general account of psychologism and Husserl’s role in criticizing it, see Martin Kusch, Psychologism: A Case Study of the Sociology of Philosophical Knowledge (London, 1995). 11. Husserl, “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” (1911) in Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, trans. Quentin Lauer (New York, 1965), 146. The Greek phase means “the roots of all.” 12. A. D. Smith, Husserl and the “Cartesian Meditations” (London, 2003), 17. 13. For a discussion of the implications of Evidenz (sometimes translated as “self-evidence”) for Husserl, see Smith, Husserl and the “Cartesian Meditations,” 50. 14. For a useful introduction to Brentano’s notion of intentionality and Husserl’s partial appropriation of it, see Roderick M. Chisholm, “Brentano on Descriptive Psychology and the Intentional,” in Phenomenology and Existentialism, ed. Edward N. Lee and Maurice Mandelbaum (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967). The concept of intentionality can be traced back to the Scholastics, for example in St. Anselm’s ontological proof of God. 15. Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, trans. F. Kersten (Boston, 1980). 16. Husserl, Logical Investigations, trans. J. Findlay (London, 1973), 104. 17. Husserl, Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaft und die transzendentale Phänomenologie (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1954), 236–37.

notes to pages 104–107   


18. For a discussion, see Claude Lefort, “L’idée d’être brut et d’esprit sauvage,” in Sur une colonne absente: Écrits autour de Merleau-Ponty (Paris, 1978). 19. Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, trans. D. Cairnes (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), 38f. 20. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. C. Smith (New York, 1962); Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973). For considerations of their critiques, see, respectively, Jacques Taminiaux, Dialectic and Difference: Modern Thought and the Sense of Human Limits, ed. and trans. Robert Crease and James T. Decker (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1990), 131–54, and Robert D’Amico, Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), 230–42. 21. Quentin Lauer, Phenomenology: Its Genesis and Prospect (New York, 1965), 77. 22. Husserl, Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a Genealogy of Logic, ed. Ludwig Landgrebe, trans. James S. Churchill and Karl Ameriks (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 41. 23. For a still valuable critique from a dialectical perspective, see Theodor W. Adorno, Against Epistemology: A Metacritique, trans. Willis Domingo (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983). 24. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Nonsense, trans. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Patricia A. Dreyfus (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 135. 25. Ibid. 26. For a comparison of Heidegger and Dilthey, see Charles R. Bambach, Heidegger, Dilthey, and the Crisis of Historicism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995). 27. Heidegger, Being and Time, 226. For a discussion of this passage, see Hubert L. Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” Division 1 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), 177. 28. Calvin O. Schrag, Experience and Being (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969), 265. 29. For a summary of his various discussions of Erfahrung, see the helpful entry “Experience” in Michael Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 63. 30. The literature on Benjamin’s analysis of the two types of experience is voluminous. For my own attempt to sort it out, which cites the most important interpretations, see Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: European and American Variations on a Universal Theme (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004), chap. 8. For comparisons of Heidegger and Benjamin, see Howard Caygill, “Benjamin, Heidegger and the Destruction of Tradition,” and Andrew Benjamin, “Time and Task: Benjamin and Heidegger Showing the Present,” in Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience, ed. Andrew Benjamin and Pete Osborne (London, 1994); Willem van Reijin, Der Schwarzwald und Paris: Heidegger and Benjamin (Munich, 1998); Christopher P. Long, “Art’s Fateful Hour: Benjamin, Heidegger, Art and Politics,” New German Critique 83 (Spring–Summer 2001); and Krzysztof Ziarek, The Historicity of Experience: Modernity, the Avant-Garde, and the Event (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001), chap. 1. 31. Heidegger, Hegel’s Concept of Experience (New York: Harper and Row, 1970). The translations of Hegel are by Kenley Royce Dove, those of Heidegger are not credited. For a helpful gloss on this book, see Robert Bernasconi, The Question of Language in Heidegger’s History of Being (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1985), chap. 6. 32. Heidegger, Hegel’s Concept of Experience, 149. “Die Parusie des Absoluten geschieht als


notes to pages 107–113

die Phanomenologie. Die Erfahrung ist das Sein, demgemass das Absolute bei uns sein will.” Holzwege, Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1977), 5:204. 33. Ibid., 148. „Weil die Phanomenologie die Erfahrung ist, die Seiendheit des Seienden, deshalb ist sie die Versammlung des Sicherscheinens auf das Erscheinen aus dem Scheinen des Absoluten.“ Holzwege, 203. 34. See the entry under “Event” in Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary. 35. Heidegger, “The Nature of Language,” in On the Way to Language, trans. Peter Hertz (New York: McGraw, 1959), 59. 36. Heidegger, Gesamte Ausgabe, 56/57, Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1987), 75. 37. Heidegger, “Die Gefahr,” in Bremen und Freiburger Vorträge (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1994), 54. 38. Charles E. Scott, “Introduction: Approaching Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy and Its Companion,” in Companion to Heidegger’s “Contributions to Philosophy,” ed. Charles E. Scott, Susan M. Schoenbohm, Daniela Vallega-Nen, and Alejandro Vallega (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 1. 39. Bernasconi, The Question of Language in Heidegger’s History of Being, 85. 40. See Theodor W. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will (London: Routledge, 1973). 41. David Wood, Thinking after Heidegger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 24–25. 42. See also Rei Terada, Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the “Death of the Subject” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 43. Tilottama Rajan, Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 127. 44. These variations on the theme of experience without a strong notion of the subject are explored in my Songs of Experience.

aesthetic experience and historical experience This essay originally appeared in the exhibition catalog Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History, ed. Nato Thompson (North Adams, MA: MASS MoCA/Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 2006). 1. Significantly, all the other muses but one—Urania, who inspires the astronomer to tell the future by looking at the stars—are devoted to artistic pursuits: music, dance, lyric poetry, sacred poetry, love poetry, comedy, and tragedy. 2. Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973). 3. For a recent discussion of the debates over ekphrasis, see W. J. T. Mitchell, “Ekphrasis and the Other,” in Picture Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). 4. The balance between the narrative and descriptive components in history painting could, of course, vary. For an account of the tension between them, especially as it played out in the contrast between early modern Dutch and Italian painting, see Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). 5. For a rich and suggestive analysis of this painting and other images of actual historical surrenders, see Robin Wagner-Pacifici, The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict’s End (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

notes to pages 113–125   


6. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991). 7. For a recent survey covering nine different contexts in Asia and Europe as well as America, see Barbara McCloskey, Artists of World War II (Westport, CT: Greenwod Press, 2005). As the example of Picasso’s Guernica shows, even modernists could heed the call of historical events and respond in their work. 8. Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1993). 9. For examples of its survival in these ways in the transitional period away from communism, see Aleˇs Erjavec, ed., Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition: Politicized Art under Late Socialism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003). 10. For a recent discussion, see Hans Belting, Art History after Modernism, trans. Caroline Saltzwedel, Mitch Cohen, and Kenneth Northcott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). 11. Harold Rosenberg, The Tradition of the New (New York: Horizon Press, 1959). 12. Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984). 13. Lutz Niethammer, Posthistoire: Has History Come to an End?, trans. Patrick Camiller (New York: Verso, 1992). 14. For an account of their work, see Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: Modern European and American Variations on a Universal Theme (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004), chap. 5. 15. Eelco Runia, “Presence,” History and Theory 45 (February 2006). 16. W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (London: Penguin, 2001). 17. Runia, “Presence,” 16. 18. Ibid. 19. Alois Riegl, “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin,” Oppositions 25 (Fall 1982). For an excellent discussion of its importance, see Michael Gubser, Time’s Visible Surface: Alois Reigl and the Discourse of History and Temporality in Fin-de-siècle Vienna (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005). 20. Riegl, “The Modern Cult of Monuments,” 24. 21. Runia, “Presence,” 16. 22. For a recent rumination on this dimension of historical experience, see F. R. Ankersmit, Sublime Historical Experience (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005).

still waiting to hear from derrida This essay originally appeared in Salmagundi 150–51 (Spring–Summer 2006). Reprinted by permission of Salmagundi Magazine. 1. The most obvious example would be the two essays “Habermas and Modernism” and “Habermas and Postmodernism,” in Fin-de-siècle Socialism and Other Essays (New York: Routledge, 1988). 2. Jacques Derrida, “Some Statements and Truisms about Neologisms, Newisms, Postisms, Parasitisms, and Other Small Seismisms,” in The States of “Theory” History, Art and Critical Discourse, ed. David Carroll (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 68. 3. Jeffrey Mehlman, “Writing and Deference: The Politics of Literary Adulation,” Representations 15 (Summer 1986): 1–14. The article insinuated a complicated link between grammatology


notes to pages 125–133

and collaboration during the Nazi era, thus anticipating the scandal that broke the following year over Paul de Man’s wartime journalism. 4. Richard Wolin, ed., The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991); the second edition without the interview and with Wolin’s explanation for its absence appeared two years later with MIT Press. For Derrida’s reflection on the dispute that followed, see his interview in Points: Interviews, 1974–1994, ed. Elisabeth Weber, trans. Peggy Kamuf et al. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995). 5. Jacques Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other; or, The Prosthesis of Origin, trans. Patrick Mensah (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998). 6. Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris, A Taste for the Secret, ed. Giacomo Donis and David Webb, trans. Giacomo Donis (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001), 30. 7. Ibid., 32. 8. Jacques Derrida, The Ear of the Other, ed. Christie McDonald, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), 20. 9. Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other, 67. 10. Ibid., 68. 11. Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, trans. David Wills (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). 12. Derrida, The Ear of the Other, 50–51.

pseudology This essay originally appeared in Derrida and the Time of the Political, ed. Pheng Cheah and Suzanne Guerlac (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Duke University Press. 1. Richard Wolin, Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Hans Jonas and Herbert Marcuse (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). Although Derrida is not included in this volume, Wolin has made extensive efforts elsewhere to link deconstruction to Heidegger’s legacy, in particular its political dimensions. Derrida was not pleased by the results. 2. Jacques Derrida, Without Alibi, ed. and trans. Peggy Kamuf (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002). Earlier versions appeared in Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 19, no. 2 / 20, no. 1 (1997), and in Futures of Jacques Derrida, ed. Richard Rand (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001). 3. Hannah Arendt, “Truth in Politics,” in Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (New York: Penguin, 1968) (the citation in Without Alibi misdates it in the 1961 collection, before the essay was added to the expanded 1968 edition), and The Portable Hannah Arendt, ed. Peter Baehr (New York: Penguin, 2000), from which the following quotations are taken, and “Lying in Politics,” Crises of the Republic (New York, 1969). For my own assessment of Arendt’s thoughts on these issues, see “The Ambivalent Virtues of Mendacity: How Europeans Taught (Some of ) Us to Learn to Love the Lies of Politics,” in The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion Since World War II, ed. David A. Hollinger (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). Here I spell out in somewhat greater detail the arguments she makes against truth-telling in politics. 4. Derrida, Without Alibi, 32. 5. Ibid., 38. 6. Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris, A Taste for the Secret, ed. Giacomo Donis and

notes to pages 133–139   


David Webb, trans. Giacomo Donis (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001). Here he confesses, “I have a taste for the secret, it clearly has to do with not-belonging; I have an impulse of fear or terror in the face of a political space, for example, a public space that makes no room for the secret. For me, the demand that everything be paraded in the public squre and that there be no internal forum is a glaring sign of the totalitarianization of democracy” (59). He also developed an argument about Kant’s discussion of secrets in The Politics of Friendship. 7. Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech, ed. Joseph Pearson (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2001). The metaphor of being cloaked in a mantle suggests, of course, the covering over of something beneath, some more basic truth about a person. For a consideration of this issue, see John Vignaux Smyth, The Habit of Lying: Sacrificial Studies in Literature, Philosophy, and Fashion Theory (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). 8. Derrida, Without Alibi, 29. 9. Ibid., 34. 10. Ibid., 37. He repeats this point in “ ‘Le Parjure,’ Perhaps,” where he approvingly cites J. Hillis Miller’s essay “The Anacoluthonic Lie”: “contrary to what seems common sense, a lie is a performative, not a constative, form of language. Or, rather, it mixes inextricably constative and performative language” (169). 11. Ibid., 37. 12. Ibid. 38. 13. Ibid., 40. 14. Ibid., 41. 15. Ibid., 42. In “Truth and Politics,” Arendt puts it this way: “the difference between the traditional lie and the modern lie will more often than not amount to the difference between hiding and destroying” (565). 16. For a discussion of their debate, see Robert J. Benton, “Political Expediency and Lying: Kant vs. Benjamin Constant,” Journal of the History of Ideas 43, no. 1 (January–March 1982), which has all the relevant citations to the original texts. 17. Derrida, Without Alibi, 51. 18. Ibid., 52. For a similar argument, albeit from a Habermasian perspective, see my response to Hayden White and Carlo Ginzburg, “Of Plots, Witnesses and Judgments,” in Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the “Final Solution,” ed. Saul Friedlander (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1992). 19. Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–1956 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992). 20. Derrida, Without Alibi, 57. 21. Ibid. 22. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994). 23. Alexander Koyré, “The Political Function of the Modern Lie,” Contemporary Jewish Record 8, no. 3 (June 1945). 24. Derrida, Without Alibi, 59. 25. Ibid., 60. 26. Ibid., 61. 27. The phrase, cited in Derrida, Without Alibi, 62, is from Koyré’s essay. 28. Ibid., 63.


notes to pages 139–144

29. This function is also explicit in the “Nicodemist” crypto-Protestant resisters to Catholicism and Catholic resisters to Anglican coercion during the Reformation. See the discussion in Perez Zagorin, Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution, and Conformity in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990). Whether or not civil disobedience can ever be fully clandestine is another matter. If it seeks to change laws rather than merely evade them, it has to have a public resonance. 30. Derrida, Without Alibi, 65. 31. Ibid., 66. 32. Ibid., 67. 33. Ibid., 69. 34. Ibid., 70. 35. In places, Arendt agrees with this conclusion, for example in “Lying in Politics,” where she writes, “the trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods” (31). 36. This, of course, is not the first time that Derrida considered the questions of archives. See his Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), where the question of what is kept in an archive and what is not—secrets, for example—is raised. 37. There are many permutations of the relationship between the performative and the constative in lying. For example, one may intend to tell a lie but inadvertently reveal the truth. 38. See, for example, Jeremy Campbell, The Liar’s Tale: A History of Falsehood (New York: Norton, 2001), chap. 18. It also seems to me that this double-barreled quality of the lie as in part dependent on the ability to know what is true undercuts the claim made by Peggy Kamuf in her introduction to Without Alibi, that Derrida is focused entirely on truth as made rather than told, as entirely performative, despite Derrida’s fondness for Augustine’s formula about “making the truth” (11). For only if there is some external standard does it make sense to argue for the mixed quality—at once performative and constative—of the frank lie. 39. See, for example, “Truth in Politics,” where she asserts that the liar “is an actor by nature; he says what is not so because he wants things to be different from what they are—that is, he wants to change the world” (563). 40. Arendt does, to be sure, admit that under certain circumstances, truth-telling can also lead to change: “where everybody lies about everything of importance, the truthteller, whether he knows it or not, has begun to act; he, too, has engaged himself in political business, for, in the unlikely event that he survives, he has made a start toward changing the world” (ibid., 564). 41. Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1965), 215. In other cases, she stressed how often revolutions justified themselves as restorations rather than as absolute and violent breaks with the status quo. 42. Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” 565. 43. Arendt, “On Violence,” in Crises of the Republic. 44. Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” 573–74. 45. Arendt, “Lying in Politics,” 36. 46. Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” 566. 47. Ibid., 567. Derrida notes this claim, but wonders what Arendt meant by “fully democratic conditions” (Without Alibi, 58).

notes to pages 144–151   


48. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols, in Complete Works, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis, 1911), 16:212. 49. For a recent overview of the debate, see J. A. Barnes, A Pack of Lies: Towards a Sociology of Lying (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), chap. 7. For a defense of the evolutionary value of self-deception by a sociobiologist—it serves the function of preventing us from providing somatic clues to what we really think to our enemies—see David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004). 50. Such a theory might also draw on the extensive ideology critique of later Western Marxists, such as the members of the Frankfurt School. Although the relationship between deconstruction and the tradition of ideology critique, based on a tacit belief that nonideological truth might be known, is uneasy, Derrida shared with the tradition an evident desire to unmask illusion that pretended to be truth, especially when it serves to legitimate and maintain social injustice. 51. Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” 568. 52. Derrida, Without Alibi, 69. 53. Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” 570. 54. There is, to be sure, no reason that telling the truth about one’s intentions should be taken to imply a belief in a singular ontological truth about the world. Arendt sometimes seems to forget the distinction. 55. Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” 553. 56. Referring back to this statement later in her essay, Arendt added, “A factual statement— Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914—acquires political implications only by being put in an interpretive context. But the opposite proposition, which Clemenceau, still unacquainted with the arts of rewriting history, thought absurd, needs no context to be of political significance. It is clearly an attempt to change the record, and as such, it is a form of action” (562). 57. Ibid., 556. Strictly speaking, “truth” doesn’t assert anything; only speakers can do that. Arendt was clearly less sensitive to the linguistic dimensions of speech act theory than Derrida. 58. Ibid., 574. 59. Derrida, Without Alibi, 293. 60. Ibid. 61. Ibid. 62. Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, trans. Ronald Beiner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

the menace of consilience This essay originally appeared in The University, Globalization, Central Europe, ed. Marek Kwiek (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2003). 1. Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Knopf, 1998). For a particularly insightful response, see H. Allen Orr, “The Big Picture,” Boston Review 23, no. 5 (October–November, 1998). 2. Ellen Messer-Davidow, David R. Shumway, and David J. Sylvan, eds., Knowledges: Historical and Critical Studies in Disciplinarity (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993). This was the first in the series Disciplinarity and Beyond. 3. Clifford Geertz, “Blurred Genres: The Reconfiguration of Social Thought,” American


notes to pages 151–164

Scholar 49 (1980): 165–79. His main focus was on the penetration of discursive analogies from the humanities into the social sciences. 4. This statement is listed in the “Aims and Scope” manifesto on the back of most issues. 5. See David A. Hollinger, “The Disciplines and the Identity Debates, 1970–1995,” Daedalus 126, no. 1 (Winter 1997). This essay is part of a special issue titled American Academic Culture in Transition: Fifty Years, Four Disciplines, which focuses on philosophy, literary studies, political science, and economics. Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is itself an older transdisciplinary journal, matched only by The American Scholar, published by Phi Beta Kappa. 6. Timothy Lenoir, “The Discipline of Nature and the Nature of Discipline,” in MesserDavidow, Shumway, and Sylvan, Knowledges, 82. 7. Martin Jay, “Positive and Negative Totalities: Implicit Tensions in Critical Theory’s Vision of Interdisciplinary Research,” in Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). 8. Geoffrey Hartman, The Fateful Question of Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); John Carlos Rowe, ed., “Culture” and the Problem of the Disciplines (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). 9. Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 119. 10. See the introduction to Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993) for my most sustained attempt to discuss it. 11. Julie Thompson Klein, “Blurring, Cracking, and Crossing: Permeation and the Fracturing of Discipline,” in Messer-Davidow, Shumway, and Sylvan, Knowledges, 188. 12. Theodor W. Adorno, “Sociology and Psychology,” New Left Review 46 (November– December 1967): 78. 13. Hans Blumenberg, “Prospect for a Theory of Non-Conceptuality,” in Shipwreck with Spectator: Paradigm of a Metaphor for Existence, trans. Stephen Rendall (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997). 14. Ibid., 95. 15. Ibid., 83. 16. Ibid., 89. 17. J. Hillis Miller, “Literary and Cultural Studies in the Transnational University,” in Rowe, “Culture” and the Problems of the Disciplines, 64. To make his argument, Miller explicitly draws on Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996). 18. Dominick LaCapra, “The University in Ruins?,” Critical Inquiry 25 (Autumn 1998): 43.

can there be national philosophies in a transnational world? 1. Adam J. Chmielewski, “Looking Westward: The Submissiveness of Polish Philosophy,” Times Literary Suppplement, June 23, 2000. 2. Ibid., 16. 3. Ibid. 4. Plato, Phaedrus, 275c. 5. Jacques Derrida, L’Autre Cap, suivi de la démocratie ajournée (Paris: Minuit, 1991), 72. For a general discussion of the lectures, see Dana Hollander, Exemplarity and Chosenness: Rosenzweig and Derrida on the Nation of Philosophy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008).

notes to pages 164–172   


6. Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). 7. Edward Said, “Traveling Theory,” in The World, the Text and the Critic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). 8. Jacques Derrida, Without Alibi, ed. and trans. Peggy Kamuf (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 43. 9. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation, trans. R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922). On his more general philosophy of language, see Jere Paul Surber, Language and German Idealism: Fichte’s Linguistic Philosophy (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1996). 10. Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation, 60. 11. Ibid., 54. 12. This phrase is cited without reference by Jacques Derrida in On Touching—-Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Christine Irizarry (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 74. 13. Theodor W. Adorno, “On the Question ‘What is German?’,” in Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords, trans. Henry W. Pickford (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 212. For a consideration of the ways in which Adorno philosophized in German, see Steven Helmling, Adorno’s Poetics of Critique (London: Continuum, 2009). 14. As he noted in “On the Question ‘What Is German?,’ ” referring to German’s speculative affinities, “unquestionably the German language also has a price to pay for this quality in the omnipresent temptation that the writer will imagine that the immanent tendency of German words to say more than they actually say makes things easier and releases him from the obligation of thinking. . . . [T]he returning émigré, who has lost the naive relationship to what is his own, must unite the most intimate relationship to his native language with unfailing vigilance against any fraud it promotes; against the belief that what I should like to call the metaphysical excess of the German language in itself already guarantees the truth of the metaphysics it suggests, or of metaphysics in general” (213). 15. Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974), 110. 16. Karl Popper, “The Myth of the Framework,” in The Myth of the Framework: In Defense of Science and Rationality, ed. M. A. Notturno (New York: Routledge, 1994). 17. Harald Weinrich, The Linguistics of Lying and Other Essays, trans. Jane K. Brown and Marshall Brown (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005), 24. 18. Paulin J. Hountondji, Sur la “philosophie africaine,” (Paris: Maspéro, 1980). 19. Alan D. Schrift, “Is There Such a Thing as ‘French Philosophy’? or, Why Do We Read the French So Badly,” in After the Deluge: New Perspectives on the Intellectual and Cultural History of Postwar France, ed. Julian Bourg (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004). 20. Ibid., 23. 21. Tamara Chaplin, Turning on the Mind: French Philosophers on Television (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). 22. Ibid., 22. 23. Ethan Kleinberg, Generation Existential: Heidegger’s Philosophy in France, 1927–1961 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005). 24. Ibid., 5–6. 25. Ibid., 9.


notes to pages 172–182

26. Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940, trans. Gerard Hopkins (New York: Norton, 1999). 27. Ibid. 28. Pierre Machery, “Y a-t-il une philosophie française?,” in Histoires de dinosaure: Faire de la philosophie 1965–1997 (Paris: PUF, 1999), 319. 29. Bill Readings, “Why Is Theory Foreign?,” in Theory between the Disciplines: Authority/Vision, Politics, ed. Martin Kreiswirth and Mark A. Cheetham (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 77. 30. Ibid., 81. 31. Ibid., 84. 32. Nadia Tazi, ed., Keywords: Identity (New York: Other Press, 2004); Keywords: Gender (New York: Other Press, 2004); Keywords: Experience (New York: Other Press, 2004); Keywords: Truth (New York: Other Press, 2004); Keywords: Nature (New York: Other Press, 2005). 33. Nadia Tazi, Series Preface to all the Keywords volumes, ix.

1990 This essay originally appeared in Salmagundi 160–61 (Fall–Winter 2008–9). Reprinted by permission of Salmagundi Magazine. 1. Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: The Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), 234. 2. Martin Jay, “When Did the Holocaust End? Reflections on Historical Objectivity,” in Refractions of Violence (New York: Routledge, 2003). 3. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 267f. 4. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994), 10. 5. Ernst Bloch, Heritage of Our Times, trans. Neville and Stephen Place (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 97f. The original German is “Ungleichzeitigkeit.” 6. The argument to apply this phrase to history is made by John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 98. 7. For a useful overview of the many attempts to make sense of these ideas after Marx and Engels first introduced them in the 1850’s, see Brian S. Turner, “Asiatic Society,” in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, ed. Tom Bottomore (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991). 8. Although the concept of “decadence” in now normally disparaged, we still seem comfortable with the idea of “lateness” to describe the waning of a period. But as one wag put it with reference to the use of the term by Marxists expecting the terminal collapse of bourgeois society, “the trouble with late capitalism is that it isn’t late enough.” 9. Andrew Feenberg, Alternative Modernity: The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995). It is, of course, no less problematic to homogenize Western modernization into a single model. See, for example, Scott Lash, Another Modernity, A Different Rationality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). For a critical history of the rise and fall of modernization theory in American social science, see Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). 10. Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1984); Jürgen Habermas, Die neue Unübersichtlichkeit (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1985).

notes to pages 184–189   


11. This, of course, is the title of the famous psychoanalytic discussion of post-Nazi Germany by Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, The Inability to Mourn (New York: Grove Press, 1975). 12. In general, the 1990s saw a growing fascination with the idea of the “uncanny.” See my discussion in “The Uncanny Nineties,” in Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Times (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998).

allons enfants de l’humanité 1. Michael Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, ed. Amy Gutmann (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 5. He includes the UN Charter of 1945, the Genocide Convention of 1948, the revision of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the international convention on asylum of 1951, along with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For an excellent survey of the literature on human rights, both theoretical and historical, see Kenneth Cmiel, “The Recent History of Human Rights,” American Historical Review 109, no. 1 (February 2004). 2. Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Ideology, 54. Cmiel also acknowledges that “it may be too much too say that ‘human rights’ is an empty signifier, but given the ranges of usages over time—the phrase can mean diametrically opposed things—that seems to be a useful starting point.” “The Recent History of Human Rights,” 125–26. 3. The essay that emerged from that reading is “Lafayette’s Children: The American Reception of French Theory,” which appeared first in SubStance 31, no. 1 (2002), and then in Refractions of Violence (New York: Routledge, 2003). 4. Mark Lilla, “The Legitimacy of the Liberal Age,” in New French Thought: Political Philosophy, ed. Mark Lilla (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994); see also his remarks on p. 147. Perhaps the most telling critique of the Marxist dismissal of human rights as “bourgeois” was made by a former Marxist, Claude Lefort. See his “Droits de l’homme et politique,” in L’invention démocratique: Les limites de la domination totalitaire (Paris: Fayard, 1981). It may, however, be an oversimplification to see the recovery of human rights discourse as a straightforward rejection of the Marxist legacy. See also Julian Bourg, “Les contributions accidentals du marxisme au renouveau des droits de l’homme en France dans l’après–68,” in Actuel Marx 32 (September 2002). 5. Pierre Manent, The City of Man, trans. Marc A. LePain (Princeton: NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), and Blandine Kriegel, The State and the Rule of Law, trans. Marc A. LePain and Jeffrey C. Cohen (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995). 6. Manent, The City of Man, 147. 7. Ibid., 130. 8. For a critique of this lineage, see William Rasch, “Human Rights as Geopolitics: Carl Schmitt and the Legal Form of American Supremacy,” Cultural Critique 54 (Spring 2003). He concludes that “the word ‘human’ . . . must one again become descriptive of a ‘fact’ not a ‘value.’ Otherwise, whatever else it may be, the search for ‘human’ rights will always also be the negative image of the relentless search for the ‘inhuman’ other” (144). 9. Stéphane Rials, “Rights and Modern Law,” in New French Thought: Political Philosophy, ed. Mark Lilla (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 168, 171. 10. Marcel Gauchet, La révolution des droits de l’homme (Paris: Gallimard, 1989). See also Keith Baker, “The Idea of a Declaration of Rights,” in The French Idea of Freedom: The Old Regime and the Declaration of Rights of 1789, ed. Dale Van Kley (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 157. For a suggestive argument that distinguishes between proclamation and declaration


notes to pages 190–195

as distinct types of speech acts, the former being by the “people,” as in 1793, 1795, and 1946, and the latter by their representatives, as in 1789, 1848, and 1948, see Christine Faure’s introduction to Les declarations des droits de l’homme de 1789 (Paris: Kime, 1989), 31f. 11. Jean-François Lyotard, The Difference: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota press, 1988), 145. 12. Ibid., 147. 13. Dick Howard, “Constitution, Representation, and Rights,” in Political Judgments (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996). 14. Keith Baker, “The Idea of a Declaration of Rights,” in The French Idea of Freedom: The Old Regime and the Declaration of Rights of 1789, ed. Dale Van Kley (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994). 15. Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, trans. Rebecca Balinski (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 116. 16. Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–1956 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 234. 17. Ibid. 18. Van Kley, The French Idea of Freedom; Leonard Krieger, The German Idea of Freedom: History of a Political Tradition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957). He showed that ever since the Reformation, freedom in Germany was identified with the freedom of various individual states against the Holy Roman Empire or the internal freedom of the individual, but not with the general will of the community as the ground of political sovereignty. 19. In the case of Rials, Vlan Kley acknowledges that his more recent writings have softened the opposition between the two (10). The same might be said of Gauchet. See the discussion in Natalie Doyle, “Democracy as Socio-cultural Project of Individual and Collective Sovereignty: Claude Lefort, Marcel Gauchet and the French Debate on Modern Autonomy,” Thesis Eleven 75 (November 2003). She notes that in his recent work, “Gauchet also points to the danger of the rebirth of heteronomy in the contemporary fetishistic cult of human rights which erases their essential link to democracy’s original project of sovereignty” (91). 20. Van Kley, The French Idea of Freedom, 17. 21. Ibid. 22. Alan Gewirth, Reason and Morality: Essays on Justification and Application (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978) and The Community of Rights (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). 23. Gewirth, The Community of Rights, 19. 24. Ibid., 6. 25. Ibid., 317. 26. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1964), 293. 27. Claude Lefort, Writing the Political Text, trans. and ed. David Ames Curtis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 22. For a general assessment of Lefort’s contribution to the debates on these issues, see Doyle, “Democracy as Socio-Cultural Project of Individual and Collective Sovereignty,” where she notes that “Lefort posits a universality that is not predicated, as in liberalism, on the innate and largely fictitious dignity and autonomy of human nature, formulated by natural law, nor, as in positive law, on a substantive notion of the good that is tied to belonging to a specific tradition” (79–80). Instead it is grounded in the creation of law that is irreducible to the immediate power of the polity, law embodied in constitutional guarantees

notes to pages 196–202   


that transcend the particular representative of sovereignty at any one moment in the life of even the most democratic of states. For a comparison of Lefort with Derrida, which argues that both provide a useful corrective to the call for a universal grounding of rights in nature, see Philippe van Haute, “Lefort and Derrida: The Paradoxical Status of Human Rights,” in Enlightenments: Encounters between Critical Theory and Contemporary French Thought, ed. Harry Kunneman and Hent de Vries (The Hague: Peeters, 1993). 28. Howard, “Constitution, Representation, and Rights,” 118–19. 29. Gewirth, The Community of Rights, 47. 30. Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, 84.

intellectual family values This essay originally appeared in Salmagundi 143 (Summer 2004). Reprinted by permission of Salmagundi Magazine. 1. Often they were seen as having embraced Trotskyism, but Phillips himself resisted this label. See his autobiography, A Partisan View: Decades of the Literary Life (New York: Stein and Day, 1983), 45. His claim is given credence by his surprising usage of the label “Trotskyite,” which was the term of abuse hurled by Stalinists against Trotskyists. 2. John Silber, cited in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 16, 2003. 3. Morris Dickstein, “Tributes,” Partisan Review 70, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 180. 4. See, for example, James Gilbert, Writers and Partisans: A History of Literary Radicalism in America (New York: Wiley, 1968). 5. William Phillips, letter, October 11, 1974. The book was Margaret Canovan, The Political Thought of Hannah Arendt (New York: HarcourtBraceJovanovich, 1974). 6. A later effort, Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), was much more successful. 7. Many of the papers, including my own, appeared in Social Research 39, no. 2 (1972), in a special issue titled Germany, 1919–1932. Arendt served as a commentator on my panel, surely the oddest role reversal in my academic career. 8. Arendt, “What Is Existenz Philosophy?,” Partisan Review 13, no. 1 (Winter 1946). 9. The antagonism between Arendt and members of what later came to be called the Frankfurt School began as early as 1929 and Theodor W. Adorno’s critique of a paper by her then husband, Günther Stern. See the discussion in Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982), 80. It was deepened in later years by bitter disputes over the legacy of Walter Benjamin and the politics of Heidegger. For recent comparative assessments of Arendt and Adorno that get beyond the pettiness of their personal interactions, see Dirk Auer, Lars Rensmann, and Julia Schulze Wessel eds., Arendt and Adorno (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2003). Berlin’s hostility is elaborated in Michael Ignatieff, Isaiah Berlin: A Life (New York: Metropolitan, 1998), 253. He called The Human Condition the most overrated book of the past seventy-five years (cited in Newsweek, February 7, 1977, 72). 10. Phillips, A Partisan View, 108. 11. Ibid. 12. Lionel Abel, The Intellectual Follies: A Memoir of the Literary Venture in New York and Paris (New York: Norton, 1984), 275 (italics in original). 13. Cited in Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, 359. According to Phillips, Young-Bruehl’s account of the incident was “neither full nor correct” (109), but he doesn’t deny this letter from MacDonald. Abel is also critical of Young-Bruehl in The Intellectual Follies, 277–78.


notes to pages 202–208

14. Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, 360. For Irving Howe’s recollection of the forum, see his contribution to Partisan Review 31, no. 2 (Spring 1964): 260. 15. Phillips, A Partisan View, 110. 16. Phillips, open letter to Mary McCarthy, Partisan Review 31, no. 2 (Spring 1964): 278. The letter was in response to McCarthy’s defense of Arendt against Abel, “The Hue and Cry,” Partisan Review 31, no. 1 (Winter 1964). 17. Silber, “Tributes to William Phillips,” Partisan Review 70, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 221. 18. Letter from William Phillips, January 29, 1976. 19. Allen Kurzweil, “Tributes to William Phillips,” Partisan Review 70, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 198. 20. Partisan Review 45, no. 3 (1978). My essay was republished with the notes and original title in Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985). 21. Partisan Review 46, no. 2 (1979), followed by a translated poem by Ludwig Greve sent to the journal by Mary McCarthy. 22. See, for example, the critiques by Maurizio Passerin d’Entrèves, Modernity, Justice and Community (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1990), 122–77, and Dana R. Villa, Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 155–56. 23. For one attempt, controversial in its own right, to make sense of their relationship, see Elzbieta Ettinger, Hannah Arendt-Martin Heidegger (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995). 24. The most extensive expression of these qualms can be found in Richard Wolin, Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). 25. Arendt, “Martin Heidegger at 80,” New York Review of Books 17, no. 6 (October 1971), original two years earlier in Merkur. 26. See, for example, my essays “Women in Dark Times: Agnes Heller and Hannah Arendt” and “‘The Aesthetic Ideology’ as Ideology: Or, What Does It Mean to Aestheticize Politics?,” in Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993), and “Afterword: Reflective Judgments on a Conference That Is Now History,” in Hannah Arendt and the Meaning of Politics, ed. Craig Calhoun and John McGowan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997). 27. Régis Debray, Teachers, Writers, Celebrities, trans. David Macey (London: New Left Books, 198l). 28. See, for example, Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (New York: Basic Books, 1987). 29. Phillips, A Partisan View, 298.

still sleeping rough This essay originally appeared in Salmagundi 155–56 (Summer–Fall 2007). Reprinted by permission of Salmagundi Magazine. 1. For a bibliography of Wilson’s works, see Colin Stanley, Colin Wilson, The First Fifty Years: An Existential Bibliography, 1956–2005 (Nottingham, UK: Paupers’ Press, 2006). 2. Martin Green, Children of the Sun: A Narrative of “Decadence” in England after 1918 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 398.

notes to pages 208–214   


3. Stefan Collini, Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 415. 4. Ibid., 419. 5. Colin Wilson, The Outsider (London: Victor Gollancz, 1963), 308. 6. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 328–30. 7. Dick Pels, The Intellectual as Stranger: Studies in Spokespersonship (London: Routledge, 2000), 175. For more on the issue of vexed positionality and its vicissitudes, see David Simpson, Situatedness: Or, Why We Keep Saying Where We’re Coming From (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). 8. Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, trans. and ed. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), 6:6818. 9. Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: Harper and Row, 1968). 10. Leo Lowenthal, Literature and the Image of Man: Studies of the European Novel, 1600–1900 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), 40–41. 11. Leo Lowenthal, An Unmastered Past: The Autobiographical Reflections of Leo Lowenthal, ed. Martin Jay (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987), 166–67. 12. Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974), 66–68, from which all the following citations come. 13. For a discussion of the complicated interaction of dominant and outsider culture in France, which has resonance as well in other contexts, see Jerrold Seigel, Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830–1930 (New York: Viking Penguin, 1986).


Abel, Lionel, 201–2, 205, 249n13, 250n16 abstract expressionism, 93, 98, 115, 205 Adami, Valerio, 77–78 Adorno, Theodor W., 2, 3, 4, 18, 154, 157, 220n43, 221n55, 249n9; Aesthetic Theory, 2, 11, 18, 19, 23, 223n38, 245n13; Against Epistemology, 15, 237n23; on authenticity, 10–21, 168, 219n31; “Bach Defended against His Devotees,” 17, 219n31; relationship with Benjamin, 12, 217–18n9, 218n11, 218–19n20, 220–21n54, 221n55; centenary of his birth (2003), 3, 21; Dialectic of Enlightenment, 67, 219n25; exile of, 14, 168, 245n14; on experience, 24, 26, 29, 31–32, 33–34, 35, 100, 220n53, 221n4, 223n38; “The Experiential Content of Hegel’s Philosophy,” 29; on fascism, 12, 14; on genuineness, 21; “Gold Assay,” 12–14, 17, 19, 20; critique of Hegel, 29–31, 34; Hegel: Three Studies, 29, 34; critique of Heidegger, 16, 17, 33, 167–68, 221n7; critique of Husserl, 15, 16, 237n23; on identity and difference, 12, 13, 16, 29; The Jargon of Authenticity, 10, 18, 20, 23, 217n6, 238n40; Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic, 10, 217–18n9; on misuse of language, 16, 167–68; critique of Lebensphilosophie, 23, 34; on mimesis, 219n24, 223n41; Minima Moralia, 2, 10, 12, 18, 19, 20, 23, 32, 213, 220n53; Negative Dialectics, 15, 26, 32, 34, 221n55; negative dialectics of, 17, 29, 33; critique of Nietzsche, 13; Notes to Literature, 22–23; “Out of the Firing Line,” 23; on phenomenology, 15, 16; Philosophy of Modern Music, 14–15; “The Position of the Narrator in the Contemporary Novel,” 22–23; critique

of positivism, 30; “Presuppositions,” 23; Prisms, 17, 219n31; “Skoteinos, or How to Read Hegel,” 30; critique of Stravinsky, 14–15 aesthetics, 49. See also under experience; gardening and landscaping Agamben, Giorgio, 35; Infancy and History, 32–33, 34 Alberti, Leon Battista, 55 Allert, Beate, 224n3 Alpers, Svetlana, 55, 238n4 Amis, Kingsley, 207 Anderson, Benedict, 239n6 Angry Young Men, 207–8 Ankersmit, F. R., 239n22 Annan, Noel, 207 Anselm, Saint, 236n13 anthropology, 46 anti-intellectualism, 16 anti-Semitism, 13, 67, 71, 172. See also under Nietzsche, Friedrich architecture, 73, 234n3; modern, 91, 93. See also under gardening and landscaping Arendt, Hannah, 194, 199–204, 205, 222n16, 243n56–57, 249n9, 250n16; death of, 203; Eichmann in Jerusalem, 200, 201, 202; existentialism of, 8, 200, 204; relationship with Heidegger, 200, 204, 249n9; on lying in politics, 6, 132, 135–48, 240n3, 241n15, 242n35, 242n39–40; on political action, 142–43, 145, 146, 147–48, 200, 242n41; on violence, 76, 142–43, 145; hostility to Zionism, 200. See also under Derrida, Jacques; Jay, Martin Aristotle, 85, 134, 163, 171, 202; Metaphysics, 80

2 5 4   


art: allegorical, 113–14, 115, 121; avant-garde, 116; contemporary and new media, 94, 95, 98, 115–22; and ekphrasis, 113, 118, 121, 238n3; formalist, 92, 93, 94, 114, 115, 116; and historical reenactments (see under history); historical themes in, 5, 112–22, 238n4, 238n5, 239n7; institutions of, 92, 97; mechanical reproduction of, 11–12, 114, 116; and metanarrative, 114–16 (see also Lyotard, JeanFrançois); and metonym, 121; minimalist, 95, 97; and misogyny, 114; modernist, 90, 92, 96, 97, 98, 114, 239n7 (see also abstract expressionism; cubism; socialist realism; surrealism); and nationalism, 113; political implications of, 97; politicization of, 11; pop art, 97; postmodernist, 92, 97; ready-made, 91, 95; and ritual, 11; secularization of, 11; as semblance, 32, 35; and temporality, 17. See also aesthetics; art objects; propaganda art objects, 91, 94, 95; commodification of, 94; devisualization of, 96; and museums, 92, 94, 98, 235n17 Ashbury, John, 58 Asher, Michael, 96 Atherton, Margaret, 56 Auer, Dirk, 249n9 Augustine of Hippo, Saint, 132, 134, 135, 136, 242n38 aura. See under authenticity authenticity, 9–21, 110, 217–18n9; aesthetic, 11, 18; aural, 14, 17 (see also music); aura of, 11, 15–16, 19, 26; auratic versus nonauratic, 19–20, 21; etymology of, 10; genuine versus false, 10–11, 17, 19; jargon of, 10–11, 15–16, 17, 19, 21, 168; and the fetish of the original, 14; reification of, 19; and religion, 16, 219–20n36; and self, 12; and complicity with the status quo, 14, 19, 69; and temporality, 17; visual, 14 (see also vision). See also Adorno, Theodor W.; genuineness; Nietzsche, Friedrich Aya, Rod, 223n3 Ayer, A. J., 208 Bach, J. S., 14, 17 Bacon, Francis, 57 Baker, Keith, 190, 247–48n10 Balzac, Honoré de, 31 Bambach, Charles R., 237n26 Barnes, J. A., 243n49 Baroque, 25, 59, 68 “Baroque reason.” See under scopic regimes

Barr, Alfred, 97 Barrell, John, 65 Barthes, Roland, 42, 43, 49, 121, 124 Bataille, Georges, 80–81, 92, 99 Batnitsky, Leora, 219–20n36 Baudrillard, Jean, 43, 135, 141 Bauer, Yehuda, 229n13 Bauman, Zygmunt, 4, 229n4; on the gardening impulse, 65–67, 73–75, 76, 230n29 Baxandall, Michael, 40 Beilharz, Peter, 229n4 Bellow, Saul, 205 Belting, Hans, 239n10 Benjamin, Andrew, 222n16, 237n30 Benjamin, Walter, 3, 11–12, 18, 34, 60, 92, 154, 212, 219n22, 219–20n36, 234n8, 249n9; “A Child’s View of Color,” 25; on color, 25, 32; on dialectical images, 120; on experience, 24–26, 237n30; critique of Hegel, 28; relationship with Heidegger, 222n16, 237n30; “On Language as Such and the Language of Man,” 24; on mimesis, 20, 25, 219n24; “On the Program of the Coming Philosophy,” 24; The Origin of German Tragic Drama, 217–18n9, 218n13, 218–19n20; “The Storyteller,” 22, 26, 220n53; “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20 Benson, Steven, 226n17 Bentham, Jeremy, 79 Benton, Robert J., 241n16 Berdyaev, Nicholas, 172 Berger, John, 40 Bergson, Henri, 57, 124, 171 Berkeley, George, 56 Berkeley, University of California at, 124; and new historicism, 125 (see also Representations) Berlin, Isaiah, 200, 249n9 Berman, Marshall, 9, 10 Bermingham, Ann, 70 Bernasconi, Robert, 28, 109, 222n15, 237n31 Bernet, Rudolf, 236n2 Bernstein, J. M., 35 Beyle, Marie-Henri (pseud. Stendhal), 31–32 Blake, William, 209 Blanchot, Maurice, 99 Bloch, Ernst, 23, 180 Bloch, Marc, 172 Blücher, Heinrich, 203

index    Blumenberg, Hans, 38, 39; on nonconceptuality of metaphors, 158–59 Boehncke, Heiner, 121 Bois, Yves-Alain, 235n17 Bollnow, Otto Friedrich, 15 Boorstin, Daniel, 44 Borchardt, Rudolf, 24 Borges, Jorge Luis, 58, 163 Botstein, Leon, 203 Bourdieu, Pierre, 152, 154, 210 Bourg, Julian, 247n4 Boyle, Robert, 84, 165 Braider, Christopher, 57 Braine, John, 207 Brecht, Bertolt, 18 Brennan, Teresa, 224n3 Brentano, Franz, 102, 236n13 Bridgman, Charles, 68 Broodthaers, Marcel, 94, 97 Brown, Lancelot “Capability,” 68, 69, 70, 75 Brunschvicg, Léon, 169, 171, 172 Bryson, Norman, 40, 42 Buber, Martin, 219–20n36; existentialism of, 10 Buchloh, Benjamin H. D., 235n17 Buci-Glucksmann, Christine, 55, 57, 59, 227–28n32 Burckhardt, Jacob, 181 Buren, Daniel, 94, 98 Burke, Edmund, 70, 192 Cage, John, 61 Cahiers du Cinéma, 61 Campbell, Jeremy, 242n38 Camus, Albert, 205, 209 Canovan, Margaret, 199–200, 249n5–6 Canute, King, 37 capitalism, 14, 33, 43, 93, 219n21, 246n8 Cartesianism, 54, 55, 57, 83, 102, 104, 105, 111, 167, 188. See also Malebranche, Nicolas; scopic regimes; subjectivity Casey, Edward S., 231–32n47 Caygill, Howard, 24, 25, 217–18n9, 222n16, 237n30 Certeau, Michel de, 86 Cervantes, 213 Cézanne, Paul, 77, 78, 87, 89 Chambers, Sir William, 230n22 Chaplin, Tamara, 170 Charbonnier, Paul, 68


Charlton, D. G., 229n15, 230n19 Chaucer, Geoffrey, 58 Cheah, Pheng, 6 Chisholm, Roderick M., 236n13 Chmielewski, Adam J., 162, 163 Clark, T. J., 98 Clarke, Holly A. Getch, 227n27 Classen, Constance, 228n46 Claussen, Detlev, 21 Clemenceau, Georges, 146, 243n56 Clifford, James, 46 Clinton, Bill, 133 Clunas, Craig, 230n22 Cmiel, Kenneth, 247n1–2 Cobbett, William, 211 Cohen, I. Bernard, 223n4 Collingwood, R. G., 117 Collini, Stefan, 208, 209, 213 Cometa, Michele, 216n17 Comolli, Jean-Louis, 43 Comte, Auguste, 171 concept, 159, 166; and experience, 30, 34 Connolly, Cyril, 207, 208 Conrad, Kathryn, 61 Constable, John, 69 Constant, Benjamin, 136, 166 contexts, 2, 5, 45, 168–69, 183 Copernicus, Nicolaus, 36 Crary, Jonathan, 40, 43 Crimp, Douglas, 94, 95, 97 crisis, 24. See also under experience Critical Theory, 3, 22, 111, 153, 173, 213. See also under Frankfurt School Cromwell, Oliver, 36 Crook, J. Mordaunt, 229–30n16 Crozier, Michael, 67 cubism, 96 cultural relativism, 41, 44, 45, 175–76, 225n24; absolute versus relational, 47–48; cognitive, 50; normative, 50; performative contradiction of, 45, 165; and “scopic regimes,” 41, 44, 50; and truth, 164; versus universalism, 49, 164; and vision, 45, 48, 49. See also truth cultural studies, 44, 50, 153 culture, 46, 47, 51, 74, 153, 210–11, 225n24; after Auschwitz, 18; ethnic and national concept of, 44–45, 46; high versus low, 18, 19; and language,

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culture (continued) 47; mass or popular, 18–19, 20, 66; and nature, 4, 45, 46, 47, 50; organicist notion of, 46; and totality, 18, 46; wild versus garden, 66. See also under disciplinarity, academic culture industry, 19 D’Amico, Robert, 237n20 Damisch, Hubert, 77 Danto, Arthur, 95, 235n13 Darré, R. W., 66 Darts, David, 227n26 David, Jacques-Louis, 113, 118 Davidson, Donald, 162, 163 Debord, Guy, 43, 78 Debray, Régis, 43, 49, 50 deconstructionism, 5–6, 47, 125, 138, 142. See also under Derrida, Jacques Degli-Eposti, Christina, 228n33 de Gouges, Olympe, 190 Delacroix, Eugène, 114 Delbos, Victor, 169, 171 Deleuze, Gilles, 56, 79, 85–86, 100, 104, 109, 166, 170 Deller, Jeremy, 118 de Man, Paul, 9, 133, 239–40n3 democracy, 61, 70, 83, 94, 97, 115, 138, 139, 143, 144, 184, 240–41n6, 248n19, 248–49n27. See also under human rights Derby, John, 227n26 Derrida, Jacques, 1–2, 5–6, 89, 104, 111, 123–31, 164, 166, 179, 180, 216n23, 239–40n3, 240n4, 240– 41n6, 242n36, 242n38, 243n50, 243n57, 245n12, 248–49n27; critique of Arendt, 135–43, 144–45, 146, 242n47; death of, 123; deconstructionism of, 5–6, 123, 240n1; on the delay of fulfillment, 127, 128; The Ear of the Other, 131; on experience, 99, 236n2; Glas, 78; Of Grammatology, 99; on lying, 6, 132–48, 241n10; on miscommunication, 126, 127–28; and performativity, 123, 126, 128; The Post Card, 126; pseudology of, 132–48; Specters of Marx, 138; A Taste for the Secret, 133; The Truth in Painting, 77–78, 87; on Vichy France, 136–37; work versus frame, 77, 87, 96, 98. See also under Foucault, Michel; Jay, Martin Descartes, René, 53, 56, 79, 82, 83, 85, 124, 163, 166, 171, 173; Optics, 56–57. See also Cartesianism Dewey, John, 30; Art and Experience, 31

Dia Art Foundation (New York): Vision and Visuality, 40–41, 52 Dickstein, Morris, 199 difference, 13. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. Dilthey, Wilhelm, 41, 52, 106, 117, 226n3, 237n26 Dimakopoulou, Stamtine, 227n31 disciplinarity, academic, 149–61; and consilience (see under Jay, Martin; Wilson, E. O.); as cultural practice, 153, 156; as force field, 154–55, 156, 158, 159, 160; and interdisciplinarity, 151, 157, 160, 161; metaphorical understanding of, 154, 158, 160, 161; and politics, 151–52; and postdisciplinarity, 153, 154; weakening of, 153. See also under Foucault, Michel; history discursive regimes, 84, 86; Foucault on, 82, 85 Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 26, 209 Dove, Kenley Royce, 237n31 Doyle, Natalie, 248n19, 248–49n27 Dreyfus, Hubert, 5, 82, 83, 231n35, 237n27 Dryden, John, 173 Duchamp, Marcel, 61, 91–92, 96, 234–35n11 Eagleton, Terry, 45, 46, 70, 225n24 Eco, Umberto, 43 ecology, 72. See also gardening and landscaping Engels, Friedrich, 246n7 Enlightenment, 44, 124 epistemology, 103–4, 157. See also experience; Kant, Immanuel Eribon, Didier, 83 Erjavec, Alesˇ, 239n9 Ettinger, Elzbieta, 250n23 exile, 20. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. existentialism, 9–10, 13, 109, 110, 209; of Buber, 10; of Heidegger, 10; of Jaspers, 10; of Kierkegaard, 13; of Nietzsche, 10; and subjectivity, 13 experience, 3, 5, 22–35, 175; aesthetic, 35, 55, 95 (see also under history; truth); color and, 25; and consciousness, 27–28, 29, 102, 103; crisis of, 23, 33; cultural, 23–23; decay of, 22–23, 24, 26, 30, 32, 34; epistemological and empirical, 24, 26, 29, 32, 35, 101, 104; Erlebnis versus Erfahrung, 24, 25, 106, 107, 108, 109–10, 237n29; etymology of, 28; and experimentation, 30–31; expressiveness of, 30; fall from grace and, 25, 26, 33; finite versus infinite, 25; intersubjective, 29, 49; intuition and, 24–25, 103; “lived,” 109, 110 (see also under

index    phenomenology); loss and (see mourning); and memory, 31, 33; metaphysical and absolute, 24, 26–27, 32, 33, 34; normative, 31; and nostalgia, 25; and otherness, 32, 110, 111; poetry of, 24; primal and religious, 15, 23–24, 32; redemptive and redemption of, 24, 25, 26, 31, 32, 35; and subjectivity, 27, 32–33; trauma and, 23, 24; truth and, 26–27; visual, 24, 40, 42, 43, 44, 48, 49–50, 55, 56, 57, 62, 86, 95 (see also scopic regimes; truth); and warfare, 22. See also under Adorno, Theodor W.; Benjamin, Walter; concept; Derrida, Jacques; Foucault, Michel; Hegel, G. W. F.; Heidegger, Martin; historical periodization; history; Husserl, Edmund; Kant, Immanuel; language; reason expressionism, 24 Falk, Pasi, 227n29 Fanck, Arnold, 72 Fanon, Frantz, 105 fascism, 16. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. Feenberg, Andrew, 246n9 Fenves, Peter, 217–18n9 Ferry, Luc, 187, 188 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 166–67, 176, 188 film. See photography and film Fischer von Erlach, Johann Bernhard, 68 Flynn, Thomas, 79 Fodor, Kate, 204 Foran, John, 223n5 force field, 3, 59, 175, 176; historical periodization as, 181. See also under disciplinarity, academic Foster, Hal, 40, 41, 44, 52, 93, 97, 98, 234n7 Foucault, Michel, 58, 62, 65, 74, 78–89, 100, 124; The Birth of the Clinic, 84; on the clinical gaze, 79, 85; dispute with Derrida, 124; on disciplinary regimes, 88, 152, 158, 159; Discipline and Punish, 86, 87; on discursive regimes, 82, 85; on experience, 99; Fearless Speech, 82; The History of Sexuality, 83; on knowledge and power, 80, 82, 85, 158, 165; Madness and Civilization, 124; on Magritte, 87–88; on Manet, 86–87; on modernity, 82; narrative style of, 86; The Order of Things, 88, 99, 163; on painting, 79, 87–88; on the Panopticon, 4, 79, 87; on parrhesia, 4, 82–85, 87, 88, 89, 133; on science, 84, 85; on scopic regimes, 79, 80; on truth, 77, 80–85, 88–89; on validity versus reality, 81, 83;

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on Velázquez, 88; on violence, 84–85; on vision, 78–82, 85, 86, 89 fragments, 2, 5 Frankfurt School, 3, 5, 23, 26, 33, 124, 153, 212–13, 243n50, 249n9; and Critical Theory, 8, 200; critique of pragmatism, 30 Fraser, Andrea, 94 Frederick the Great, 66 Frege, Gottlob, 101; critique of psychologism, 164, 236n10 French Revolution, 70, 84, 184, 189, 195; and human rights, 188, 191, 192 Freud, Sigmund, 9, 10, 50, 52, 144, 172, 209, 217n2 Fried, Michael, 92, 95, 234n4, 234n7 Friedman, Jonathan, 226n15 Fromanger, Gérard, 79, 88 Fukuyama, Francis, 115 Fulton, Ann, 217n4 Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 176, 179; Reason in the Age of Science, 228n44; Truth and Method, 28 Gaddis, John Lewis, 246n6 Gallagher, Catherine, 125 gardening and landscaping, 64–76, 230n20, 231n45, 234n3; and aesthetics, 65, 68, 75; and architecture, 74; and complicity with the status quo, 69 (see also under authenticity); and domination of nature, 65, 67–68; Eastern style of, 68, 69, 71, 230n22; Edenic myth of, 69; English versus French styles of, 69–71; and ideology, 65, 75; and imperialism, 65, 68, 74; and nationalism, 70, 72; and National Socialism, 72–74; and naturalism, 69; and neoclassicism, 69, 70; and the picturesque, 69, 70, 75; and social engineering, 66; and totalitarianism, 66, 73, 74; and utopia, 70, 74; and violence, 65, 67, 68, 69–70, 73, 75, 76; and völkisch ideology, 71, 75 (see also anti-Semitism); and the will, 66. See also Bauman, Zygmunt; culture; Lange, Willy Gauchet, Marcel, 189, 192, 248n19 Gay, Peter, 212 gaze. See under vision Gebauer, G., 224n9 Geertz, Clifford, 151 Gellner, Ernest, 66, 76 genuineness, 10, 19; and identity, 12; and individual, 13; legal implications of, 16; and social legitima-

2 58   


genuineness (continued) tion, 14. See also authenticity; Ibsen, Henrik; Kierkegaard, Søren; Nietzsche, Friedrich George, Stefan, 23–24 Géricault, Théodore, 114 Germany, 71, 146, 169, 172; and “mastering the past,” 179, 247n11; reunification of, 183; and Stunde Null, 184; and the Weimar Republic, 10, 72, 178, 200, 212. See also national philosophy; National Socialism Gerwith, Allen, 193–94, 196, 197 Geulen, Eva, 12 Gilbert, James, 249n4 Gilman, Nils, 246n9 Ginzburg, Carlo, 241n18 globalization, 174–76, 182, 184, 246n9 Gmelin, Felix, 118 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 183 Gouldner, Alvin, 203 Green, Martin, 208 Green, Tony, 226n17 Greenaway, Peter, 59 Greenberg, Clement, 92, 93, 96, 234n2, 234n4, 234n7 Gregory, Derek, 227n30 Greve, Ludwig, 250n21 Groening, Gert, 71–73 Groethuysen, Bernard, 172 Gros, Antoine-Jean, 114 Guantánamo Bay, 186, 194, 196–97 Gubser, Michael, 239n19 Guerlac, Suzanne, 6 Guignon, Charles, 217n5 Guilbaut, Serge, 234n6 Gundolf, Friedrich, 23–24 Gurdjieff, George, 209 Gurvitch, Georges, 172 Haacke, Hans, 94 Habermas, Jürgen, 139, 165, 182, 241n18 Haeckel, Ernst, 72 Hamann, J. G., 168 Hanssen, Beatrice, 222n16 happiness, 31–32; and childhood, 34 Hardenberg, Friedrich von (pseud. Novalis), 25 Hartman, Geoffrey, 9, 153, 225n24 hearing and listening, 128 Heartfield, John, 235n17

Hegel, G. W. F., 1, 25, 35, 109, 111, 171, 172, 180; on experience, 26, 29, 107; and individualism, 13; Phenomenology of Spirit, 27, 34, 100, 107, 236n8. See also under Benjamin, Walter; Heidegger, Martin Heidegger, Martin, 19, 56, 62, 67, 72, 77, 109, 132, 167–68, 171–72, 174, 209, 217–18n9, 226n5, 231n35, 231–32n47, 237n26; “The Age of the World Picture,” 52–55, 57–58, 74, 226n3; Being and Time, 15, 106; and his critics, 55; on Ereignis, 107–8, 110; Erfahrung versus Erlebnis (see under experience); existentialism of, 10; on experience, 5, 24, 26–28, 106–10; critique of Hegel, 27–28, 29, 35, 237n31; Holzwege, 26–28, 29, 34, 35, 107; Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, 106–7; phenomenology of, 101, 109, 172; Unterwegs zur Sprache, 107, 108. See also under Adorno, Theodor W.; Arendt, Hannah; Benjamin, Walter Helmling, Steven, 245n13 Hemingway, Ernest, 209 Hentschel, Klaus, 227n29 Herder, Johann Gottfried, 45 Herf, Jeffrey, 74 hermeneutics, 103, 104, 176, 179. See also Gadamer, Hans-Georg Herodotus, 112 Hesse, Carla, 126 Hesse, Hermann, 209 Heywood, Ian, 224n3 Himmler, Heinrich, 72 historical periodization, 7, 58, 177–85; and anachronism, 180; beginnings and endings of, 178–79; cross-cultural, 182; as force field, 181; and interwar Europe, 179–80; and lived experience, 177, 183; and nonsynchronicity, 180; and “punctuated equilibrium,” 181, 183, 246n6; as “shifter,” 181–82; thresholds of, 181, 183. See also under Marx, Karl historicism, 102, 157 history, 112–22; and aesthetic experience, 113, 117, 119, 121; and authenticity, 20; discipline of, 149, 150; and lived experience, 35, 117, 122 (see also under historical periodization); fact versus interpretation, 112, 136, 142; and “imagined communities,” 113; intellectual, 150; and metonym, 120; narrative, 7, 112, 121–22, 160, 180, 238n4; and otherness of the past, 117, 122; reenactments of, 117–19; and revolution, 37; ruptures versus

index    continuities, 37, 39; specialization of, 178; and truth, 18. See also art; historical periodization; modernism Hobbes, Thomas, 68, 189 Hollander, Dana, 244n5 Hollinger, David, 151, 240n3 Holocaust, 67, 100, 136–37, 179, 200; German responsibility for, 67 Holquist, Peter, 229n12 Homer, 112, 113 Horace, 233n14 Horkheimer, Max: Dialectic of Enlightenment, 67, 219n25 Hountondji, Paulin, 169 Howard, Dick, 190, 195–96 Howe, Irving, 202, 250n14 Howell, James, 36 Huhn, Thomas, 222–23n37 Hullot-Kentor, Robert, 17 Hulme, T. E., 164, 209 human rights, 46, 247n2, 247n8, 248n19; abstract versus concrete, 191–92; and citizenship, 7, 192; declarations of, 189, 190–91, 192, 193, 247n1, 247–48n10; and democracy, 191, 195; and freedom, 190, 192; and the French Revolution, 188, 191, 192; individualist versus communitarian, 188, 189, 193–94; liberal interpretation of, 7, 187–89, 191–92, 193, 194, 248–49n27; natural (genetic) versus positive (normative or voluntary), 188, 189, 190, 195, 196, 248–49n27; universalist premises of, 7, 187, 188–89, 192, 196, 248–49n27 Humboldt, Alexander von, 71 Hume, David, 29, 104 Hunt, John Dixon, 230n19 Husserl, Edmund, 159, 236n13; Cartesian Meditations, 104; on consciousness, 102, 103, 109; Crisis of European Sciences, 103; on essential ideas, 103, 105, 106, 110; on experience, 5, 101, 103–5, 106, 109, 236n2; Experience and Judgment, 104; on expression, 104; on intentionality, 102, 109, 236n13; on judgment, 104; on the life-world, 104–6, 110; Logical Investigations, 101; phenomenology of, 15, 101–6, 171; critique of psychologism, 101, 102, 164, 236n10. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. Ibsen, Henrik: and genuineness, 12 iconoclasm. See under imagery

2 59

Idealism, German, 29, 34 ideas: dissemination of, 7; reception of, 7 ideology, 10, 43, 44, 62, 84, 140, 144, 148, 152, 243n50. See also under gardening and landscaping; photography and film; regime Ignatieff, Michael, 187, 196, 247n1, 249n9 imagery, 42, 43–44, 48–49, 50, 79, 96, 139; discursive versus figural, 42–43, 159; and iconoclasm, 44; and language, 42, 48, 87–88; materiality of, 49; resistance to subsumption under culture of, 49; and spectacle, 43. See also photography and film; representation impressionism, 57 inauthenticity. See authenticity individualism, 13, 14. See also Hegel, G. W. F.; inwardness; Schopenhauer, Arthur; subjectivity Institute of Social Research. See Frankfurt School intellectuals, 205–6: authority of, 8; and autodidacticism, 210–12, 213, 214; as cultural arbiters, 8; outsider versus insider, 208, 209, 210–12, 213–14, 251n13. See also Angry Young Men; “New York intellectuals” intentionality. See Brentano, Franz; Husserl, Edmund interdisciplinarity. See under disciplinarity, academic intuition. See under experience inwardness, 16. See also individualism; subjectivity Inwood, Michael, 218n10, 226n5, 237n29, 238n34 Irigaray, Luce, 124 Irvine, University of California at: Critical Theory Institute, 125 Irving, David, 136–37 Jabès, Edmund, 111 Jacobs, Karen, 226n17 Jacoby, Russell, 250n28 Jaspers, Karl, 15, 52, 200; existentialism of, 10 Jauss, Hans Robert, 31 Jay, Martin, 40, 64, 123–31, 162–63, 224n3; critique of Arendt, 199–204, 205, 240n3, 243n54, 249n7; critique of consilience, 6, 150–61; Cultural Semantics, 219n24, 221n9; critique of Derrida, 6; Downcast Eyes, 3, 4, 5, 54, 57, 78, 79–80, 124, 125, 126, 224n11, 228n39, 234n4, 236n2; Fin-de-Siècle Socialism, 3, 2, 24n7, 239n1; Force Fields, 55–56, 225n24, 226n15, 229n15, 244n10, 250n26; defense of Habermas, 124; “Hannah Arendt: Opposing



Jay, Martin (continued) Views,” 203–4; critique of Heidegger, 54–55; Permanent Exiles, 219–20n36, 220–21n55, 244n7, 250n20; Refractions of Violence, 4, 247n3; Salmagundi articles, 5–6, 7, 226n16; “Scopic Regimes of Modernity,” 51–52, 55, 224n6, 233n34; Songs of Experience, 3, 5, 237n30, 238n44, 239n14; The Virtues of Mendacity, 4, 6 Jenks, Chris, 224n3 Jensen, Jens, 73 Johns, Jasper, 234n7 Journal of Visual Culture, 40 Joyce, James, 23, 62 Judt, Tony: Past Imperfect, 137, 142, 191–92 Jünger, Ernst, 200 Kalkowski, Peter, 221n4, 223n43 Kamuf, Peggy, 132, 242n38 Kandinsky, Wassily, 79 Kant, Immanuel, 13, 29, 45, 57, 77, 85, 92, 96, 102–3, 104, 163–64, 168, 171, 172, 188, 240–41n6; Critique of Judgment, 2, 147, 220–21n54, 233n27, 235n15; Critique of Pure Reason, 107; on experience, 24–25, 26, 28, 34, 35; on lying, 132, 135, 136, 166. See also Neo-Kantianism Kappner, Hans-Hartmut, 221n4 Kaprow, Allen, 234n7 Kar, Prafulla C., 216n15 Katz, Jonathan D., 61 Kaufmann, Thomas Dacosta, 47 Kellner, Douglas, 18 Kent, William, 68 Kenyon, Nicholas, 220n45 Keywords: For a Different Kind of Globalization, 174–75 Kierkegaard, Søren, 10, 15, 209, 212; existentialism of, 13; and genuineness, 12 Kirby, John T., 42 Kissinger, Henry, 186 Klee, Paul, 61, 79 Klein, Julie Thompson, 155 Kleinberg, Ethan, 171–72, 174 knowledge: and human interests, 80; and pleasure; 80 Kojève, Alexandre, 172 Koselleck, Reinhart, 178 Kossuth, Joseph, 94

Koyré, Alexandre, 132, 138–39, 172 Kracauer, Siegfried, 15, 72, 219–20n36, 221n55 Kramer, Kathryn E., 228n38 Krauss, Rosalind, 40, 59, 92, 97, 234n3, 234n8 Kriegel, Blandine, 187, 188–89, 192 Krieger, Leonard, 192 Kristol, Irving, 201 Kurzweil, Allen, 250n19 Kusch, Martin, 236n10 Lacan, Jacques, 49–50, 79, 93, 166 LaCapra, Dominick, 160 Lange, Willy: on gardening, 71–72, 73, 230n32 language, 7, 56, 138, 159; and experience, 33, 107; and the linguistic turn, 153, 159, 165, 168; and miscommunication (see under Derrida, Jacques); and textuality, 127; and translation, 126, 161, 168–69, 176; and transparency, 128. See also Adorno, Theodor W.; culture; imagery; nominalism; national philosophy; vision Lash, Scott, 226n15, 246n9 Lasky, Melvin J., 223n1 Latour, Bruno, 47–48 Lauer, Quentin, 104 Lawler, Louise, 94 Lawrence, T. E., 209 Leavis, F. R., 173 Lebensphilosophie, 26, 106. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. See also Dilthey, Wilhelm Lee, Y. H., 61 Lefort, Claude, 195, 237n18, 247n4, 248–49n27 Leibniz, Gottfried, 157 Lenoir, Timothy, 151 Le Nôtre, André, 68 Lenzer, Gertrude, 200 Leskov, Nikolai, 26 Levin, David Michael, 79, 224n3 Levinas, Emmanuel, 111, 172 liberalism, 62, 187, 219n21, 220n39; and neoliberalism, 195. See also capitalism; human rights; neoconservatism Lilla, Mark, 187 literature: the essay, 30; the novel, 26, 112–13 Locke, John, 191, 192 Long, Christopher P., 237n30 Lorrain, Claude, 69 Louis XIV, 68; and Versailles, 68, 73

index    Lovejoy, Arthur O., 230n22 Lowell, Robert, 202, 205 Lowenthal, Leo, 213 Lukács, Georg, 26, 34, 156 Lutheranism, 13 Ly, Boreth, 227n26 lying. See under Arendt, Hannah; Derrida, Jacques; Kant, Immanuel Lyotard, Jean-François, 41, 47, 56, 79, 124, 170, 182, 236n8; on the differend, 100, 160–61, 189–90; performative contradiction of, 182 Macdonald, Dwight, 201, 202, 249n13 MacDougall, David, 49 Machery, Pierre, 172 Magritte, René, 79; This Is Not a Pipe (see under Foucault, Michel) Makkreel, Rudolf A., 226n3 Malcolm X, 211 Malebranche, Nicolas, 57 Manent, Pierre, 187–88, 191 Manet, Édouard, 79, 87, 88, 89. See also under Foucault, Michel Mannheim, Karl, 149 Manovich, Lev, 228n35 Marcus, Steven, 200–201 Marcuse, Herbert, 31–32, 200 Marin, Louis, 232n50 Markus, Gyorgy, 225n24 Marx, Karl, 140, 144, 172, 201, 224n7; The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, 39; and historical periodization, 181, 246n7 Marxism, 172, 180, 187, 213, 246n8, 247n4. See also phenomenology; Western Marxism Maslow, Abraham, 209 Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), 117 mass culture. See under culture MASS MoCA. See Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art McCarthy, Mary, 202, 250n16, 250n21 McCloskey, Barbara, 239n7 McLuhan, Marshall, 123 McPherson, C. B., 220n39 Mehlman, Jeffrey, 125, 224n7, 239–40n3 Melanchthon, Philipp, 228n44 Melville, Steven, 224n3


Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 49, 100, 104, 105, 124 Messer-Davidow, Ellen, 243n2 metaphor, 39, 166; nonconceptuality of (see under Blumenberg, Hans). See also under disciplinarity, academic; revolution metonym. See under art; history Metz, Christian, 41; on scopic regimes, 51, 52, 61, 63 Michals, Duane, 79 Mill, John Stuart, 101 Miller, J. Hillis, 124, 133, 160, 241n10, 244n17 Milton, John, 65 mimesis, 13, 19, 20–21, 32, 224n9; and National Socialism, 61; and the “stigma of the inauthentic,” 13–14, 20; and vision, 41. See also under Adorno, Theodor W.; Benjamin, Walter; painting Mirzoeff, Nicholas, 224n3 Mitchell, W. J. T., 40, 225n22, 226n26, 238n3; Iconology, 42, 44, 224n8; “Imperial Landscape,” 65, 71, 74 Mitscherlich, Alexander, 179, 247n11 Mitscherlich, Margarete, 179, 247n11 modernism, 91, 94, 208, 234–35n11; “formalesque,” 91, 92, 96, 98, 235n13; historicity of, 98; reactionary, 74. See also under architecture; art modernity, 47, 52–55, 57, 58, 65, 66–67, 179, 191; and metanarrative, 182 (see also under art); and postmodernity, 44; resistance to, 71 MoMA. See Museum of Modern Art, New York Montaigne, Michel de, 132, 170 Morris, Robert, 97 Morris, William, 37 Mosser, Monique, 229–30n16 mourning, 3, 24, 25, 28; and memory, 28. See also under revolution Mukerji, Chandra, 229n15 Mulhern, Francis, 225n24 Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), 5, 90–98, 234n2; criticism of, 94–95, 97 museums. See under art objects music, 14, 48; and history, 18 Napoleon, 159, 170 nationalism, 167. See also under art; gardening and landscaping national philosophy: African, 169; American, 172, 192; Austrian, 169; English, 192; foreign influence on, 173–74; French, 166, 169–73, 192–93; German,



national philosophy (continued) 166–67, 169, 192, 245n14, 248n18; institutions and practices of, 169; language and, 165–67, 245n14; Polish, 162, 176; and transnationalism, 162–76; and “traveling theory,” 165, 174 National Socialism, 66, 184, 218–19n20; and ethnic cleansing, 67, 179; intellectual migration from, 200, 212. See also under gardening and landscaping; mimesis. See also Germany; Holocaust naturalism, 69, 102 nature, 25, 74, 76, 191; domination of, 4, 55, 65, 67–68, 74. See also culture; gardening and landscaping Nazism. See National Socialism Nedham, Marchamont, 36 Nehamas, Alexander, 9, 217n5 neoclassicism, and gardening and landscaping, 69, 70 neoconservatism, 199 Neo-Kantianism, 45, 101, 171, 172 neo-liberalism, and liberalism, 195 new historicism. See under Berkeley, University of California at New Left, 198, 199 Newman, Barnett, 95 “New York intellectuals,” 8, 198, 199, 204 Nicholsen, Shierry Weber, 222–23n37 Niethammer, Lutz, 239n13 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 9, 10, 29, 31–32, 37–38, 79, 99, 128, 131, 134, 139, 144, 158, 168, 170, 171, 172, 209, 212; anti-Semitism of, 13; and authenticity, 13; and genuineness, 12, 16; Twilight of the Idols, 133; on the will to power, 80. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. nominalism, 16, 178, 189 Novalis. See Hardenberg, Friedrich von objectivity, 53 October, 92, 97, 151 ocularcentrism. See vision Olmstead, Frederick Law, 71 Orr, H. Allen, 243n1 Orwell, George, 205, 209 Osbourne, John, 207 Otter, Chris, 62 Ouspensky, P. D., 209 Outsider, The (Wilson), 8, 207–14 Owens, Craig, 97, 215n4

Paddison, Max, 20, 220n46 Paglan, Trevor, 119 painting, 55, 57, 59, 92, 94, 97; labeling of, 90, 96; and mimesis, 88; and representation, 88; and text, 96; and truth, 77, 87. See also under Foucault, Michel Panofsky, Erwin, 40, 42 parataxis, 2 parrhesia, 133, 135. See also under Foucault, Michel Partisan Review, 7–8, 198–206 Pascal, Blaise, 170 Passerin d’Entrèves, Maurizio, 250n22 Pastor, Hans, 72 Pavel, Thomas, 187 Peirce, Charles Sanders, 50 Pelli, César, 92 Pels, Dick, 211 periodization. See historical periodization perspective, 227n25; and the Renaissance, 55, 61, 91 phenomenology, 5, 27–28, 48, 49, 56, 79, 85, 86, 99–111, 171–72; legacy of, 110–11, 236n8; and lived experience, 99–100, 104, 236n2; and Marxism, 105; postphenomenology, 99, 100, 109, 111; and subjectivity, 100, 105, 111; and truth, 101–2. See also Adorno, Theodor W.; Hegel, G. W. F.; Heidegger, Martin; Husserl, Edmund; MerleauPonty, Maurice Phillips, William, 8, 249n1, 249n13; and the Partisan Review, 7–8, 198–206 photography and film, 42, 43, 48, 49, 51, 58, 59, 72, 92, 93–94, 116, 118, 119–20; and ideology, 61 Picasso, Pablo, 239n7 Pinney, Christopher, 227n30, 228n34 Pizer, John, 218n13, 219n31 Plato, 54, 104, 145, 164, 171, 217n5; Cratylus, 41; Hippias Minor, 132, 134; Phaedrus, 163 Pleynet, Marcelin, 61 Polanyi, Karl, 219n21 Pollock, Jackson, 205, 234n7 Popper, Karl, 168 popular culture. See under culture positivism, 30, 171 postmodernism, 47, 56, 59, 67, 98, 124, 182, 198. See also art; Lyotard, Jean-François postmodernity. See under modernity; see also postmodernism poststructuralism, 5, 110–11, 124, 125, 168, 173, 187 Potter, Sally, 59

index    Poussin, Nicolas, 69, 75–76 pragmatism, 46, 103, 111. See also under Frankfurt School Pratt, Greta, 118 Proctor, Robert, 73 propaganda, 115 Proust, Marcel, 23, 31, 32–33, 133 pseudology. See under Derrida, Jacques psychoanalysis, 50, 138, 140, 219n25. See also Freud, Sigmund; Lacan, Jacques psychologism: critique of, 164. See under Frege, Gottlob; Husserl, Edmund Putnam, Hilary, 162, 163 queer theory. See under scopic regimes Rabinow, Paul, 82, 83 Rahv, Philip, 199, 202 Rajan, Tilottama, 111 Rajchman, John, 78, 79 Ramakrishna, 209 Rasch, William, 247n8 Rauschenberg, Robert, 93, 234n7 Readings, Bill, 160, 173–74, 176, 224n3, 244n17 reason: as bureaucratic instrumentalism, 67; and experience, 30, 104 redemption. See under experience regime, 60–61; and ideology, 62. See also discursive regimes; scopic regimes relativism. See cultural relativism religion, and authenticity, 16, 219–20n36 Renaissance, the, 68, 113, 179, 181; and perspective, 55, 61, 91 Renault, Alain, 188 Rensmann, Lars, 249n9 representation, 41, 50, 56, 74–75, 135–36, 195; allegorical, 25–26; versus figuration, 49; and imagery, 42, 53; and scopic regimes, 52; symbolic, 25–26. See also under painting Representations, 125, 151 revolution, 242n41; and emancipation, 38; etymology of, 36–37; deliteralization of, 38; and metaphor, 37–39, 223n1; and mourning, 39; and utopia, 37, 39. See also under history Rials, Stéphane, 187, 189, 191, 192, 248n19 Richter, Gerhard, 219n22 Rickert, Heinrich, 101, 164, 172 Ricoeur, Paul, 170


Riefenstahl, Leni, 72 Rieff, Philip, 217n2 Riegl, Alois, 121 Riley, Robert B., 230n18 Rimbaud, Arthur, 182 Rivarol, Antoine de, 166 Robbins, Jim, 231n39 Robinson, William, 71, 72 Robleto, Dario, 120, 121 Romanticism, 25, 44, 69, 169 Romanyshyn, Robert, 224n11 Rorty, Richard, 40, 55, 56, 162, 163 Rose, Jacqueline, 40, 55, 59, 225n35 Rosen, Charles, 97, 98 Rosenberg, Harold, 116, 234n7 Rosenzweig, Franz, 219–20n36 Rosler, Martha, 94, 235n17 Roth, Moira, 228n42 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 9, 10, 132, 139, 189, 191, 194 Rowe, John Carlos, 153 Rubin, William, 94 Runia, Eelco, 120 Ruskin, John, 65 Said, Edward, 46, 165 Saint-Simon, Louis de Rouvroy, duc de, 68 Salcedo, Doris, 120, 121 Salmagundi, 199, 206. See also under Jay, Martin Sandler, Irving, 93 Sandywell, Barry, 224n3 Sanjinés, Javier, 227n30 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 105, 124, 137, 205, 209; existentialism of, 9, 10, 217n2; Nausea, 210 Schama, Simon, 69, 230n28 Schapiro, Meyer, 77, 205 Schlegel, Friedrich, 25 Schliemann, Heinrich, 112 Schmitt, Carl, 200 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 1, 33–34; and individualism, 13; Parerga and Paralipomena, 1, 3; critique of systems, 1 Schrag, Calvin O., 106–7 Schrift, Alan D., 169–71 Schürmann, Reiner, 135 science, 47, 54, 84, 105, 112, 157, 158–59, 164; institutionalization of, 82, 165. See also under Foucault, Michel scientific revolution, 38, 82, 165, 223n4

26 4   


scopic regimes, 51–63, 227n23; “art of describing,” 55, 58; “Baroque reason,” 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 227– 28n32; “Cartesian perspectivalism,” 55, 56–57, 58, 59, 61, 68, 87, 88, 128, 226–27n18, 229n15; cinematic versus theatrical, 52; etymology of, 60 (see also regime); as ideal types, 58; macroscopic versus microscopic, 57–59, 63; and queer theory, 61; resistance to, 61–62; and the urban, 55–56, 58, 68. See also under cultural relativism; Foucault, Michel; Metz, Christian; representation Scott, Charles, 108 Scott, Sir Walter, 113 Screech, Timon, 227n28 Sebald, W. G., 120–21 Seifert, Alwin, 72 Seigel, Jerrold, 251n13 Seric-Shoba, Nebojsa, 119–20 Shakespeare, 180 Shapin, Steven, 84, 165 Shapiro, Gary, 4, 79–80, 85–87, 88 Shaw, George Bernard, 209 Shonibare, Yinka, 120, 121 Shumway, David R., 243n2 Signac, Paul, 235n14 Silber, John, 198, 199, 202 Simpson, David, 251n7 Singy, Patrick, 228n36 Sitwell, Edith, 207 Skinner, Quentin, 189 Smith, A. D., 102, 236n13 Smith, Allison, 118 Smith, Bernard, 91 Smith, David Livingstone, 243n49 Smyth, John Vignaux, 241n7 Sobchack, Vivian, 49 Social Darwinism, 72, 74 social engineering, 66; and ethnic cleansing, 67, 179 socialist realism, 115, 239n9 Socrates, 135, 145, 163 Somaini, Antonio, 227n25 Sonnemann, Otto Friedrich, 15 Sontag, Susan, 96 Soper, Kate, 45 Sophists, 145, 163, 164 Sorel, Georges, 187 Sorvig, Kim, 73 Soviet Union, 38, 93, 115, 184; dissolution of, 7, 183

spectacle, 43, 62, 78 spectator, and vision, 56 speech acts, 136, 138, 140, 142, 147, 243n57, 247– 48n10 Stalinism, 249n1 Stanbury, Sarah, 227n26, 227n31 Stanley, Colin, 250n1 Starn, Randolph, 235n17 Steinberg, Leo, 92, 234n2 Stendhal. See Beyle, Marie-Henri Stern, Günter, 249n9 Strauss, Leo, 60, 187, 191 Stravinsky, Igor: and sacrifice, 15. See also under Adorno, Theodor W. Strong, Roy, 230n20 subjectivity, 13, 55, 56, 82, 188; and authenticity, 20; and existentialism, 13; reification of, 16, 20. See also experience; individualism; inwardness; phenomenology; truth; vision Surber, Jere Paul, 245n9 surrealism, 91, 92 surveillance, 4, 62, 66, 78, 79, 84, 86, 119, 124, 128. See also vision Sussman, Eve, 118–19 Sweeny, Robert W., 227n26 Sylvan, David J., 243n2 Syrkin, Marie, 202 Szarkowski, John, 93 Tagg, John, 43 Taminiaux, Jacques, 237n20 Taniguchi, Yoshio, 95 Terada, Rei, 238n42 Tavin, Kevin, 227n26 Taylor, Charles, 217n2 Tazi, Nadia, 175 technology: of reproduction, 19 Temple, Sir William, 230n22 textuality. See under language Teyssot, Georges, 229–30n16 Thibaudeau, Jean, 61 Thomas, Henri, 132 Thomas, Keith, 75, 230n23, 230n25 Thompson, Nato, 117 Thyen, Anke, 221n4 Timpanaro, Sebastian, 45 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 39, 184

index    totalitarianism, 86, 98, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 184, 191, 192, 193, 194, 240–41n6; and utopia, 67. See also under gardening and landscaping totality, 16, 177, 180; antagonistic, 29, 34; and domination, 30–31. See also under culture Toynbee, Arnold, 38, 223n4 Toynbee, Arnold J., 223n4 Toynbee, Philip, 207, 208 transnationalism, 6–7. See also under national philosophy Treib, Marc, 75 Trenker, Luis, 72 Trilling, Lionel, 9, 10 Trombadori, Duccio, 99 Trotsky, Leon, 184. See also Trotskyism Trotskyism, 249n1 truth, 80, 87, 137, 138, 140, 144–45, 146, 242n35, 242n40; and aesthetic experience, 31, 57; and belief or opinion, 83, 145, 146; and cultural relativism, 164; performative dimension of (see speech acts); and subjectivity, 82; and temporality, 18; and visual experience, 4, 78, 80–81, 85. See also under experience; Foucault, Michel; history; painting; phenomenology Tuan, Yi-Fu, 230n17, 231n45 Turner, Brian S., 246n7 Turner, J. M. W., 65, 69 universalism, 44, 174; and cosmopolitanism, 174, 195; particularist limits of, 7, 149–50, 196; versus pluralism, 45. See also cultural relativism; Enlightenment; human rights utopia. See under gardening and landscaping; revolution Vaccaro, Salvo, 216n17 value, 12 Van Gogh, Vincent, 77, 209 van Haute, Philippe, 248–49n27 Van Kley, Dale, 192–93, 194, 248n19 van Reijin, Willem, 237n30 Varnedoe, Kirk, 94, 234–35n11 Vauban, Sébastien Le Prestre, marquis de, 68 Vaux, Calvert, 71 Velázquez, Diego: Las Meninas, 118 (see also under Foucault, Michel); The Surrender of Breda, 113, 238n5

26 5

Villa, Dana R., 250n22 Viola, Bill, 116 violence, 84–85. See also under Foucault, Michel; gardening and landscaping; vision vision, 3–4, 40–41, 43, 56, 96, 224n11; denigration of, 3, 65–66, 78, 79, 85, 89, 96, 124, 128, 167, 234n4, 236n2; and the gaze, 59–60, 65, 84, 86, 93, 124, 231n45 (see also Foucault, Michel); and language, 86; metaphor of, 48; and observation, 43, 59; panopticism (see under Foucault, Michel); and the spectator, 56; and subjectivity, 80–81; and violence, 4; versus visuality, 40–41, 50, 60. See also cultural relativism; imagery; mimesis; surveillance; worldview visual culture, 40–50, 57, 59, 62–63, 155; political turn of, 60; and the visual turn, 40, 42, 153. See also vision Wacquant, Loïc, 244n9 Wagner, Richard, 13 Wagner-Pacifici, Robin, 238n5 Wain, John, 207 Warhol, Andy, 79, 88, 93 Wartofsky, Marx, 224n11 Weiner, Amir, 229n12 Weinrich, Harald, 168 Weisberg, Harold, 202 Welchman, John C., 96, 235n14 Wellmer, Albrecht, 33 Wells, H. G., 209 Wessel, Julia Schulze, 249n9 Western Marxism, 156, 243n50 Whewell, William, 150 White, Hayden, 112, 120, 241n18 Wiepking-Jürgensmann, Heinrich Friedrich, 72, 73 Williams, Raymond, 69, 153, 175, 208 Willis, Peter, 230n19 Wilson, Catherine, 226–27n18 Wilson, Colin: The Outsider, 8, 207–14 Wilson, E. O.: and consilience, 6, 50, 150–51, 152, 153, 157 Wilson, Richard, 75 Windelband, Wilhelm, 172 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 56, 155 Wolin, Richard, 125, 222n16, 240n4, 240n1, 250n23 Wollstonecraft, Mary, 211 Wolschke-Bulmahn, Joachim, 71–73



Wood, David, 111 Woods, Richard, 68 Woolf, Virginia, 179 Wordsworth, William, 25, 70 worldview: versus world picture, 52–53, 55, 62 Wrathall, Mark, 5 Wright, Frank Lloyd, 73 Wulf, C., 224n9

Yeltsin, Boris, 183 Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth, 201, 204, 249n9, 249n13 Zagorin, Perez, 242n29 Zerner, Henri, 97, 98 Ziarek, Krzysztof, 237n30 Zmarzlik, Hans-Günter, 231n34 Zuidervaart, Lambert, 222–23n37

other books by martin jay

The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923–1950 (1973, 1996) Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas (1984) Adorno (1984) Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America (1985) Fin-de-Siècle Socialism and Other Essays (1989) Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (1993) Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (1993) Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time (1998) Refractions of Violence (2003) La crisis de la experiencia en la era postsubjetiva, ed. Eduard Sabrovsky (2003) Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme (2005) The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics (2010)