Viewing posts tagged The Enlightenment

Monsterism

In his famous essay 'The Dialectic of Fear' (published in New Left Review #136, Nov-Dec 1982) Franco Moretti used Marxist and Psychoanalytic criticism to provide a coruscating account of the twin monsters of bourgeois culture: Dracula and Frankenstein.

The entire essay is well worth reading and is findable online if you hunt about.  Here are some of the best bits about Frankenstein (the book):

Like the proletariat, the monster is denied a name and an individuality. He is the Frankenstein monster; he belongs wholly to his creator (just as one can speak of 'a Ford worker'). Like the proletariat, he is a collective and artificial creature. He is not found in nature, but built. Frankenstein is a productive inventor-scientist...). Reunited and brought back to life in the monster are the limbs of those - the 'poor' - whom the breakdown of feudal relations has forced into brigandage, poverty and death. Only modern science - this metaphor for the 'dark satanic mills' - can offer them a future. It sews them together again, moulds them according to its will and finally gives them life, But at the moment the monster opens its eyes, its creator
draws back in horror: 'by the glimmer of the ...

Categorically Speaking

Kant's categorical imperative is an expression of the bourgeois liberal ideas of the 18th century, expressed as morality.  It is progressive in the sense that it attempts to derive morality from Reason.  It is part of the Enlightenment.  It also expresses the new, universal promises of the bourgeois revolutions in that it universalises (i.e. "All men are created equal").  It is based on the principle of universality.  What you do must apply to all people or it fails to be truly moral. 

However, it is also based on a bourgeois notion of rights.  The concept of 'rights' is a product of the rise of bourgeois property/trade relations.  One brings one's rights to the market place and, on that basis, one participates in the putatively level playing field.  For Kant, one negotiates the conflicts between these rights on the basis of contractual clauses.  If the Party of the First Part undertakes to do such and such, the Party of the Second part will be understood to be obliged to do so and so.  It is this which finally inverts the universality of the notion into an ...

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